John Cameron Mitchell

American writer, actor, and director, John Cameron Mitchell was the mastermind behind Hedwig & the Angry Inch and Shortbus, two movies that showed how independent film could reinvent its terms of reference without forgetting how to entertain and stimulate. “I don’t read as much as I used to,” he says. “There will be a time that I do again. Here are some beautiful stories that taught me things at different points in my life.”

Below are John Cameron Mitchell’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


Peter Pan × 1

JM Barrie
This taught me that the person I love will grow up and leave me. (It was the first book I remember that really made me cry.) Read, age 8 in Arlington, Virginia.
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A Wrinkle in Time × 1

Madeline L’Engle
Alongside Watership Down, this taught me that I had to leave home. (Children who bounced balls in synchronous time were not free. Rabbits who had all they wanted to eat were being bred for slaughter.) Read, age 11 while at Carlekemp Priory Boarding School, North Berwick, Scotland.
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Witch World × 1

Andre (Alice Mary) Norton
This fantasy series taught me that it’s better to be a man and a woman. Read, age 14 in Ft. Riley, Kansas.
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The Last of the Wine × 1

Mary Renault
Taught me that we could be heroes. (Ancient Greek homos, that is). Read, age 16 at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
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The Beautiful Room is Empty × 1

Edmund White
Taught me that a one-night stand can be like a poem. (His poetic oeuvre was impressive). Read, age 18 at Northwestern U., Evanston, Ilinois.
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Pale Fire × 1

Vladimir Nabokov
Lies can be better than truth. (Books as funny as this can be counted on the fingers of one maimed hand.) Read, age 19 in the US Sector, West Berlin.
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Happy Days × 1

Samuel Beckett
Taught me that we are going to die and we don’t know why. (I had coffee with him the year before he died and asked him to sign a copy “to John Cameron Mitchell”. He started writing in a shaky hand, then paused. “Do you need all three?”)
Read, age 25 in St-Germain-Des-Pres, Paris.
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A Good Man is Hard To Find × 1

Flannery O’Connor
Taught me that we might have lived a better life if we’d had a gun to our head. Read, age 26 in Venice Beach, CA.
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Howard’s End × 1

EM Forster
Taught me that there is a time to make a home. Read, age 26 in Venice Beach, California.
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The Subtle Knife × 1

Phillip Pullman
Read in the house I’d built with a man who told me he couldn’t love me as much as I loved him. (I don’t know what it taught me but I cried like a boy.) Age 45, Vieques, Puerto Rico.
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