- 11 Sep 17
“If you go home with someone, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!” So advised the great American filmmaker, author and comedian John Waters, and here at Hot Press we’re inclined to agree. So, in no particular order, here’s ten suggested tomes to display on the bedside bookshelf of your student gaff. Ownership of any of these isn’t guaranteed to get you laid, mind, but if he or she makes their excuses and leaves, at least you’ll still have a good book to curl up with…
AMERICAN PSYCHO (1991)
BRET EASTON ELLIS
Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial third novel caused a literary sensation when it was published in 1991. Set in Manhattan during the Wall Street heyday of the late 1980s, the present tense, stream of consciousness narrative follows the life of wealthy young investment banker and serial killer Patrick Bateman. Alternating between scenes of soul-numbing capitalistic decadence and brutally sadistic sex murders, American Psycho so offended sensibilities that publishers Simon & Schuster declined to bring it out because of “aesthetic differences”. When it was eventually published, some countries sold it shrink-wrapped and the author received many death threats. Interestingly, U2 make a chapter-long cameo in the novel, with Bono appearing as the devil to Bateman.
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (1979)
Adapted from Adams’ BBC radio comedy series of the same name, The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy was an instant bestseller when it was published in 1979 – selling more than 250,000 copies in the first three months. Adams wrote five installments in total, introducing the world to such zany characters as Marvin the Paranoid Android, Arthur Dent the last surviving human, the computer Deep Thought, space guitarist Hotblack Desiato (named after the author’s local estate agent) and the all-knowing Guide itself, a remarkably prescient forerunner to Google. The Hitchhiker’s Guide has become an international multimedia phenomenon, spawning stage shows, comic books, a TV series, computer games and a movie. Following Adams’ untimely death in 2001, a sixth novel in the series, And Another Thing, was penned by Irish author Eoin Colfer in 2009.
ON THE ROAD (1957)
The legendary second novel by the then 35-year-old Jack Kerouac is still considered, alongside William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, to be one of the defining works of the Beat generation. Legend has it that, having travelled around North and South America for years, filling countless notebooks on the way, a coffee and Benzedrine-fuelled Kerouac wrote the entire thing over three uninterrupted weeks on to a 120ft scroll of teletype paper. On The Road breathlessly recounts those peripatetic journeys, which were often taken in the company of his friend and prime (bad) influence, Neal Cassady (renamed Dean Moriarty in the book). The original scroll was sold for a record $2.43 million in 2001.
MR NICE (1996)
During the mid-1980s, Howard Marks had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and owned 25 companies trading throughout the world. All of those companies were a front for the Welshman’s cannabis smuggling operations, which saw him moving consignments of up to 30 tons of weed from Thailand to America and Canada (often through Shannon Airport), and dealing with organisations as diverse as MI6, the CIA, the IRA and the Mafia. Released from an American penitentiary in 1995, having served seven years of a 25-year stretch, he published his million-selling autobiography the following year. Mr Nice was turned into a movie starring Rhys Ifans in 2010. A good old friend of Hot Press, Howard sadly passed away from cancer last year. A 21st anniversary edition of Mr. Nice has just been published with an introduction by Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.
ASKING FOR IT (2015)
Addressing the controversial issue of rape culture in the digital age, Louise O’Neill’s thought-provoking Asking For It is one of the most talked about Irish books in years. Set in small town Ireland, the novel concerns the rape of an 18-year-old girl at a drunken house party. When she wakens the following morning, she discovers to her horror that explicit photographs of what was done to her have been shared on social media. Needless to say, given that some of the town’s sporting heroes were involved, people prove very quick to judge. Posing serious questions about consent, responsibility and the sexuality of young women, this is a must-read for all students of any gender or sexual orientation.
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1972)
HUNTER S. THOMPSON
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” So begins the late Hunter S. Thompson’s hilariously hedonistic account of a booze and drug soaked weekend in Las Vegas (its subtitle is A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream). A roman a clef based on an actual trip the infamous gonzo journalist made to Vegas in the company of a lawyer associate, it originally appeared as a two-part article in Rolling Stone in 1971. Public reaction was so positive that it was published as a book the following year. In 1998, it was adapted into a film of the same name, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. As good as the movie was, the book is even better.
THE WASP FACTORY (1984)
“I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped.” So begins the late Iain Banks’ macabre debut, The Wasp Factory. A Gothic-style horror set on a remote Scottish island, the narrator is 16-year-old Frank Cauldhome – a psychopath who makes Pat McCabe’s Francie Brady seem like a total lightweight. Although he’s already killed three children, Frank maintains, “It was just a stage I was going through.” He now tortures and kills wasps and animals instead. As the novel begins, Frank gets word that his brother has just escaped from a mental institution. Throughout the book, he calls Frank from a series of phone booths, informing him that he is coming to visit. Although some critics praised the novel, others were repulsed by its gruesomely loving depictions of animal cruelty. One particularly incensed reviewer complained, “You can’t laugh and throw up at the same time.”
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS (1973)
Breakfast of Champions was Vonnegut’s seventh novel, and his first since his big breakthrough into the literary mainstream with 1969’s bestselling Slaughterhouse Five. Written in simple, bite-sized chunks, and illustrated throughout with the author’s deliberately childish sketches, the book tells the story of “two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.” One of these is Dwayne Hoover, an obscenely wealthy car dealer who owns the Exit Eleven Pontiac Village on the outskirts of Midland City; the other is a widely published, but still somehow obscure and unsuccessful, SF writer named Kilgore Trout. While most of his stories are used as filler for underground pornographic magazines, he has still managed to attract a tiny but passionate fan base – most notably among the insane. These two characters, we are told at the beginning, are destined to meet in Midland City, and Trout’s book Now It Can Be Told is destined to turn Hoover into a homicidal maniac. Although written in a deliberately simple and almost infantile manner, Vonnegut nails much of the insanity, stupidity and pointlessness of modern living with supreme irony.
THIS IS THE RITUAL (2016)
Having wowed critics in 2014 with his genuinely shocking debut novel, Here Are The Young Men, Dubliner Rob Doyle’s first collection of short stories proved equally vital. A young man roams a Dublin industrial park where he meets a vagrant in the grip of a dangerous ideology. A woman fleeing a break-up takes part in an unusual sleep experiment. A man obsessed with Nietzsche clings desperately to his girlfriend’s shoes. Frank in their depictions of sex, the writer’s life and failed ideals, these stories confirmed Doyle’s reputation as one of Ireland’s most exciting, innovative and experimental literary voices.
SOLAR BONES (2017)
First arriving on the literary scene with 1995’s award-winning collection of short stories Getting it In The Head, Mayo-born writer Mike McCormack has long been of Ireland’s greatest and most criminally under-rated writers. Thankfully, that all changed this year with his profound and darkly funny third novel being longlisted for the Man Booker. Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said that the dead may return; this book is the story of one such visit. Set against the looming financial crisis, Solar Bones examines how the actions of the political body impact on individual bodies, how careless decisions ripple out into waves, and how our morals are challenged in small ways every day. A serious work of literary art, it could be worth putting a few quid on it winning the Booker.