A while ago Buzzfeed made a list of 65 books that you ‘need’ to read in your 20s. I think I’d read about 18 of them and all in all, I wasn’t very impressed by the list or by the claim that anybody ‘needs’ to read anything in particular. Read what you like, or don’t read at all if you don’t want to. It’s your life, do whatever you want to do. But since I really like reading I felt like making my own list that, for the time being at least, I’m going to call ’34 books to read if you want to’. It’s not quite as authoritative as Buzzfeed’s but hey, I don’t really care if you’ve read some book or not. Intelligence is certainly more than just reading specific literature.
I’m also not going to go into much plot detail in my recommendations, you’re reading this on the internet you have google at your disposal. I’m just going to tell you why I think they’re worth reading or who I think they appeal to (just for the record I was mostly thinking of women under the age of 25 while writing the list).
White Oleander – Janet Fitch. The story of a Californian girl named Astrid and her journey through a number of foster homes while her mother is in prison. You’ll think a lot about mother/daughter relationships and that is a good thing.
Girls To The Front – Sara Marcus. You should probably know some shit about the riot grrl movement. It has it’s flaws but a lot of good stuff came out of it.
Weetzie Bat. Try to ignore the cultural appropriation and enjoy Francesca Lia Block’s dreamy prose. It’s all pink cars and sweet smelling flowers, sometimes even ‘adults’ need a fairy tale.
Prozac Nation – Elizabeth Wurtzel. Mental illness is real and very wide spread. If you’ve experienced depression you might relate to this, if not then somebody close to you probably has and this might help you to understand them better.
Girl – Blake Nelson. Andrea Marr is a hero, Andrea Marr is a role model! No, not really. She is a teenage girl who starts most of her sentences with ‘and’ and doesn’t know what she’s doing most of the time. But neither did I when I was 17 and if there’s two of us who felt that way, there’s definitely others.
Proud Highway – Hunter S. Thompson. Yes, it’s long and yes, it’s a collection of letters; both of which might put you off but push through it. It’s a great look at someone’s life before they ‘made it’ which is helpful when you’re feeling like the only person on earth who isn’t accomplishing what you want to be accomplishing. I especially love the letters from Hunter to his younger brother.
Everybody Loves Our Town – Mark Yarm. An oral history of grunge music and Seattle in the 90s. How could you not want to read about that?!
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women – Elizabeth Wurtzel. Amy Fisher, Eve, Nicole Brown Simpson. Elizabeth Wurtzel can tie them all together and tell you why they are so important. She wrote this in an ritalin and cocaine frenzy (documented in her next book More, Now, Again) but I think that’s part of the magic; some people might call it rambling, I call it good writing.
Henry and June – Anais Nin. It’s sexy. You’ll like it. I spent most of the summer I was 15 reading Anais’ journals, Henry and June cuts out most of the best parts for you.
Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis. Written by a famous misogynist dickhead but he’s got talent. He wrote this when he was something like 21 years old and it really captures the nihilism some young people feel. I have really enjoyed a lot of his books and his minimalist writing style, I just have to remember not to follow him on twitter or think too hard about what kind of person he is.
Edie: An American Biography – Jean Stein. Doomed beauties are my specialty and I don’t think anybody fits that category better than Edie.
The White Album – Joan Didion. I don’t really care what Didion you read, but read some freaking Didion. The White Album is a collection of essays she wrote in the 1970s. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays she wrote in the 1960s. Read either, read both, they’re both amazing.
Please Kill Me – Legs McNeal and Gillian McCain. The New York 1970s punk movement. It’s an oral history so it’s kind of like listening to a conversation between a bunch of awesome people like Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Patti Smith.
Candy – Luke Davies. It’s basically autobiography as fiction, the story of the unnamed narrator, his wife Candy and their drug addiction. It’s sad, it’s well written and it’s set in Melbourne and Sydney. I love books set in my home city.
The Female Eunich – Germaine Greer. Yes, a lot of it is a bit outdated. But it’s iconic and still worth reading.
The Dirt – Motley Crue. If you’re not a Motley Crue fan you can pretty much replace this with another rock band memoir, I think this is the ultimate though. If you want to read about Ozzy Osborne snorting a line of ants and his own piss, this is the book for you.
Dear Diary – Lesley Arfin. You’ll relate to it. Or if you don’t, it will remind you of that Rayanne Graff-esque friend you have.
The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides. If you’re a lady over the age of 14 you’ve probably seen the film. Read the book as well.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt. Greeks classics majors at a some New England college get up to some crazy shit. There’s an outsider trying to fit in and a murder, I don’t want to say any more because I don’t want to ruin it. You will love it.
What Falls Away – Mia Farrow because Mia Farrow is the best and it will remind you to hate Woody Allen.
Blonde – Joyce Carrol Oates. You should read something by Joyce Carol Oates and you should know something about Marilyn Monroe, this kills both birds with one stone. It’s a fictional biography of Marilyn/Norma Jean who fits perfectly into that doomed beauties category.
I’m With The Band – Pamela des Barres. She was one of the famous GTO groupies, Miss Pamela. She dated or hooked up with Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page and a zillion other 70s rock babes and she wrote all about it in this book. I will still always wish Sable Starr had written a book before she died but this is the next best thing.
Women – Charles Bukowski. I really wasn’t sure whether or not to include this one. I already put one misogynist on the list and I didn’t really want to put my hand up and support another. BUT. Despite his shittiness Bukowski was a talented dude. Read this, read Ham on Rye, read his poetry. Whatever.
Just Kids – Patti Smith. You probably heard everybody talking about it a few years ago, and for good reason. If you didn’t read it then, read it now.
Valley of the Dolls. It’s trashy and it’s fun, and sometimes reading should be just that. Think about this quote from Lesley Arfin, “So you never read Moby Dick? Cool, me either, who cares? If writing was based on how much or what we read, or “old school education”, I guess I wouldn’t be a “real” writer.” It doesn’t have to be ‘great literature’ to be a good read.
Generation X – Douglas Coupland. So you can relate to Generation X, or so you can realise that not much changes. OR so you can dream about quitting your job and running away to Palm Springs.
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver. To make you terrified of ever having children.
Health At Every Size – Linda Bacon, because you should know about this shit.
The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf. I read this when I was 15 years old and it changed my perspective on a lot of things. It’s probably a bit dated and I’m sure most of the statistics quoted aren’t as relevant as they once were but it’s still an important book.
Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee – Megan Boyle. You should read something current and I love Megan Boyle. If you’d rather read her things online you can read several hundred thousand words of her live blogging her own life on her blog.
How Sassy Magazine Changed My Life – Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer. Respect your history! You should know who Jane Pratt is and why she is important.
Monkey Grip – Helen Garner. Especially if you’re Australian. Helen Garner was living in Carlton sharehouses and falling in love with junkies before most of us were even born. At the very least it will give you some perspective when you realise nothing you’re feeling and nothing you’re doing is new.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath. Some classics suck, this isn’t one of them.
Stiff – Mary Roach. Why wouldn’t you want to know what kinds of things happen to cadavers?!