When compiling our list of essential books for filmmakers, I was reminded of a sentiment from an old college professor that I find to be not just clever, but also remarkably accurate:

“You can’t always tell if someone has gone to college or not, but you can tell if they read.”

Here is a collection of ten books that will help prime your creative faculties with inspiration and plenty of literary nutrition.


1. Stoner by John Williams

A beautiful story of a professor’s journey through life, literature and love. Stoner is a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer. A stunning novel on all levels, it is a must-read.

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2. Perfume by Patrick Süskind

A beautiful novel by Patrick Süskind. It is absolutely extraordinary.Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. One of Kurt Cobain’s favorites and one of our essential books for filmmakers.

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3. Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

The cult classic from 1964, Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel is a savage everyman’s portrayal of the underbelly of society in 1950’s Brooklyn. Selby brings out the dope addicts, hoodlums, prostitutes, workers, and thieves brawling in the back alleys of Brooklyn. Scorching, unrelenting, pulsing.

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4. Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles

A gorgeous and masterful autobiographical novel by Eileen Myles. Volatility and the poetry of perspective delivered with honesty and breathtaking aplomb. Suffused with alcohol, drugs, and sex; evocative in its depictions of the hardscrabble realities of a young artist’s life.

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5. Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller

Henry Miller’s account of travels in Greece. His most vibrant and cosmic book. A piece of literature that reminds one of the vitality of other cultures in a way that makes using a microwave for anything deeply embarrassing.

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