The most outrageous books with serious meaning

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by absurdist comedy and ideas for as long as I can remember. At sixteen, I wrote my first book, Mr A, which followed a man who would turn into a superhero after taking LSD and his talking dog. As an adult, I continue to revel in these types of stories. I brought this passion to my chart-topping debut non-fiction book, where I interviewed several people who believe McDonald’s has interdimensional properties. Now, I hold no bars in fiction writing, having authored a ‘genius of a book’ that follows a talking pencil.


I wrote...

Matita: The Tragic Tale of a Writer's Pencil

By James Tyler Ball,

Book cover of Matita: The Tragic Tale of a Writer's Pencil

What is my book about?

With rhyming dialogue and a rhythm to match Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are DeadMatita tells the tale of a writer's relationship with substance abuse and his craft from the unique perspective of his pencil

The pencil is an instrument of creativity, blinded by loyalty. The bottle is a vessel of lethargy and debauchery but inspiration all the same. Together they comprise the duality of the writer. This is their tale. It’s a truly tragic one at that—a terrible conversation between two futile minds. Join them, dear reader, and glimpse the inner workings of artistic musings.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ham on Rye

James Tyler Ball Why did I love this book?

Many of us writers are subject to the terrible cliché of substance abuse, none so much as Charles Bukowski. Having dabbled in the debauched myself, Ham on Rye sadly reflects what life could be like if the idiocy of adolescence continues into adulthood. This book is hilarious, vulgar, shocking, and oddly insightful. Not only is this my favourite Bukowski book, but it’s the book that introduced me to his work and changed my writing forever.

By Charles Bukowski,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ham on Rye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTRODUCTION BY RODDY DOYLE

'He brought everyone down to earth, even the angels' LEONARD COHEN

Charles Bukowski is one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. The autobiographical Ham on Rye is widely considered his finest novel. A classic of American literature, it offers powerful insight into his youth through the prism of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski, who grew up to be the legendary Hank Chinaski of Post Office and Factotum.


Book cover of Hunger

James Tyler Ball Why did I love this book?

I found this book mentioned in one of Charles Bukowski’s. If Bukowski liked it, I surely would, too, I thought. This is, without a doubt, a severely strange book. Hunger followers the narrator as he desperately tries to become a successful writer while battling the hardships of starvation and homelessness. He becomes delusional with grandiose ideas and attempts to humiliate a love interest of his. This book will leave you questioning your literary choices.  

By Knut Hamsun,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Hunger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most important and controversial writers of the 20th century, Knut Hamsun made literary history with the publication in 1890 of this powerful, autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression. The book brilliantly probes the psychodynamics of alienation and obsession, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. Hamsun influenced many of the major 20th-century writers who followed him, including Kafka, Joyce and Henry Miller. Required reading in world literature courses, the highly…


Book cover of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

James Tyler Ball Why did I love this book?

When I first watched the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead film starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth, I was enamoured by the rhythm and dialogue. Reading the play, however, is even more brilliant. It’s fast-paced, confusing, and hilarious. In fact, it played a huge hand in inspiring my latest book. I would never have grasped the English language so tightly had it not been for this book. 


By Tom Stoppard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed as a modern dramatic masterpiece, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead is the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the worm’s-eve view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. In Tom Stoppard’s best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end.

Tom Stoppard was catapulted into the front ranks of modem playwrights overnight when Rosencrantz…


Book cover of Down and Out in Paris and London

James Tyler Ball Why did I love this book?

This book fictitiously documents George Orwell’s escapades in the two cities. Orwell describes the difficulties of making it alone in a strange country—France—and his unexpected longing for dirty-old London. Orwell talks about his experiences working in several bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, many of the nasty things he depicts still ring true for the hospitality industry today. Worth a read if you hate your bar or kitchen job. 

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Down and Out in Paris and London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of 1984, the classic semi-autobiographical story about the adventures of a penniless British writer in two cities.

Down and Out in Paris and London follows the journey of a writer among the down-and-out in two great cities. Without self-pity and often with humor, this novel is Orwell at his finest-a sobering, truthful protrayal of poverty and society.


Book cover of Lanny

James Tyler Ball Why did I love this book?

Not as outrageous as the other books on this list, but unique all the same. Lanny introduced me to the idea of experimental and literary fiction. In fact, until reading Lanny, I hadn’t written fiction for years. Yet this book swarmed my brain with new ideas poised to push the boundaries of my written ability. Lanny is tender, surprising, sad, poetic, and wholesome.  


By Max Porter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lanny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize

An entrancing new novel by the author of the prizewinning Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

There’s a village an hour from London. It’s no different from many others today: one pub, one church, redbrick cottages, some public housing, and a few larger houses dotted about. Voices rise up, as they might anywhere, speaking of loving and needing and working and dying and walking the dogs. This village belongs to the people who live in it, to the land and to the land’s past.

It also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, a mythical figure…


You might also like...

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

Book cover of Rewriting Illness

Elizabeth Benedict

New book alert!

What is my book about?

What happens when a novelist with a “razor-sharp wit” (Newsday), a “singular sensibility” (Huff Post), and a lifetime of fear about getting sick finds a lump where no lump should be? Months of medical mishaps, coded language, and Doctors who don't get it.

With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Benedict recollects her cancer diagnosis after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In compact, explosive chapters, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity, she chronicles her illness from muddled diagnosis to “natural remedies,” to debilitating treatments, as she gathers sustenance from family, an assortment of urbane friends, and a fearless “cancer guru.”

Rewriting Illness is suffused with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

What is this book about?

By turns somber and funny but above all provocative, Elizabeth Benedict's Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own is a most unconventional memoir. With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling skills of a seasoned novelist, she brings to life her cancer diagnosis and committed hypochondria. As she discovers multiplying lumps in her armpit, she describes her initial terror, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity as she indulges in "natural remedies," among them chanting Tibetan mantras, drinking shots of wheat grass, and finding medicinal properties in chocolate babka. She tracks the progression of her illness from muddled diagnosis to debilitating treatment…


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