Well dearest motherfuckers, it's finally summer and if your an amateur literati such as myself, that means one thing more than most. Long, warm afternoons designed by god (or whoever) for the express purpose of getting lost between the pages of a good book. It also means that every magazine, blog and website has some milquetoast, Ivy League, butt-monkey trying to sell you on a list of the latest mainstream, Oprah approved boregasms that I like to call the tyranny of the summer reading list. What's a bookish weirdo to do? Throw up your hands and settle for dreck? Not anymore! Never fear, freaks and radicals, this weirdo's got a blog and a summer reading list full of all the blasphemy, anarchy,sex, bloodshed and intrigue a fellow weirdo could ask for. Now, some of this shit is pretty esoteric and some of it's just plain fucked up, so don't expect to find much of it at your local Barnes and Noble, I'm permanently banned from mine! (Is he kidding?!) But if your craving something truly sinister, and I always am, you'll find a way to get your hands on these paperback gems. Hell, I did and I'm a goddamn agoraphobic basket-case. So without further ado, I give you, most dearest of motherfuckers, my own personal summer reading list. Read at your own discretion but except no substitutions.
* Killing Hope and Rogue State by William Blum
If your looking to rip the fucking scab off the ghastly wound that is the American Empire, you can do no better than the great William Blum. As folklore would have it, young Bill spent one year working as a pencil pusher for the US State Department in the late sixties and found himself so repulsed by what he saw behind the Wizard's curtain at Oz that he quit in disgust and devoted the next 40+ years of his life to exposing American foreign policy for the repulsive, man-eating, nation smashing beast that it really is. Killing Hope and Rogue State are his masterpieces. In the latter he gives us a quick but thorough guided tour through the precise reasons why the United States is the most feared and hated nation on the planet. In his magnum-opus, Killing Hope, Blum goes into painstaking detail cataloging America's foreign misdeeds from country to country, coup to coup, war to war, in chronological order. Not everyone's cup of tea but it's the kind of shit a malcontent, history dork such as myself can get lost in for hours.
* American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
One of the most grossly underrated and misinterpreted novels in modern American History. It had radical feminists up in arms over what they perceived to be it's sexist depiction of a handsome, young serial killer slaughtering prostitutes and party girls. They couldn't be farther from the truth. In reality, Bret Easton Ellis' experimental, Reagan era horror story is one of the most savagely brilliant and darkly hilarious satires ever written on the sociopathic hollowness and savage chauvinism of American capitalism. It's also one of the most grotesque works of transgressive fiction since the Marquis De Sade, so read at your own risk.
* Amok Fifth Dispatch
An absolute must have for any self-respecting, sub-altern bibliophile. Amok was basically like the internet before the internet, only weirder and better. The fifth and final dispatch is a massive catalog of paragraph long reviews of over a thousand of the worlds strangest pieces of underground literature broken up into sections on everything from anarchism, UFO's and perverted manga to Wilhelm Reich, neo-Nazi comics and the JFK assassination. It's beyond bizarre. It's information run amok and it fucking rules.
* The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
The best American history book is still probably Howard Zinn's indispensable Peoples History of the United States but Oliver Stones' Untold History is definitely the most entertaining. A downright cinematic tour-de-force through the last century of American intrigue, both at home and abroad. Stone doesn't pull any punches but he doesn't pull any of his trademark conspiranioa either. No doubt, disappointing his devoted gaggle of haters, just looking for another chance to take a swipe at old Ollie for using there own propaganda techniques against them and there precious status quo. Stone just sticks to the facts and leaves you to connect the dots if your daring enough to do so.
* Lords of Chaos by Micheal Moynihan
If you thought gangsta rap was violent, just wait until you get a load of the Norwegian Black Metal Scene. Biggie and Tupac ain't got shit one these lily-white devil worshipers. Murder, suicide, cannibalism, church arson, grave desecration, prison breaks, neo-Nazi terrorists, Jungian psychology? Lycanthropy! Nordic heathenry! Just when you think the shit can't get any crazier, it does. And it all started with just a handful of teenage metal-heads trading Celtic Frost tapes in an Oslo basement. A lot of people shit on this book because of it's authors alleged quasi-Fascist/occultist tendencies but I say, who better to lead a guided tour through the Satanic underground then a fellow basement dweller and all his eccentricities aside, Moynihan is a damn fine journalist and Lords of Chaos is the wildest rock book ever written.
* Introducing Marx by Rius and Introducing Marxism by Rupert Woodfin and Oscar Zarate
If you know me, you know I'm one anarchist who loves him some Marx. But even I have to admit, however brilliant the K-man might be, his books can be a bit of a bore. Blasphemy, I know, but it's true. Which makes converting non-believers a bit of a challenge. The best place to start is with these two pocket size graphic novels by the fine folks at Introducing Books, who specialize in what's basically college starter coarse's in comic form. I use to devour them when I was still a shut-in but the two on Marx are probably my favorites. There a great overview of all things Marx. His life, his work, his philosophy, his influence and why he still matters as much today as he did in the 19th century. All in all, fast paced and brilliantly illustrated infotainment.
* House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
By far, the strangest novel I've ever read which, naturally, makes it my favorite. It's probably not scientifically possible to sum it up in a single paragraph, so I won't even try. I'll just say it's a twisted horror story within an even more twisted horror story involving mental illness, a possibly haunted house, a decaying marriage, an endless hallway with a life of it's own and a documentary. All of which may or may not actually exist. It's a demented house of mirrors with multiple narratives that leaves you feeling upside down and inside out. Sounds like fun, right?.... ....pussies.
* The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schecter
Love serial killers? Me too! (Is he kidding?) Know one knows em better than Harold Schecter, who's Serial Killer Files serve as the most comprehensive study of murder and those fascinating psychopaths who commit it. It's basically the anti-Killing Hope. An encyclopedia of human destruction not sanctioned by the state.
* Preacher: Volumes 1-9 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
When I heard that my favorite comic, the greatest comic, was going to be made into an AMC Original Series by Frat Pack schlock-miesters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, best known for there infantile "Bro" comedies like Superbad, my heart fucking sank. I thought, here we go again, another shitty comic adaptation that all the Deutsche bags of the world can cream themselves over. I couldn't have been more wrong and I couldn't be happier to be so wrong. Based on the first few episodes, it looks like those damn stoners might actually pull it off and make a halfway descent TV show. But nothing can ever beat the original. The epic tale of a drunken, apostate, Texas priest, granted the power of the word of god to command people to do anything from tell the truth to go fuck themselves (literally), only to be hunted down by an all powerful secret religious society, with his ass kicking, gun nut, feminist, bombshell girlfriend and his hard partying Irish vampire bestie at his side. Along the way they encounter everything from inbred desert cannibals to an indestructible god-slaying cowboy called the Saint of Killers. It's a long, bloody, surreal, hilarious, profane and romantic saga and it's the best way to waste your summer indoors without the use of high-powered recreational pharmaceuticals.
* Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem and the Pursuit of Profit by Gregory Elich
Radical investigative journalist Gregory Elich goes into downright gratuitous detail, playing devils advocate, defending some of America's favorite boogeymen, from Yugoslavia to Zimbabwe to Iraq to North Korea and he does a damn fine job doing it. Uncovering narratives that not only fly in the face of the "official" stories but make mince meat of them. Picking them apart, piece by piece. Forget everything you thought you knew about world politricks. If you can actually get your hands on this long out of print antiwar classic it will make you question everything and it will make you all the better for it.
* Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love
Not so much an autobiography as a scrapbook of letters, pictures, prison records, poems, psych evaluations and lyrics that create a complex self portrait of one of the most brilliant, incendiary and misunderstood feminist auteurs of the last several decades. Hate her all you want but this walking study in demonology will not, can not and should not go ignored.
* Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond
Grant Morrison's batshit bonkers, gonzo one-shot graphic novel about a bored London schoolgirl who falls in love with a cheeky psychopath, kills her boyfriend (naturally) and joins an avante-garde terrorist collective hellbent on bringing down an iconic tower with a single hand grenade in the coastal English tourist trap of Blackpool. It's a zany, deliciously Nineties, psychedelic teenage riot from the maestro of comic book surrealism that set the stage for later cinematic cult classics (and personal favorites) like Natural Born Killers and the Doom Generation.
* Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
An oral history of the American 80's underground punk scene that formed the glue that connects the Ramones and Nirvana. Each chapter tells the story of a different band on the periphery and there journey through the still embryonic loose knit network of dive bars, basement parties and mosh pits that would eventually grow from the punk rock underground into the Alternative Revolution of the early Nineties. Includes chapters on Black Flag, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Big Black, the Replacements, Mission of Burma, the Minutemen, Fugazi, Mudhoney, Beat Happening and my personal favorite chapter on America's strangest band, the Butthole Surfers. A must read for any self-respecting Punk Rock fan.
* .45 Dangerous Minds by Steven Blush and George Petros
Before the internet and yes, dearest motherfuckers, there was a before the internet, freaks and radicals had to turn to the news stands for there intellectual fix which usually meant a crap-high of boring, airbrushed, jingoistic banality that gives propaganda a bad name. That is until the rise of the zines. After places like Kinko's made it possible for anyone with a few bucks and some angry words to Xerox and staple together there own glossy diatribes, the American underground was rocked by a wave of taboo smashing, homemade organs known as zines, in which freaks and radicals finally had a say. The best of these became full fledged periodicals in there own right with names like Maximum Rock&Roll, Re/Search, Answer Me!, Roller Derby, Anything that Moves and Murder Can Be Fun. More often than not, they were crude, crass, tasteless, profane and even downright pornographic. They were also fucking brilliant and the very best among them, in my not-so-humble opinion was a fearless little New York magazine called Seconds, run by two post-punk rejects named Steven Blush and George Petros with one simple mission in mind, give the most brutally honest, mercilessly rude and unabashedly prying interviews (aka interrogations) with the most dangerously unpredictable people they could get a hold of. The results where some of the strangest moments in journalism history and 45 of there finest interviews are collected in .45 Dangerous minds: Charles Manson, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Rollins, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Richard Remirez, GG Allin, Anton Levey and many, many more. Needless to say without iconoclastic rags like Seconds, without insane books like .45 Dangerous Minds and without brilliantly dangerous minds like Blush and Petros, there would be no Comrade Hermit or Exile In Happy Valley. On my best day I am but a parasite clinging to the bellies of those brilliant savage beasts. Read, learn and pay it forward. Start your own Seconds, your own Exile, online today and be heard by other fantastic freaks like you and me. In the words of Jello Biafra- "Don't hate the media. Become the media." I say why not do both. Let the war begin at home with a pile of good books and a laptop.
Knowledge is power and we've got it. Happy reading, dearest motherfuckers.
Peace, Love and Anarchy- CH