Recommended Bukowski books for newbie

My Gawd.I loved Ham on Rye.
What's next?

Well, the novels are certainly the most accessible (in general), but don't shun the poem or the short story. If you're just not into the poem thing, then try the short story. My favorite is South of No North, but they are all good.

If you must stick with the novel (they go fast, and then they're gone, you know, until you read them for the second and third time...), then here's a general hierarchy (in no particular order within groups):

Best

Post Office
Women
Ham on Rye

Good/Mixed

Factotum
Hollywood

Mixed/Not so Good?!!?

Pulp

I actually love Factotum, some of his funniest lines ever.

Of course this is all very general and subjective. Some think Pulp is his best novel, and I liked that one very much too.
 
the first thing i read from him was the short story "bring me your love". I loved it so much because it had a great truth to it. you cant judge other peoples drama because you dont know the whole truth, its not always as simple as what is blatantly obvious. the whole time i was reading, i was thinking, this woman is a psycho!! what a b!tch, her husband is so sweet, poor guy! well i wont ruin it for you if you havent read it but i loved. maybe i could relate to that psycho chick!! haha

my fav poem is "alone with everyone"
***it just reminds me of being single haha

fav book so far is post office, i have quite a few more to read so i will check out your suggestions.

ps i have yet to randomly meet someone who likes bukowski lol
 
Women gets my vote for best novel. Or at the least, best novel I've read so far. The only other one I've read is Factotum.

The Night Torn Mad...is very good. I have a soft spot for Sifting Through the Madness...as it was my first Buk book ever.

Haven't read Last Night of the Earth Poems, but I've heard it's possibly his strongest volume of all.
 
It's short stories and poems, of course, but I began two years ago with Septuagenarian Stew (picked it up off a shelf at Borders at random) and ended up working my way backward (unknowingly). I wouldn't recommend it, but it was interesting getting to know Buk from his old age to his youth...as if he were telling me his story by reaching further and further back into his mind--from his freshest memories to the ones he had to exhume, so-to-speak.
 
It's short stories and poems, of course, but I began two years ago with Septuagenarian Stew (picked it up off a shelf at Borders at random) and ended up working my way backward (unknowingly). I wouldn't recommend it, but it was interesting getting to know Buk from his old age to his youth...

I started with "Septuagenarian Stew" and "Roominghouse Madrigals" and worked back. "Burning in Water" and "Pleasures of the Damned" are both good choices. (As I don't have all my CB books in one place I can't check how many poems in the latter have been "Martinized", which makes me a little uneasy. And I read to read not to sit with two books comparing texts - not if I'm reading casually or for pleasure...)
 

PhillyDave

“The essential doesn't change.” Beckett
I agree w/ skiroomalum. I think that the novels, really all Buk's work, is/are very good in varying degrees. Just read on and be wary of the material published after Buk's death. If you haven't seen the multiple threads discussing that subject search for it. I'm at work and being lazy; otherwise I'd post a link.
 
Somehow I missed Bukowski all these years until hearing Marc Maron recite "The Shoelace" on his podcast. Amazing. Now I need to read more. Where do I start?
 

mjp

Founding member
I feel like we have 20 threads about recommendations, but of course I can't find one to guide you to at the moment. We should gather all those threads up, combine them and make one sticky mega thread at the top of this forum.



Oh, and The Shoelace appears in Mockingbird Wish Me Luck
ir
. Maybe start there. Then go to Dangling In The Tournefortia
ir
.

Do yourself a favor and avoid all poetry collections published after 1996. No joke.
 
I started out reading short stories like Tales of Ordinary Madness, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, etc... Then moved to poems and novels. It's all subjective. Just hit your local library and check out a few random books. You'll either get it or you won't.
 
I started with Women but when I'm suggesting new readers to Bukowski, I go with Post Office. Quick, easy read. If they like that, I usually suggest Ham on Rye and then Women.
 
[...] We should gather all those threads [...]
[...] [merged]
not exactly sure if that's (been) such a good idea.

doesn't it mean, all the posts inside that merged thead will appear out of context, being in the order of their posting-dates? Which first-time-reader could ever comprehend such a mingle-mangle?

if it can be re-done: I'd be all for it.
Better idea: have ONE thread with ONE post that collects the links to all those different threads about the subject.
 

mjp

Founding member
It isn't perfect, no. But is context important in a book recommendation thread? In any event, these threads were usually far enough apart in time where the posts don't overlap each other. Ultimately I guess I don't understand how any of these threads have any usefulness at all, when by the end of the thread every book he ever wrote has been recommended.
Better idea: have ONE thread with ONE post that collects the links to all those different threads about the subject.
I have an even better idea: one thread with one post that links to this.


The eagle-eyed among you will no doubt notice that I removed the posthumous books from the voting and results.
 
I find it interesting that Love is a Dog from Hell is a clear number one in the poetry rankings.
Never would have guessed that.
 
I also have been amazed about it back then. And even disappointed, since I find it not THAT strong.

My personal guess is, that the biographical background of the book (which equals the time of the novel 'Women') attracts people to it so much that this becomes a valid factor. Plus an appealing title.
 
I enjoyed Love is a Dog From Hell far more than Pulp. I barely consider Pulp a Bukowski book. I tell people it's the only one they should skip. Maybe I'm being too harsh. I've only read it once. I should give it a second read.
 

zobraks

Moderator
Pulp... I should give it a second read.
By all means. I liked it the first time I've read it but I liked it even more the second time, a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of recommending the first Buk book one should read, I think one can't go wrong with anything by Bukowski they can find. At the end reading any of his books (and liking it) will lead to just one (and the same) thing: reading the whole lot of them.
 
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Poetry: Days..., Mockingbird..., Burning in Water..., Play the Piano, The People Look like Flowers at Last, Night Torn Mad...
Novels: Ham on Rye, Post Office, Factotum, Women
Check out the Freep stuff as well (Notes...)
 
If ya have any interest in Bukowski the man, have a look at l'ocked in in the arms of a crazy' life by Howard Sounes. It's well investigated, researched and written.
 
There definitely both present, no argument, but if you're new to Bukowski, and asking for recommendations, I would recommend it. I'm not saying it's perfect, but few bios ever are. But my point was research, investigation and writing style. It covers a lot of Buk's work, and it includes an extensive list of his publications, including starred ratings, which is designed to help newcomers. The book engages with a wide array of people who knew Buk, many of the women whom he was with, whose insights I found interesting. The writing style is straight forward. There are worse places to start,.
 

mjp

Founding member
list of his publications, including starred ratings...
Star ratings? I don't see that in the first edition. If they were added later they are not "designed to help newcomers," they are designed to tell you what Sounes thinks.

Sounes did a lot of research. Research gives you information but it can't give you understanding.

But yes, there are worse places to start.
 
G

GDPR 9650

I know that the idea of making any top (whatever) is silly, however, I can't help but ask. What's your top 5 Bukowski published work while he was still alive ?

So far, I've only read Pulp and Notes of a Dirty Old Man. I'm still waiting for The Most Beautiful Woman in Town and Women to arrive. Maybe that's why I'm asking for your top 5, I'm a newbie.


Appreciate all/any answer(s).
 

PhillyDave

“The essential doesn't change.” Beckett
There seem to be many different opinions as to favorites or best. I think his work is best enjoyed as a whole breathing entity. Re-reading this I think I also avoided answering your question. Books of his publish during his lifetime that I like a lot? The Last Night of the Earth Poems, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Love is a Dog From Hell, Septuagenarian Stew, and Post Office. It changes but that's where I'm at today.
 
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Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I got into Buk by watching Barfly and then immediately (hung over first thing in the morning) buying the (short story) City Lights books. I was hooked 20 pages in. I got to the poems soon enough, but I viewed them as micro-short stories.

Mind you, I am a bit of a Neanderthal and didn't look for symbolism in the lines, but there are folks on here that picked the lines apart and revealed things I could never see on my own.

No matter, Buk can be enjoyed on any level.

BEST,
Neanderthal Mike
 
Hello, I would like to learn more about Bukowski and his work through the people who read it.
They say that a person's playlist tells you about what kind of person they are. I think the same goes with the writers we come to like and their works.
 
You should ask the veterans here about Bukowski, they've seniority and probably even met him or attended one of his readings. Or read interviews from Linda Lee Bukowski (his last wife) or Marina Bukowski (his daughter).
 
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