Okay, during high school in college it's easy to think that English class is boring as hell. Yeah, you sit around and read, you talk about what you're reading, you read some more. Your teacher makes up some far fetched theory about how the characters in the books are doing a lot of figurative shit that you're not sure is even there, and then after that, you're bored. And then you read some more.
I get it, but let's look into some writers you may not have been assigned, but can shed some light on the real magic of literature, and prove to you how dumb ditching class was.
1. Chuck Palahniuk
Arguably one of the most wildly inventive story tellers of recent history, Chuck Palahniuk brings his prosaic acrobatics to fiction readers via Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Pigmy and more. This man is a writing machine. Short, choppy sentences and long sweeping metaphors epitomize his cut-throat writing style, and make him popular among younger readers. His debut novel, Fight Club jettisoned him to superstardom, and generated a blockbuster film to boot. Characterized by guttural, gruesome prose, Palahniuk is a living legend.
Unforgettable Prose: "Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It's all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary."
Essential Read: Invisible Monsters (If you haven't read Fight Club and want a real representation of Palahniuk at his best, Invisible Monsters is the book for you.)
2. Graham Greene
I've been obsessed with this writer for a while now, after finishing his great novel "Brighton Rock" I've come to realize that great stories aren't made on great dialogue, as many writers believe. They're made on great characters, those who feel like they could be standing next to you on the subway if you didn't know any better. Graham Greene is a legend in the literary world, with countless, repeatable yet never boring skills, Graham is one of the greats.
Unforgettable Prose: “A brain is only capable of what it could conceive, and it couldn't conceive what it hasn't experienced”
Essential Read: Brighton Rock (One of the best noir books ever written. Scratch that, one of the greatest books ever written.)
3. Hunter S Thompson
My favorite writer of all time, Hunter S Thompson, lived a wild life. Complete with adventures, road trips, campaign reporting, Rolling Stone articles and a legendary friendship with Johnny Depp, Thompson had more than enough life experience to write about. His largely non-fiction works gave birth to a legendary genre known as Gonzo, a wildly inventive style of journalism that transcended the objective and got straight into the entertaining.
Unforgettable Prose: "For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled."
Essential Read: Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (One part road trip, two parts drug induced hallucinations and the rest...brilliant.)
4. Janet Mock
Outspoken transgender woman, activist and author Janet Mock is a testament to the incredible impact of words. Her book "Redefining Realness" is an essential read for anyone honestly. She's got a way of telling very intimate details about her life in a way that is neither blinding nor self-indulgent. Her subtle calls to action and her incredible use of true story telling makes her an essential for this list.
Unforgettable Prose: "The self you know, the you deep inside is obscured by a stack of untold stories."
Essential Read: Redefining Realness: My path to womanhood, identity and so much more.
5. Jack Kerouac
On The Road is the perfect example of the great American novel. Quick witted, edgy and completely honest, Kerouac's work is legendary because of its relatability. A pioneer of the great beat generation writers, Kerouac made counter-culture open to everyone. He created a movement that stands to this day. His legendary drug-fueled road trips made him one of the most talked about writers of all time. He wrote On The Road on a long scroll of paper, typewriter and all. Coping with the fame, and the idea of being a spokesperson for an era was hard for Kerouac, who became an alcoholic, dying at the age of 47 as a result of it.
Unforgettable Prose: "There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars."
Essential Read: On The Road (One of the greatest things to come out of the beat generation.)
6. Kurt Vonnegut
Characterized by his thoughts on the world, Kurt Vonnegut is a legend as far as literature with a conscience goes. Some of the most intuitive writing on the planet made him famous, and his inventive ideas kept him famous. Regarded as one of the most stylistically adept writers of all time, Vonnegut's work will stand the test of time. Seriously, read all of his books.
Essential Read: Breakfast of Champions (Yes, it's not Slaughterhouse Five, but it's better. Trust me.)
7. Truman Capote
Every writer after Truman Capote was trying to capture his balance between style and clarity. Either you're like me, and your prose is brilliant, but you can't keep your thoughts straight, or you're impossibly boring and organized as hell. Capote is both creative and organized. Clear and stylistic. He's a master. Making the crime / mystery genre readable, Capote is a writer that people have continued to copy for decades.
Unforgettable Prose: "Life is a moderately good play with a poorly written third act."
Essential Read: In Cold Blood (The classic crime novel, but it's really much more than that.)
8. Sylvia Plath
Okay, you've probably heard of her because she committed suicide by sticking her head in an oven right? Right. I'm not about to sugar coat it, Plath was suicidal, paranoid and negative a lot of the time. But with that negativity came a literary freedom unlike any other. Totally candid, honest and raw, Plath made her way as a badass female writer and encouraged people to think out loud and outside the box.
Unforgettable Prose: "The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn't thought about it."
Essential Read: The Bell Jar (Yeah, you may have been assigned it...and you probably didn't read it. Try again.)
9. Joan Didion
The 80 year old who defined style as a young woman is now the spokesmodel for Celine, an extremely popular fashion brand. Widely regarded as a journalist, Didion basically invited badass writing. Her writing style epitomizes existentialism, longing, psychological reasoning and morality by wrapping it up in quick wit and observations that are too true to forget. Joan is a massively influential writer, and if you miss some of her work, you're missing a lot.
Unforgettable Prose: "Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."
Essential Read: Slouching Towards Bethlehem (and yes word nerds, it's a reference to my favorite poem of all time, W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming)