I first read Bukowski’s Ham On Rye when I was seventeen. I had just graduated high school and was taking a few months off to travel, read books, drink, chase girls and make music. The book was a fitting companion in some ways but also it was the start of a long relationship I was to have with Bukowski. Ham On Rye is a great introduction to the man because it delves heavily into his childhood and the events that shaped his outlook on society and life in general. It is at once disturbing, sadistic, and severe but he mirrors these elements with subtle beauty and the benefit of living minimally. I read through the book at breakneck speed and immediately afterword dove into possibly his most infamous novel Women. This novel sealed the deal for me and imprinted the man’s work into my psyche. Lurid sexuality would be a grotesque understatement to define this text and scanning through my teen eyes made it all the more potent.

Bukowski didn’t mix words. Similar to Hemingway in some ways he tended to lead with the uppercut. He didn’t waste a lot of time with beautifying the set up, he simply told it as it was, or at least how he saw it. As a musician and writer, I have gleaned from him and his work in many ways over my career. If you go through my music you will witness many references to him, some subtle… some overt. But he has always walked beside me and leant a hand when needed.

Some Bukowski titles I have read & recommend:


  • Post Office(1971)
  • Factotum (1975)
  • Women (1978)
  • Ham on Rye (1982)
  • Hollywood(1989)
  • Pulp (1994)

Poetry Collections:

  • Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail (1960)
  • Run with the Hunted (1962)
  • Crucifix in a Deathhand (1965)
  • The Genius of the Crowd (1966)
  • The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills (1969)
  • Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame (1974)
  • Love Is a Dog from Hell (1977)
  • Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit(1979)
  • Dangling in the Tournefortia (1982)
  • War All the Time (1984)
  • You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (1986)
  • The Roominghouse Madrigals (1988)
  • Septuagenarian Stew: Stories & Poems (1990)
  • The Last Night Of Earth Poems (1992)
  • Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories (1996)
  • Bone Palace Ballet (1998)
  • What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. (1999)
  • Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (2003)

Short Story Chapbooks and Collections:

  • All the Assholes in the World and Mine (1966)

  • Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)
  • Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972)
  • South of No North (1973)
  • Hot Water Music (1983)
  • Tales of Ordinary Madness (1983)
  • The Most Beautiful Woman in Town (1983)
  • Shakespeare Never Did This – Expanded (1995)
  • The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship (1998)


  • Barfly (1984)

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