Julio Torres: TOP TEN BOOKS


The co-creator, writer and star of HBO’s Los Espookys, Julio Torres has fast become one of America’s most exciting comedians. A stalwart in the Saturday Night Live writers room, he has written some of the show’s most memorable and off-kilter sketches, like Wells for Boys, which displays his talent for marrying wit with empathy in ways that feels refreshingly generous. Born in El Salvador, Torres moved to the US in his early twenties to study at the New School in New York, with the idea of becoming a playwright or screenwriter. Instead he found himself on the open mic circuit honing his comedy. The New York Times once described him as “The SNL star that no-one sees,” but that has begun to change as he returns to the microphone. In a new HBO special, My Favorite Shapes, Torres showcases his narrative skills with a series of surreal stories about various objects that slide past him on a conveyor belt. Vulture raved that “once you see it, though, you will not forget it.” Like his comedy, his favorite books reflect an interest in open-ended narratives and the idiosyncratic exploits of dreamers.

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


The Art Book

Phaidon Press Editors
There was a lot of art books and atlases in my home when I grew up. This monograph of outstanding visual arts of the 20th century is very broad, but I remember it being an endless abyss of different little worlds. A painting does something that a children’s book doesn’t—it’s not a full story with a lesson, it’s whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and an end—it’s infinite.
Add to cart


Sharon Olds
I was never really much of an avid poetry reader, but for whatever reason Olds really connected with me. I remember reading these poems as a teenager and thinking, ‘Oh, she’s so fucking cool—this is a poem about the Pope’s penis.’ For someone in a very conservative Catholic country, that felt so punk.
Add to cart

Agua Viva

Clarice Lispector
Reading this feels like going down a rapid, the way it flows. It’s so freed of expectations in a way that makes it very refreshing. It’s almost like jazz, full of nooks and crannies, sort of unpredictable but beautiful. There’s a fellow comedian, Jaqueline Novak, whose work I really like, and watching her perform a set I think, ‘Oh, she’s kind of the Clarice Lispector of the comedy scene.’
Add to cart

The Dot and the Line

Norton Juster
My editor suggested this while we were editing my comedy special—it’s an illustrated children’s book made for adults, that follows the journey of a dot and a line. Also, it’s very short.
Add to cart

Julián is a Mermaid 

Jessica Love
Nick Kroll, the comedian, asked if I had read this—it’s a children’s book and it’s very lovely. For some reason water and mermaids is something I keep writing about, and this book touches on the same themes.
Add to cart

The Proof

César Aira
There’s a whole wave of Latin American fiction that I didn’t encounter until later in life. In high school one reads grand narratives like Don Quixote, and Garcia Marquez was the closest to contemporary we got. This felt like watching the movie Ghost World; there’s something very exciting and fun about the quotidian in it.
Add to cart

Complete Works and Other Stories

Augusto Monterroso
I’m currently working through this one story at a time A friend who works in publishing introduced me to Monterroso’s writing because I have often called some of my work fables, and Monterroso’s short stories feel like that, also. But they are also very unsettling, with a Kafak-esque sheen to them, like black little pearls that are beautiful but scare you.
Add to cart

The Perpetual Motion Machine

Paul Scheerbart 
This is a curious little book I picked up while I was working at the Neuegalerie in New York, a very formative period in my life. It was published in the early 1900s, and chronicles the author’s attempt at making a perpetual motion machine. Part musings, part diary entries, it’s a trial and error novella about the author attempting to devise a perpetual motion machine and how that obsession illuminates the problems in his real life. It’s a story that’s riddled with failure, but stubbornly optimistic in a way I can relate to.
Add to cart

The Assistant

Robert Wallser
As someone who has been an assistant, I really connected with the protagonist, a young man working as an assistant to an inventor. There is also something lovely and dreamy and seductive about it. I went in thinking it was going to be tense and bureaucratic in some way, but it was eerily relaxing.
Add to cart

The Banquet Years

Roger Shattuck
At one point, I was transcribing Shattuck’s journals—I don’t know what happened with that, but as a result I feel connected to this book, which explores early 20th century Paris through the artists of the time, in a strangely personal way. Also, it’s about a writer looking at art, which is what I was doing with the 20th Century Art Book, so there’s a thread of what I like about it in the artist’s perception of art—just curating, showing, explaining, unpacking, translating from abstraction.
Add to cart