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Nine Books Recommended by Chuck Palahniuk

December 17, 2013

Last week Chuck Palahniuk – author of several of my all time favorite books, including Fight Club, Choke and Diarywent on Goodreads and rated nine books that he’d read. Chuck already had a presence on Goodreads as an author, with a feed from his website’s blog representing him there, as well as an interview done with Goodreads in 2010. Rating these nine books was his first foray onto Goodreads the way you and I use the site – as a reader. Here are the nine books he implicitly recommended (with his high ratings):

cover title author avg rating rating
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)
4.28
White Noise
3.85
Slaughterhouse-Five
3.99
The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)
4.19
American Psycho
3.78
Trainspotting
4.02
The Great Gatsby
3.81
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
4.16
To Kill a Mockingbird
4.23

I don’t have any of those books marked as “read” on my Goodreads account, but that I haven’t read any of them isn’t entirely true. In fact, it’s 50% false – I’ve read exactly 4-1/2 of those 9 books. Two – The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird – I read as required reading in high school. In addition to not remembering a thing about either, I don’t feel like I really “read” them because of the conditions under which they were read. Mandatory high school reading, with predetermined start and end dates, a specific and unnatural goal in mind (i.e. be able to write essays on high school exams about the books), and more than a little help from my friend Cliff does not count as reading in my book.

I read Trainspotting after seeing the highly acclaimed movie, but at the time I was not an avid reader and probably wasn’t ready to consume an Irvine Welsh book written in difficult English. I don’t recall if I liked it or not, just that I gave the book to a friend (who split the cost with me and agreed to read it second) after which we never spoke of it again. I may as well have not read it.

American Psycho is another book on the list that was turned into a movie, but, unlike Trainspotting, this book I picked up before seeing the movie. I had really high hopes for the Christian Bale film (which were mostly met) and actually started reading Bret Easton Ellis’ novel before the movie was released, in anticipation of seeing the movie after completing the book. Unfortunately I overestimated my ability to read the book in time and was not even halfway finished when I went to see the movie. For some reason I then left the bookmark right where it was, never to pick up the book again before it was swallowed up in a fire. (True story.) I’ve since purchased another copy and the book sits on my “to-read” shelf, literally and figuratively.

The other book on this list that I read could start a shelf unto itself – Kurt Vonnegut books that I gobbled up voraciously around the age of 20, but consumed so rapidly that they blur together in my mind. Vonnegut was one of the authors who made me become a reader. I picked up and read copies of Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, Galapagos, Cat’s Cradle, Timequake, Welcome to the Monkey House … when all was said and done I think I read at least 15 books by Vonnegut. I remember waiting anxiously for my Amazon packages to arrive with one or two more books to devour. While that process was great for my general appreciation of the author, and while in the moment there was no convincing me to consider reading anything else, it left me being unable to distinguish in my mind one Vonnegut book from another. So as far as Goodreads is concerned, I haven’t read any. Perhaps one day I will start with Slaughterhouse Five all over again.

As for Palahniuk’s other recommendations, I’ll begin by saying that even one of my favorite authors has no chance of persuading me to read fantasy unless he were to come to my home and explain the attraction face to face. Until then, I will not be reading anything by Tolkien. White Noise is the one book on the list I’ve never heard of, but I see that it won a a National Book Award and generally seems to be a famous and well-regarded book that has somehow eluded me. I wouldn’t completely rule out reading it, though I’m not especially intrigued.

The last book is the Ken Kesey classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I probably didn’t expect to read this either, but the combination of (a) reading Tom Wolfe’s wonderfully entertaining story about Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters (which I can’t wait to write about for LitMonkey) and (b) coincidentally finding the book on my parents’ bookshelf, was too much to resist. Coincidences like this are too meaningful to ignore.

So thank you Chuck for your recommendations. And welcome to Goodreads! It’s great when authors (or any artist or celebrity) uses technology to get closer to their fans.

2 Comments
  1. tyler davis permalink

    I love Chuck!

    I did the exact same thing with Vonnegut, I’ve flew through so many, I don’t know which one’s I have read and which one’s I haven’t.

    I think you would really like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are classic, I read them in middle school in the early 90’s. I haven’t seen the movies.

    I goggled “Chuck Palanuik’s favorite books” hoping to gain some insight into some new reads. I’ve just devoured “Damned”, “Doomed”, and “Beautiful You”. I liked them all and I’m impressed that Chuck can change his style so much.

    I really like J.D. Salinger, you should check him out. He didn’t write all that much. I like Ayn Rand too.

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