Hunter S. Thompson Thinks You Should Read These Books

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Vote up the books that you agree everyone should read.

Hunter S. Thompson was critical of many things; sports, politics (Nixon in particular), society at large, drugs, books... the list goes on. So when he recommends something there is certainly an interest in why such a specific mind as his would enjoy it. He was a man who lived his life by excess, when he loved something he really loved it. Now, thanks to Electric Literature, here are the books Thompson recommended to many people close to him.

This was a man who wanted to feel how the words in The Great Gatsby felt to write out, so he did the only natural thing. He retyped the entire novel, word for word, multiple times on his typewriter. He loved that novel so much he wanted to feel how it was written.

Everyone has a few novels and works of literature they recommend to anyone who'll listen; maybe some of your go-to recs are those that Thompson recommended to friends, family, and various coworkers or editors over the years, all of which indicate his taste in literature. You can tell a lot about a person by the books they enjoy and by the words that shaped them. These are the words that shaped Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most brilliant American writers of all time.

Source for all quotes: Electric Literature

Photo: Kaj Sotala / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

  • Recommended to: Angus Cameron, Knopf editor

    “If history professors in this country had any sense they would tout the book as a capsule cram course in the American Dream. I think it is the most American novel ever written. I remember coming across it in a bookstore in Rio de Janeiro; the title in Portuguese was O Grande Gatsby, and it was a fantastic thing to read it in that weird language and know that futility of the translation. If Fitzgerald had been a Brazilian he’d have had that country dancing to words instead of music.”

    Thompson famously retyped the novel word for word just to feel what it was like to write such a novel.
    • Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • First Published: 1925
  • 2
    10 votes

    Recommended to: his mother, Virginia Thompson

    “As a parting note - I suggest that you get hold of a book called The Outsider by Colin Wilson. I had intended to go into a detailed explanation of what I have found out about myself in the past year or so, but find that I am too tired. However, after reading that book, you may come closer to understanding just what lies ahead for your Hunter-named son. I had just begun to doubt some of my strongest convictions when I stumbled upon that book. But rather than being wrong, I think that I just don’t express my rightness correctly.”
    • Author: Colin Wilson
    • First Published: 1956
  • Recommended to: Angus Cameron, Knopf editor

    “Fiction is a bridge to the truth that journalism can’t reach. Facts are lies when they’re added up, and the only kind of journalism I can pay much attention to is something like Down and Out in Paris and London
    …But in order to write that kind of punch-out stuff you have to add up the facts in your own fuzzy way, and to hell with the hired swine who use adding machines.”

    • Author: George Orwell
    • First Published: 1933
  • Recommended to: Anyone

    From a letter to Tom Wolfe, the author:
    “I owe the National Observer in Washington a bit of money for stories paid and never written while I was working for them out here, and the way we decided I’d work it off was book reviews, of my own choosing. Yours was one; they sent it to me and I wrote this review, which they won’t print. I called the editor (the kulture [SIC] editor) the other day from the middle of a Hell’s Angels rally at Bass lake and he said he was sorry and he agreed with me etc. but that there was a “feeling” around the office about giving you a good review. … Anyway, here’s the review, and if it does you any good in the head to know that it caused the final severance of relations between myself and the Observer, then at least it will do somebody some good. As for myself I am joining the Hell’s Angels and figure I should have done it six years ago.”

    The Observer refusing to print his review for this book was the final straw that led Thompson to move to San Francisco.

    • Author: Tom Wolfe
    • First Published: 1965
  • Lie Down in Darkness
    Photo: Vintage

    Recommended to: Robert D. Ballou, Viking editor

    “Last week I read two fairly recent first novels - Acrobat Admits (Harold Grossman), and After Long Silence (Robert Gutwillig) - and saw enough mistakes to make me look long and hard at mine [Prince Jellyfish]. Although I’m already sure the Thompson effort will be better than those two, I’m looking forward to the day that I can say it will be better than Lie Down in Darkness. When that day comes, I will put my manuscript in a box and send it to you.”

    • Author: William Styron
    • First Published: 1951
  • Recommended to: Norman Mailer

    In 1961:
    “This little black book of Miller’s is something you might like. If not, or if you already have it, by all means send it back. I don’t mind giving it away, but I’d hate to see it wasted.”

    Then, in 1965:

    “Somewhere in late 1961 or so I sent you a grey, paperbound copy of Henry Miller’s The World of Sex, one of 1000 copies printed “for friends of Henry Miller,” in 1941. You never acknowledged it, which didn’t show much in the way of what California people call “class,” but which was understandable in that I recall issuing some physical threats along with the presentation of what they now tell me is a collector’s item. … And so be it. I hope you have the book and are guarding it closely. In your old age you can sell it for whatever currency is in use at the time.”


    • Author: Henry Miller