Recommended Bukowski books for newbie

#1
Note: since recommendations are a personal thing, you'll find just about every Bukowski poetry collection recommended in this thread. That isn't particularly helpful when you're looking for someplace to start, so you may want to look at the results of this poll, where more than 4,000 people have voted for their favorite Bukowski books in a few different categories. Think of it as the genius of the crowd. -ed.

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Hello :) I'm new to this site and to Bukowski (yes shaaaaaaaame, I know, I know). Now that I'm finishing off university exams I finally have time to read things I want: Bukowski. Any suggestions which books I should read first?
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
Over 1000 posts
#5
As I wrote in a similar thread before: If you're not familiar with Bukowski yet, why not read his novels like a timeline or a like a semi-biography. Would be an amazing discovery.

Ham on rye-Factotum-Post office-Women-Hollywood.
 
#9
Awesome, thanks for the advice guys. I heard Women and Factotum were really good as well. Ham on Rye and Post Office seem to be on everyones list though so thinking I'll start there.
Good thinking. Post Office was the first thing I read, and it catapulted me into everything else very fast. However, my sequence won't necessarily be the same for someone else, so I say make your own magic and read the first thing you can grab, whatever is easiest or closest. It's Buk, you can hardly go wrong.
 
#12
women
is my favourite bukowski book on earth--i'm actually almost through it for the millionth time right now. i've just finished reading post office,
factotum,
ham on rye,
and now women again all in a three-week period and to me women is in a totally different league than the other three. i find the writing is better, and it elicits a much larger range of emotions. there are laugh-out-loud parts (the camping in utah sequence kills me every single time) and really kind of sad and sobering parts, as well as the bit near the end, chapter 92 i believe, where chinaski just bottoms out and it's totally heartbreaking...

for poetry, the one i read most often is last night of the earth poems,
but possibly for nostalgia's sake, my all-time fave poetry is love is a dog from hell
(my first buk ever).
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
Over 1000 posts
#13
Woman is also my favourite, maybe because it was the very first Buk-book I read? The novel has more layers...Read it tons of times. It's 23 years later now and still re reading. Twice a year or so.

Funniest story: Scum Grief from Hot water music.


There is no best poem....but I do like The Twins very much.
Might be something for a new topic, your 10 all time favourite Buk poems.
 
#15
Yes, Women
is a very, very good book, as are most Bukowski books, and Post Office
is really good as well. But I'm still going with Factotum.
It was just such an interesting book for me, with all the material about his past jobs and his life in between. I've had over twenty different jobs in my life, so maybe it hits a little closer to home for me. The movie was... okay, but not great.
As for the issue of what's better, the poems he printed while still alive or the posthumous ones, that's a hard arguement that I don't think anyone will be able to come to a complete agreement on. I mean, has anyone read the most recent edition, "The People Look Like Flowers at Last?"
I was actually surprised at what a great collection of poetry it was. And hell, Bukowski even said himself one time that he thought the best poetry he's ever written was the stuff at the end of his life, when he was past 55 and living in a nice home with a hot tub in the back.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Over 5000 posts
#16
As for the issue of what's better, the poems he printed while still alive or the posthumous ones, that's a hard arguement that I don't think anyone will be able to come to a complete agreement on.
We've had that discussion before here in the forum and there's a general consensus that the poem collections printed while he was still alive are superior to the posthumous collections. That does not mean that all the posthumous poems are bad (there are some pretty good ones among them), just not quite as good - in general (Come On In
was a dissapointment to me).
Nope, it will never come to a complete agreement (nothing ever does). We all have our own taste - thank God...:)
 

mjp

Keep my good eye on the beat
Moderator
Founding member
Over 5000 posts
#17
I mean, has anyone read the most recent edition, "The People Look Like Flowers at Last?" I was actually surprised at what a great collection of poetry it was. And hell, Bukowski even said himself one time that he thought the best poetry he's ever written was the stuff at the end of his life, when he was past 55 and living in a nice home with a hot tub in the back.
You're right, The People Look Like Flowers at Last is a very strong collection. But many of the poems in there were published in the 60's and 70's, before Bukowski left the court apartments of Hollywood for the house in San Pedro.
 

Olaf

Over 100 posts
#19
Bukowski has a very similar style throughout every book, that is what so good about him, he has a style, and he brings it with him every time: tuned to the same note. I would be happy reading just about anything he wrote...but forking out for it might not prove to liberal.

I love in particular, Tales of Ordinary Madness, The Last Night of the Earth Poems, The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills, Ham on Rye!!
 
#22
Hi.


I've read my first Bukowski book, ever - Ham on Rye.

I understand that this is the last of his books with his alter-ago Hank Chinaski. I want to read the rest, but now as I have started with the last book, which takes place in the first part of his life, should I continue with "Factotum" (isn't that the next step in his life?), or do you think I should start with "Post Office" (and so on)?

Does it matter? :)

I would appreciate any comments from you guys.
 
#23
Doesn't really matter.


Do what you feel.

I read them all out of order. Hollywood, Women, Post Office, Factotum, and then Ham on Rye, but reading Ham on Rye put so many things into perspective, I'm glad I read it last.
 
#24
Thing about Buk is that his literary forms were so distinct. The novels are all about his experience, and the poems are surprisingly similar to the novels. The short stories are almost invariably about exaggerated and/or outrageous situations that are observed from the outside. You can burn through his novels in a fairly short period of time, so you may want to save a couple (I've read each of them three or four times over the past 20 years) for later. As Elise posted, it really doesn't matter in terms of chronology, as you can clearly tell what part of his life he is writing about.

Maybe try the poem. Again, many of them read like short novel chapters. I highly recommend "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" from 1974. It collects three of his early out-of-print works as well as some post-Mockingbird poems. "Dangling in the Tournefortia," "Love is a Dog From Hell" and "War All the Time" are also great. "War" also contains "Horsemeat," a ~20-odd multi-part narrative poem about the track. Great stuff.

To me, the short stories are the weakest (I use this term very relatively) of his material, but don't think that they aren't good, and even great at times. "South of No North" is very good, and contains two older works: "All the Assholes in the World and Mine (the title alone is a masterpiece - a hilarious, absolute must-read)" and "Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live With Beasts."

In the end, read them all. Every word he wrote was important.

I understand that this is the last of his books with his alter-ago Hank Chinaski.
I forgot to add that technically, that distinction would go to "Barfly." That was part of the reason that the movie was so difficult to produce; a lawyer claimed that one of his clients owned the Chinaski character (not just the name, but the character as well). This is described in "Hollywood."
 

roni

Over 5000 posts
#25
These guys were right. It doesn't really matter.
You started with his VERY BEST novel and obviously got caught.
Good start.

I - personally - think, 'Post Office' would be a great choice to continue.
That's because I find 'Factotum' weaker. But oppinions differ here. The screenplay to 'Barfly' is great! Way better than the movie.

If you ain't into poetry, I'd recommend to stay away from it at the moment. Later you'll get the taste anyway, since Buk has always seen himself as a poet. But no hurry. (And, yes, 'Burning in Water' is a valid start then.)

What's also Great for 'newbees' are his LETTERS! - You learn so much about the man, his life, his thoughts, his feelings! In terms of Visa-ads: It's Priceless! (I'd especially reccommend the letters from the 70s.)


So much for now.
Whatever you do - it'll be right.
 
#28
i read ham on rye first- the order of the rest does not matter- dont get caught up in the chronology- but if i was to recommend a first, it probably wouldnt be ham on rye- good to warm up with on of the other- 'Women' is amazing
 
#30
It depends of what writing form you like. Personally, I adore short stories and poems, so I would recommend Hot water music, Factotum, The notes of a dirty old man and the poem collections were not translated all but as an editor choice so I could not tell you where to start. I am reading War all the time at the moment.
 
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