Chuck Palahniuk recommends3 min read

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What books inspired Chuck Palahniuk to write “Fight Club”?

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Also recommended by Bill Gates, mentioned in 5 Good Books To Read According To Haruki Murakami

The Great Gatsby, the crowning achievement of the literary career of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is set in the Jazz Age, that is, 1920s. This is the story of Jay Gatsby, very wealthy and powerful billionaire, who is in love with Daisy Buchanan. As almost every man of power, Gatsby likes to throw luxurious parties, gather the Beautiful People in his house. The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of XXth century literature.

“Knockemstiff” by Donald Ray Pollock

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Pollock’s tribute to the hardscrabble town of Knockemstiff is surrounded by all the necessary symbols of small-town depression and decay. The very name of the town is a tribute to its rowdy women, and appears as a tatoo on its drug-using inhabitants. Ramshackle trailers, smelly factories, and domestic violence make up the tapestry of this gritty and grisly collection of short stories. This book may never make it onto the reading lists of Nicholas Sparks fans or those seeking out feel-good stories, but it certainly reflects a sensational version of the author’s 30-year struggles with factory work and drug rehabilitation.

  “Gladiator: A True Storyof ’Roids, Rage, and Redemption” by Dan Clark

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Steroid use and abuse seems to be everywhere in the world of sports, from cyclist Floyd Landis’ urine test to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legal case against Dr. Heepe. While the use of steroids may no longer be surprising, some details of its negative effects will be of interest to avid readers of the latest in sports reading lists. For instance, American Gladiator Clark uses personal testimony to detail how steroids lead to anger outbursts, muscle depletion, hormone imbalance, and run-ins with the law. A natural follow-up to this book should be Juiced, the tell-all autobiography of baseball star Jose Canseco.

  “Jesus’ Son” by Denis Johnson

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Both a novel and a collection of short stories, Johnson’s fifth work explores similar themes to Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff: drug use, abuse of women, and unrealized dreams. The addition of eternal themes and questions of redemption are more prevalent than in Pollock’s work, but the soul-killing effects of internal and external poverty still prevail, along with the authors’ personal knowledge of the inside of rehabilitation centers. New York Entertainment magazine suggests this book as a worthy addition to intellectual reading lists, citing it as influential to younger authors such as National Book Award winner Dave Eggers.

“Reasons to Live” by Amy Hempel

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As you might deduce from the title, Hempel is no stranger to soul-searching questions or experiences. The Paris Review details some of the worst times in the author’s life, including the suicides of both her mother and aunt, her best friend’s unsuccessful battle with leukemia, and two car accidents. Nor was the author unsuccessful in rising above these experiences, since she went on to write for New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. Readers whose favorites list include Frank McCort’s cautiously hopeful Angela’s Ashes will probably see similarities in this fictional story collection.

“The Ice at the Bottom of the World” by Mark Richard

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If variety of professional experience is the Mark Twain indicator of a great writer, Richard certainly deserves to be put at the top of the reading list. From bartender to investigator, from DJ to political string-puller, the author has lived both in poverty and in plenty. His novel also follows a dizzying array of human experience, from a beach-haunting vampire to children in a charity ward – and all sorts of drug users in between. This short story collection was added to the 2008 summer recommended reading list of Bates College, and Arlington’s University of Texas.

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