Burroughs’ Books

William S Burroughs reading, circa 1953 – photo by Allen Ginsberg (c) The Estate of Allen Ginsberg

Nina Katchadourian – from  “Kansas Cut-Up” (2014) – (books from William Burroughs’ personal library) – part of her Sorted Books Project

William Burroughs’ Books

Back in 2017 we posted a list of William Burroughs book-recommendations. We’ve recently been reading M.C.Kinniburgh‘s recently-published, provocative and inspiring new book,
Wild Intelligence, (an extension of her 2019 CUNY dissertation) and thought to extend and up-date this into a note on Burroughs’ Library (or Burroughs’ Libraries, since he gathered books together in a variety of locations throughout the course of a long and, at times, somewhat peripatetic career).

The centrality of Burroughs as Beat bibliophile, disseminator, reader, and influencer from the earliest days, has, as Thom Robinson has noted, in a must-read essay from 2011 – “Burroughs’ Library”, resulted in an actively symbolic, even mythic, identity – a curiosity – What was Burroughs reading? – the sense that the mage may have some secrets – what is it that, following these primary sources, we ourselves might discover and know?

M.C.Kinniburgh, in her study, cites the extraordinary project of the scholar, Ralph Maud to replicate/gather together the reading materials of the poet Charles Olson (see here for more news on the Maud-Olson Library). Burroughs, it might be noted, has a similar savior,
Michael Stevens “Stevens estimates he has tracked down 1,152 books connected to Burroughs’ reading”, Jed Birmingham writes (this was an early estimate – see his account of Stevens’ extraordinary project and commitment – here)

and, inspired by Birmingham’s account and a photo by Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, Stevens has further amplified his collection – here 

William Burroughs Bookshelf – photo by Chris Stein, included in Point of ViewMe, New York City and the Punk Scene (2018)

Nina Katchadourian – Sorted Books Project  has a Burroughs connection too – “Kansas Cut-Up”, her research and examination of William’s Lawrence, Kansas, library.

“Kansas Cut-Up”:

In the spirit of Katchadourian’s project, here’s an edited selection culled from Stevens’  recent (2021) listing:

Blackie Collins and Chris McLoughlin – Personal Defense
Dudley Pope – Guns.
Irma S. Rombauer & Marion Rombauer Becker – Joy of Cooking
Philip Swindells – The Water Gardener’s Handbook 

William Shakespeare – The Viking Portable Library: Shakespeare
Thomas De Quincey – Confessions of An English Opium-Eater
Arthur Rimbaud – Illuminations..

Ralph Louis Woods – The New World of Dreams.
Patricia Garfield – Creative Dreaming.
Russell Targ & Harold Puthoff – Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Ability.
P. E. I. Bonewits – Real Magic 
Isha Schwaller De Lubicz – Her-Bak: The Living Face of Ancient Egypt and
Her-Bak: Egyptian Initiate.
W. B. Seabrook – The Magic Island.
F. Bruce Lamb – The Wizard of the Upper Amazon: The Story of Manuel Cordova-Rios.
Tobias Schneebaum – Wild Man.
Gary Jennings – Aztec .

Anton Chekhov – The Tales of Chekhov Volume 1: The Darling and Other Stories
Anton Chekhov – The Tales of Chekhov Volume 2: The Duel and Other Stories
Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine (eds) – Short Story Masterpieces.
Bennett Cerf (ed.) – Famous Ghost Stories
Everett F. Bleiler (ed.) – A Treasury of Victorian Ghost Stories.
Gert Schiff – Images of Horror and Fantasy 

Michael De-la-Noy – Denton Welch: The Making of a Writer.
Lawrence D. Stewart – Paul Bowles: The Illumination of North Africa.
Jane Bowles – Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles 1935-1970
Tennessee Williams – Memoirs.
Ted Morgan – Maugham: A Biography.

Hamilton Cochran – Freebooters of the Red Sea: Pirates, Politicians and Pieces of Eight.
Richard Patterson –  Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West.
Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West
Johnny Dolphin – Billy the Kid

E. M. Forster – A Room with a View
Terry Southern – Flash and Filigree
Alasdair Gray – Unlikely Stories, Mostly.
J. I. M. Stewart – The Bridge at Arta.
Terry Wilson – ‘D’ Train: A Novel. .
Rudolph Wurlitzer – Slow Fade 

Richard Frede – The Interns
David L. Lindsey – Heat from Another Sun.
Marshall Goldberg – Skeletons
Klein, T. E. D.  –  Dark Gods and The Ceremonies.
Doug Masters – TNT: Kingdom of Death.
Trevanian – The Loo Sanction.
Delacorta (Daniel Odier) – NANA.
Thomas Chastain – 911..

Basil Cooper – The Great White Space.
Tony Hillerman – The Blessing Way.
Olaf Stapledon – Last and First Men & Star Maker,
Frank Belknap Long –The Hounds of Tindalos.
Brian M. Stableford – Critical Threshold.
Rudy Rucker – The 57th Franz Kafka.
Michael Medved – Hospital.
Howard A. Olgin – The Doctor Game
Robin Cook – Mindbend 
Robin Cook – Godplayer 
John Saul – Brain Child.
Brian Garfield – The Paladin.  
Ken Weaver – Texas Crude.

Victor Bockris & Gerard Malanga – Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story 

Speaking of libraries and collections, we would be amiss if we didn’t mention Harry Smith

2 comments

  1. After reading this fascinating piece on Burroughs’ reading, it occurred to me that your readers might be interested in my 2009 book, The Road to Interzone: Reading William S Burroughs Reading. The book itself isn’t easy to find, but fortunately it is available to read as a free PDF from the good people at RealityStudio here: https://realitystudio.org/publications/road-to-interzone/
    I also did a 2022 Addendum, which you can find at the same link. The two texts together make up a fairly comprehensive guide to Burroughs’ reading.

    Thanks for the mention in the article too, by the way. The link however takes you to Mr Matthew Levi Stevens’ bio. I did write a blurb for Matthew’s great book on Burroughs and the occult, but we are not the same person. It’s nice to see folks taking an interest in author’s libraries and especially Burroughs’ reading.

    • Thanks Mike – good to hear from you and thanks for pointing out that name confusion – The link has now been corrected –
      and we very much hope readers will take time out to check out your book

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