John Waters: TOP TEN BOOKS


Photo by Greg Gorman

“Nothing is more impotent than an unread library,” John Waters once said, but the cult film director doesn’t only read books—he writes them, too. The auteur behind such enduring cult classics as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray, Waters has published five books including his 2014 travelogue, Car Sick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. His home in Baltimore is stuffed with books—8,000 by his count—and that number can only rise. In a June 2015 interview with Huffington Post he offered a pithy definition of being rich: “You could buy every book you want without looking at the price.”

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


Narrow Rooms

James Purdy
A salaciously satisfying novel that’s a great read, especially if you’re having a sexual nervous breakdown.
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Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

Philip Short
Incredibly detailed biography of the real “filthiest person alive” – the Cambodian leader who executed intellectuals for being in love or even laughing in public.
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Genet: A Biography

Edmund White
The definitive life story of my hero, Jean Genet.
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The Ghastly One

Jimmy McDonough
The astonishing career of Andy Mulligan, the most pitifully damaged and insane film director whose personal life made Ed Wood’s look like a walk in the park.

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My Prizes: An Accounting

Thomas Bernhard
Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth! The Austrian intellectual sourpuss hilariously rejects every literary award he was ever given. Refusal as an art form.
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The Sluts

Dennis Cooper
The novelist Dennis Cooper has always made other gay writers nervous. He’s a leader, a radical and his sexual horror stories are smart as hell.
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Still Holding

Bruce Wagner
This west coast sage does it best – malicious, spiritually confused and sardonic storytelling like no other.
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Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant

Philip Hoare
Aubrey Beardsley, Ronald Firbank, Denton Welch – believe me this ultimate British eccentric made them all seem butch. It’s a crime this book has gone out of print. *Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant is out a print, therefore One Grand will supply a used copy.
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The Beard: A Play

Michael McClure
Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid meet up and have sex in this absurdist pop art play that used to get busted for obscenity. Isn’t now the perfect time to bring it back and turn it into a Broadway musical? *The Beard: A Play is out a print, therefore One Grand will supply a used copy.
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Good Morning, Midnight

Jean Rhys
To hell with Charles Bukoswki, Jean Rhys is the best alcoholic writer of them all.
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