Famous Cult Books

atkins-bookshelf-booksWhat is a cult book? “Defining a cult book is not easy,” writes Jessica Doyle at AbeBooks. “[A] cult book should have a passionate following… A cult book should have the ability to alter a reader’s life or influence great change, and for the purpose of this list, it should also be a bit odd and a tad obscure.” The editors reviewed their bookshelves to create a list of the most famous cult books, including some rather obscure titles. Some cult books are inscrutable. Take, Robert Pirsig’s philosophical work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values about two men who travel west to seek enlightenment and exploring the Metaphysics of Quality. Book publishers were puzzled after reading the manuscript; not surprisingly, the book was rejected by over 100 publishers. But Pirsig was persistent, and the book was finally published in 1974 by William Morrow & Company. The book has gone on to sell more than five million copies and has inspired thousands of people to take Pirsig’s Pilgrimage, retracing the author’s exact journey described in the book. Incidentally, a first edition is worth about $2,000. Regardless of their fame, Doyle concludes, [the cult books on the list] have steered an individual’s life, created a wave of change in a society, culture, or generation, and garnered fanatic attention from a few or few million readers for their quirky and obscure content.

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Magus by John Fowles
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
The Red Book by Carl Jung
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig 
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

What other books should be on this list?

For further reading: 30 Books Everyone Should Read
50 Books That Will Change Your Life
The Books That Shaped America
The Books that Influence Us
What to Read Next

For further reading: https://www.abebooks.com/books/features/cult-books.shtml
500 Essential Cult Books by Gina McKinnon and Stephen Holland

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