Cult Books

A few months ago,  while attempting to pack things away for my move to my new apartment, I found an old article printed on yellowing, recycled paper, on “Cult Books.”

Quite an interesting article, it first tries to define what cult books are, then lists novels accepted my most people as being “cult books.”

After doing a little research online, I found the original article.

So what exactly is a cult book?

The article (and many other articles on the topic) tries to identify what makes a book a ‘cult’ classic. Cult books are books that shape individuals, even generations. They are books that changed and defined people’s views and lifestyles. Books can become ‘cult classics’ even if they weren’t bestsellers back in the day, though everyone has heard of them.

While browsing online search results for cult books, these titles recur most frequently:

  • Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Alexandria Quartet – Lawrence Durrell
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
  • Siddhartha – Herman Hesse
  • The Stranger – Albert Camus
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach and Russell Munson

And so on…

I’m guessing that  list gave a clearer idea of what cult books are, as I’m sure many have read those books and can even come up with a list of their own favorites.

This got me thinking about new cult books in the making – books that are defining the new generation. The Harry Potter series, perhaps, or Eat, Pray, Love or god forbid, Twilight?

What books do you think will eventually become a cult classic (if not already)?


29 thoughts on “Cult Books

  1. A lot of the books that are coming up in search results for cult books are ones that I’ve read.

    I’m thinking that the cult books of the next generation aren’t going to be the Harry Potter or the Twilight, but more along the lines of Hunger Games.

  2. It never occurred to me that there were cult books. lol.. Sadly I think Twilight would be considered as defining a new generation. Maybe Neuromancer by William Gibson, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Ender’s Game?

  3. Yeah, Hunger Games for sure! Maybe Neuromancer by William Gibson, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and Ender’s Game? What about the Sookie Stackhouse books? Seems kind of silly mentioning them in the same post as the others. Lol.

    • lol…interesting picks. Margaret Atwood definitely has a cult-ish book feel to her lol. American Gods…hmmm…seems possible too. To be honest, I didn’t like American Gods when I read it. True Blood…wouldn’t that be too mainstream?

  4. What about Timothy Leary’s The politics of Ecstasy or Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception…? Cult classics open people’s eyes and free their minds.
    Twilight does the opposite: it means to desexualise teenagers, it shuts doors. It will only ever be a bestseller.

    • Hmm…no, not professionally. I just like to blog every once in a while and mostly just about books I’ve read. Sometimes I enjoy writing, but alas, I don’t think I’ve got a novel in me 😛 I know how hard writing is, though, that’s why I admire writers a lot! Good luck with your endeavors!

  5. Your blog is definitely enjoyable! Writing it hard because you have to give up a lot of living to write…to quote Doris Lessing….time-wise and ‘headspace-wise’ especially…I found you because I was trying to define what a cult book is…have you noticed how most cult books are American?

    • Oh, well I hope you found the original article on Cult Books helpful. Hmm…is it mostly American? I didn’t really notice…what do you think American culture has that causes them to churn up more books that become ‘cult books’ that isn’t present in other cultures? Or maybe it’s the readers who are different…? After all, isn’t it the readers who define what novels become ‘cult books?’

  6. Dear Mr Misanthropolgist,
    I do sincerely hope that I haven’t tread on anybody’s toes here…I just wonder: London was the heart of the swinging sixties and the music revolution of the nineties. Where are the novels describing these ‘scenes’??
    Best D

  7. You’re right. They wouldn’t have to come under the category of cult books.
    Only in a (publishing) world that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of these important changes, they would become marginalised as ‘cult.’
    I wonder sometimes…is that denial of our modern cultural heritage the real reason for the demise of the ‘publishing industry’ as we know it?

    • From how I understand it, I think books become “cult classics’ more because of readers, and not publishers. I’m sure publishers have some idea of how well a book will do once it’s published, but it’s really the readers who determine the popularity of a book or of whether or not it will have a cult following…. But really I’m not too sure on that. That’s just my opinion.

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