Writer Terry Southern with Debbie Harry in 1977

I have always been an avid reader, and think it is really sad that less and less people seem to read for pleasure these days. My message to people is: Feed your head! I love recommending books to people, and finding out what other people have been reading. So here are my twenty favourite books of all time, if there's any here that you're not familiar with, I recommend you check them out! Likewise, if there's a title that you feel should be here - don't be shy, share it with me!


Adams' sci fi comedy is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I've known it inside-out for fifteen years, and yet I can still pick it up and it will make me laugh. Not so much a sci fi book, more a "Gulliver's Travels In Space" for the twentieth century, with lashings of Pythonesque humour, and shades of PG Wodehouse.


A lot people probably prefer "Crash", but "High Rise" (from the same period) is a great book about a state of the art, self-contained apartment complex that has become dilapidated, and its residents have 'gone native'. A microcosmic study of modern society and, yes, a 'futuristic dystopia' set in the not-too-distant future!

FAHRENHEIT 451 Ray Bradbury

"Fahrenheit 451" is about a society where all books are banned, and burnt by 'fire men'; and society is kept dumb by such media manipulations as interactive soap operas, and information is dumbed down into empty soundbites. One of the 'fire men' meets a rebellious women and discovers that a whole underground group are keeping the books alive, and gets drawn into their world, risking his job and his life. For a book written forty years ago, this book's scenario is eerily prophetic, and highly topical in the illiterate, apathetic culture we currently live in. A gripping, disturbing tale well told in the manner of "Brave New World" and "1984".

THE NAKED LUNCH William Burroughs

Drug-induced madness or crazy genius? Probably both, one has to concede. The mind-expanding world of William Burroughs is one of hallucenogenic paraonia and fantasy, pulp comic books, sci fi, homoerotic porn, and altered states. Hard to follow and sometimes disturbing and unreadable, Burroughs' books completely alter your preconceptions of the novel and composition - these are the books that invented 'cut-up' culture, now a major influence in music and art.


An existential classic, about a man charged of murder, whose only crime is to refuse to follow the absurd conventions of society. I read this at the height of my very serious, intense English student phase, so I can't say if it still reads well, but I hope it does, as it had a profound effect on me at the time.


Nik Cohn is the original rock'n'roll writer and "Johnny Angelo" is his "Sgt. Pepper", about a narcissistic, twisted boy who becomes a massive pop star and, corrupted by power and adulation, destroys himself and everything around him. A top read, and said to be a major inspiration for David Bowie to write the "Ziggy Stardust" album. Inspired by journalist Nik Cohn's travels with the completely bonkers singer P.J. Proby, its protagonist is a great modern day legend, and Johnny Angelo a flower of evil in full bloom, that captures the spellbinding power of pop stardom and fan mania as experienced in its first flush, from Elvis to the Beatles and Stones.

THE PROPHET Kahlil Gibran

Inspiring parable about a prophet who returns from many years of searching and contemplation to share his findings with the city he once left. A very mystical and spiritual book with some truly memorable lines worth memorising and some thought-provoking images.


Classic British thriller about the Catholic boy gangster Pinkie, a teenage psychotic with a cut-throat razor as sharp as his suits. Pinkie is one of British fiction's most captivating characters, a study in self-loathing; and like many novels of the 1930s "Brighton Rock" seems to lament an era whose time has already passed.

MR NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS Christopher Isherwood

The second of Isherwood's two Berlin stories which inspired the play "I Am A Camera" and the musical "Cabaret". "Mr. Norris" brilliantly evokes the decadence of 1930s Berlin, and is full of memorable grotesques including the deceitful title character.

THREE MEN IN A BOAT Jerome K. Jerome

How many books are a century old, and yet still capable of reducing you to helpless laughter on practically every page? "Three Men In A Boat" is about the only one that I can think of...a hysterical account of three aristocratic slackers, jaded with city life, who go on a boat trip in the country, and find themselves woefully ill-equipped for everything the rural life throws at them.

ANIMAL FARM George Orwell

If you haven't ready "Animal Farm", then you should immediately! I first read this during my GCSEs but didn't really appreciate it. I re-read it two years ago, and it knocked me out. A great political novel about the dangers of totalitarianism, and the inevitability of any society to divide and rule, through the medium of an uprising on a farm; although it's probably seen as "pigist" these days!

THE DICE MAN Luke Rhinehart

Luke Rhinehart's nihilstic adventure about a man seeking escape from the orderliness, stultification and predictability of modern, liberal society by chancing every decision in his life on a throw of the dice, a kind of Western tarot, is as resonant as ever; and is the "Fight Club" of its era.


About the lustful fantasies and sexual obsessions of a Jewish teenager, "Portnoy's Complaint" is one of the funniest, most shocking books you will ever read; as well as one of the best books about sex ever, and one of the best Jewish novels of all time.


Not to be confused with Japanese rice wine, Saki is H.H. Munro, a writer whose short stories are some of the funniest that I have ever read. Set among Victorian high society, often narrated by his sarcastic anti-hero Clovis, these are tales of irony, poetic justice, and supernatural events; highlights include "The Seventh Pullet" and the sinister "Shredni Vashtar".

CANDY Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenburg

Terry Southern is one of America's hippest writers - he wrote material for "Dr. Strangelove", "The Loved One" and "Easy Rider" - and his post-beat, pre-gonzo novels became underground classics. "Candy" is a 'remake' of "Candide" (see above), only this time the protagonist is an all-American girl, Candy, who believes that all people are good-hearted, even though she goes from one misadventure to another by putting her trust in men who only want one thing from her! This book was actually banned in America for many years, which just goes to show that some people just can't take a joke. A rare book - a sex comedy that manages to be sexy and funny - sometime both at once - and with an unforgettable, er, climax. If you can't get your hands on "Candy" (everyone in the book tries to!) then any of Mr. Southern's writing are recommended (all published by Bloomsbury).


Most people will be familiar with Gulliver's adventures in Lilliput, however that is just a small part of "Gulliver's Travels", in which Gulliver Lemuel visits many strange countries, sometimes feted as a hero, sometimes as an enemy, and is always bemused by their customs. A great satire of the peculiarities of the human race and different societies, "Gulliver's Travels" still stands the test of time as a funny and insightful book.


Gore Vidal is one of my favourite writers, his work roughly divides into his historical novels on American politics such as "Burr", and his way-out comedy satires such as "Duluth", and "Messiah". This definitely falls into the latter, and is his most notorious book (made into an even more notorious film in 1970); about a ball-breaking women on a mission to emasculate the all-American male and revive the values of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Crazy stuff!

CANDIDE Voltaire

Hilarious philosophical satire by the French writer, about an impressionable young student whose tutor is always reiterating that we live in "the best of all possible worlds". Although the misfortunes that befall him - and his girlfriend Cunegonde and tutor - throughout the book prove otherwise, he persists in this belief! Voltaire drags this basic theme out with a succession of gory, violent, shocking and filthy scenes of misfortune and poetic injustice, mixing irreverence with intellectualism to great effect.


Kurt Vonnegut is a truly amazing writer and each of his books is so unique it's hard to pick a favourite. This one would have to figure highly in any such shortlist... "Breakfast of Champions" features everything that is great about his work, indeed it's almost a celebration - here, Vonnegut celebrates his fiftieth birthday by giving all his characters their freedom. The failed writer Kilgore Trout (who appears in several Vonnegut books including the cult classic "Slaughterhouse Five") is the central character of this book. Vonnegut's 'puppet master' act as creator of his own fictional world raises issues of free will in the novel, and creates some very funny moments of self-referentialism; although being Vonnegut beneath all the satire, sci fi and surrealism, he has some very serious points to make about the human race. Like most of his work, it's almost impossible to describe and do justice to it, so just read it! Once you've read one Kurt Vonnegut book, you'll want to read them all.


Anything by Evelyn Waugh is worth reading, but this is my personal favourite. Waugh practically invented black comedy, and this novel is rich with it; it's also full of bawdy humour with character names like 'Viola Chasm' and 'Miss Beaver'!