Stephen Jones is also known as the musician Babybird. His first novel, The Bad Book, was about a damaged childhood; his second, Henry and Ida Swop Teeth, features Siamese twins who forsake their lives as drug-addled scientific guinea pigs to go on the run.
1. America’s Back Porch by Daniel Jeffreys
Being a poor reader, I am naturally and lazily drawn to short stories. This travel book digs into everything I want to know about America’s dirty underbelly.
2. Waiting Period by Hubert Selby Jr
This book, about a man who isn’t able to commit suicide because there’s a mistake in his application to buy a gun, is a great rail against American society and bureaucracy.
3. From A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol
I’ve never been a Warhol fan, so this was a big surprise. It’s autobiographical but written as though it was a novel and reads wonderfully. It feels very eerie, as though someone else had written it.
4. Factotum by Charles Bukowski
I have collected over 50 of his books and will dip in and out of them till I’m dead. He is my ultimate read and sums up simplicity perfectly. Those who associate him with womanising and ale have only just tipped his iceberg. If anybody has any of his early books for sale, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Junky by William S Burroughs
As with Factotum, I got this in its original pocketsize pulp novel format. I knew nothing about drugs and seediness before I naively read this. Along with Orwell’s Down and Out in London and Paris, it opened my eyes to degradation.
6. Atomic Candy by Phyllis Burke
Beautiful turn of phrase. This deals with an era when TV was beginning to saturate the world: commercialism and politics, and huge finned cars. It drives you through America from beginning to end.
7. Dogwalker by Arthur Bradford
Reviewers said this was weird but to me it’s as normal as pie. It reminded me of Eraserhead and how we care for the fucked-up. It’s a collection of short stories, all concerning freaky dogs and the strange relationships humans have with them. You don’t have to like dogs to enjoy it.
8. Naked Pueblo by Mark Poirier
This is another short story collection. In one of them a kid, later named Jackpot, is born with a dime stuck to her forehead, all because her stripper mother doled out change for her clients’ dollar bills from her vagina. Now, that’s weird.
9. Wild at Heart by Barry Gifford
I rarely read a book then see the film, for fear of spoiling the movie experience. But this is a masterful rollercoaster, and that’s before even knowing that Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern were in the wonderful Lynch version.
10. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
This is based in Monterey, California, my favourite place in the world. It reads like an A to Z of things I’ve seen there. Monterey’s just off Highway 1 on the coast, the most beautiful drive I was ever lucky to ride.