Recommended Bukowski books for newbie

See, I always thought that although his novels were great, his poetry and shorts were on another level. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's been my impression that Buke was first and foremost a poet. His novels are a fun, quick, easy read, but they almost seem to me like a cut&paste job from his poetry and shorts.

I remember reading somewhere that he wrote the novels on his publisher's promptings because they were an easier sell than the poetry and shorts. More money.

With that said, I loved Post Office, Hollywood and Pulp. Pulp was fucking brilliant. Like candy.

For shorts, I loved Hot Water Music, South of No North and Betting on the Muse, which is great cause it also has poetry.

Shit, it's all good.
I'm gonna agree with Purple, and say read 'em all. In the end you'll have covered everything, and collected some very damn fine books.
I read them in order of Henry growing up and getting older and then I hit Pulp.
I also would buy the bandini Quartet too. Although Bukowski in my eyes is a better writer than Fante, you can clearly see Fante in Bukowski too. Its not whos best, they are both great and Check out Dan Fante too. (Chump Change and Corksucker are great)
I got a bit of a shock last week when I emailed Dan Fante and he replied! almost feel off my chair! I now have my corksucker book with my email conversation inside :)
POST OFFICE is my second favorite Bukowski novel. FACTOTUM isn't great by comparison, but it isn't bad either. its just like alot of shorter stories all pulled together for one common theme: bumming around trying to find work. I liked WOMEN, but still don't think it was as good as HOR or PO. I'd say go to some poetry and short stories, then move on to more novels. i'd recommend THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN TOWN and/or TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS.

but let's not forget NOTES OF A DIRTY OLD MAN. its a mix of essays and stories, the second Buk Book i ever bought. its very humorous and also very intriguing...a good way to get a good look inside his head and how he thought.
My Gawd.I loved Ham on Rye.
What's next?
If Buk could have been in my corner when I was growing up.I am glad to have him and all of You while growing old.
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):


Post Office
Ham on Rye



Mixed/Not so Good?!!?


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 very good. I have a soft spot for Sifting Through the 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 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...)


“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?


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
. Maybe start there. Then go to Dangling In The Tournefortia

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.


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.
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