Discover more from ☁️ Daydream Trash by Shannon Hemmett ☁️
THE CULTURE THAT MADE ME PART 2
Books for People Who Don't Like to Read
Visiting the bookstore is one of my favourite rituals. It’s my way of telling the Universe I’m ready for ideas. I love browsing the spines, and seeing which books call out to me from the shelves. Dear Reader, tell me, are you reading anything interesting right now? Let me know below. Continuing with my personal pop culture inventory inspired by a most excellent Substack post from… Part Two is all about books—Let’s go!
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Books, Books, Books
The Witches by Roald Dahl (1983) - My gateway to dark fiction. Are kids still allowed to read books like this? I still have the original paperbacks from my youth. This year Puffin Books announced it would be re-writing Dahl’s books to make them nice for young readers. Dahl’s publishers in North America, France and the Netherlands declined to take part in the re-writes. Keepin’ it creepy.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950) - I became allergic to fantasy later in life because I have no patience to keep track of names like Galadriel and her many aliases; Artanis Nerwen, Telerin Quenya Alatáriel, The Lady of Lórien, Lady of Light, The Lady of the Galadhrim, The Lady of the Wood etc etc zzzzzzzz but this particular book is so iconic that whenever I open the closet and my cats disappear inside, I still think of Narnia.
Choose Your Own Adventure Books - These were so fun! Turn to page 11, Fall into a pit and die.
RL Stine’s Fear Street, Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan Books - Gimme all the Halloween parties, proms, chain letters, vamps, ouija boards, cheerleaders, I Know What You Did Last Summer fright fests! These books scared my friend group so bad one of the girls believed she was being haunted by a demon for an entire school year.
Stephen King Books - My girlfriend’s older sisters had all the King books, and we would look through them in the middle of the night at sleepovers. The covers gave me butterflies in my stomach; the designs looked mean, the gold foil titles flashed like cat eyes in the dark. I’ve read many of them but Carrie, IT, Salem’s Lot, and Needful Things were my faves.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976) - Step aside Twilight, these are the original emo vampires. I haven’t read this book in a looonng time, I forget, is it any good? Published in 1976, it had a huge pop culture revival in the 90s, and was recently rebooted for an AMC series last year (which I have not seen). I re-watched the 1994 movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise last night for kicks, and I can’t say it’s good like The Godfather is good, but it’s definitely entertaining. Surprisingly funny. A young Kirsten Dunst cast as Claudia steals the show.
Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (1999) - The story of a fashion model horribly disfigured by a gunshot wound to the face. I’d never read a book like this before, it’s chaotic; and kidnaps the reader. The writing is punchy, hilarious, and unearths transgressive topics such as malignant narcissism, sexuality, gender identity, drugs, and AIDS. If you found Fight Club too male-centric, give this one a —shot (groan, pun intended).
The Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard (1970) - A shocking, strange book; the predecessor to Crash (which I remind you, I could not finish because it was so off-putting). Short passages have the rhythm of poetry, and the visceral thrill of a shark attack. Written with a cold, surgical preciseness, Ballard’s viewpoints and predictions on celebrity, sex, media, and technology verge on the sociopathic. Especially eerie in hindsight, many of his cultural observations ring true today.
The Body Artist by Don Delillo (2001) - I first encountered Delillo’s writing through his short story “Baader-Meinhof” published in The New Yorker. I loved how he wrote about modern art within fiction (in this case, Gerhard Richter’s paintings). The protagonist is unnamed which is a neat trick to allow the reader to feel like they’re actually in the MOMA with the artwork. Later on, I overhead the owner of the bookstore in my neighbourhood say Don Delillo was his favourite writer of all time, so I had to investigate. The Body Artist is considered Delillo’s ‘ghost story’ (modern art also plays a central role). I was getting into audiobooks and The Body Artist is read by performance artist Laurie Anderson. It’s so beautifully read, I wish Anderson could read to me all the time.
On Writing by Stephen King (2000) - Part memoir, part instruction manual for writers. Inspired me to read a lot, and write a lot.
Lynch on Lynch (1997), Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch (2006) - As a fan of Lynch’s films and paintings, these books broke open my brain about the creative process. As you may know, Lynch relies on the techniques of Transcendental Meditation in his creative work. He says you’ve got to put the hook in the water and go fishing. We learn that if we place less attachment on the outcome, and more trust in the process, the results can be surprising, and exciting. Many years later, I became a student of TM too.
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson (1992) - One of the greatest short story collections of all time. I heard Tobias Wolff read Emergency on The New Yorker Short Fiction Podcast and thought it was brilliant. Johnson once described neon light cast on rainy streets like “busted hard candy” and I’ll never get over how good that description is.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (1981) - I thought so highly of this book, I put an extra copy in my earthquake emergency kit, thinking—if the Big One comes, I better have something really good to read. The whole collection is a master class on short fiction; crisp slices of life, showing how gentle and ruthless humans can be to one another. My favourites from this collection are Why Don’t You Dance and Viewfinder.
Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (1994) - A difficult book to explain, but I loved the feeling it gave me when reading it, like you’re stuck inside the labyrinth of a dream. It’s immersive, tense, and mysterious.
Play It As It Lays (1970) Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) by Joan Didion - My favourite writer on the list, Didion is the reigning queen of stylish, cinematic writing. She is the Los Angeles writer in my eyes, nailing the disillusionment beneath the glamour every time. Her characters behave badly, are anxious, reckless, and nihilistic, which is just so relatable in this new-dystopia we’re living in. Her non-fiction work, should also not to be missed, especially the essay “On Keeping A Notebook”.
Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron by Dan Clowes (1993) - I found Velvet Glove in the remainder bin, and whoa. How cool. Mystery, horror, humour, and surrealism in graphic novel form. Originally serialized in Clowes’ comic book Eightball issues #1-10, there’s a kooky Satanic panic vibe to the story and art that got me hooked. Black Hole by Charles Burns (2005) gets an honourable mention here too.
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) - I didn’t really get Patti Smith until I read this book, but I’ve been a fan ever since. A touching recollection of the partner/muse/bestie relationship between her and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti is such a beautiful writer, it’s an emotional journey that stayed with me long after reading. I appreciate her reverence for photography and poetry too.
Ways of Seeing by John Berger (1972) - A fascinating collection of essays about looking and being looked at across the history of art.
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985) - The sun always shines in LA, but “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles”. Ellis’s ice cool observations of bored, affluent young adults is so unnerving because it’s true of celebrity and influencer culture today. I’ve read all his books, but I think this one is still my favourite. Actually, I think it might be my favourite book on the list.
Naked at the Albert Hall by Tracey Thorn (2015) - A wonderful book for shy singers written by a fellow shy singer. Genuinely uplifting and encouraging.
I know I’m probably missing some key titles, but I’ll leave it there for now. I hope you discover something you like on the list. And hey—if you don’t enjoy reading very much, try the audiobook version instead. It still counts. ♥️
P.S. Time Travelling with… Magazines!
Before “The Internet” there were many great magazines filling the newsstands. Here are some of my faves.
Details Magazine - The early issues were essential. Cool articles, cool photographs. Anton Corbijn, Bettina Rheims, David Lachapelle, and Ellen Von Unwerth were regular contributors.
Ray Gun (plus sister mags Bikini, and huH) - The “Bible of Music and Style”. Way better than SPIN or Rolling Stone. Seeded my interest in graphic design. Art directed by David Carson and Vaughn Oliver (4AD) respectively.
Nylon Magazine - From supermodel Helena Christiansen (co-founder and creative director), came Nylon; a more fashion-focused (and legible) version of Ray Gun. Early issues had a super cool grrl zine aesthetic. They covered mostly women in pop culture, which was a fresh and much needed perspective at the time. Still in print, still pretty cool.
The Paris Review - Learn all you need to know about writing from their in-depth interviews with the world’s most celebrated writers. Still in print. They publish amazing short fiction too.
Thanks so much for being here. More soon! XO