Top 5 Cult Classics

Classic Cult novels, that’s a huge genre to try and pick a definitive list from, not least because I am limited by my own reading experience and that what is cult changes around the world. So I will start by saying I am British and I have a particular penchant for attempting novels that are known as ‘cult classics’. I say attempted because I don’t get through them all, more about that in the end.

So what describes a ‘cult novel’, well cult books are born in lots of ways, the critics will hate it and the fans will love it, or both will love it but a small section of fans will read more into it. It could be that it’s become popular with a small group in a nerdy kind of way, or just that it’s particularly shocking in content and has possibly come under the eye of the censors.

And so from my British perspective, and from my own ‘read’ pile, here are my top 5 Classic Cult novels that I think are worth a read.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig

Zen, from 1974 is the ultimate road trip novel, and it left me unsure if I liked this burnt out hippy on a bike trip with his son. That said, it’s my number 1 cult novel because it’s brimming with life-changing questions, philosophy and some of the greatest lessons in life. I’m not underestimating when I say this book completely changed my thinking.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (US)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (UK)

Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh

We had to have at least one modern classic in the list, and for me that would be Trainspotting. A cult classic that eventually exploded to popularity with the release of the movie. Trainspotting would consistently be in my top ten books of all time, a brutal, funny and honest novel reflecting the very bleakest view society has to offer.

Trainspotting (US)
Trainspotting (UK)

Trainspotting Review

The Dice Man – Luke Rheinhart

Written in 1971 The Dice Man is shocking and hilarious in equal degree. Be warned, this is no light read, the protagonist is a disillusioned psychiatrist and the language reflects this. There’s violence, rape and anarchy, but the book has enduring appeal. Hide all the dice and start reading!

The Dice Man (US)
The Dice Man (UK)

The Dice Man Review

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The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

This was the cult novel everyone was reading when I was at school (20 years after it’s release in 1963), and I first picked it up at 15. I failed then, putting it down after a few chapters but I picked it back up a couple of years ago and it’s a wonderful book. While depressing, The Bell Jar is one of the most acute descriptions of mental illness I have ever read, and it deserves its place in my top five.

The Bell Jar (US)
The Bell Jar (UK)

The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley

The Doors of Perception is the book that launched a thousand trips and I confess to only reading it because I loved Brave New World (and here I learned that writers that cross genres really do cross genres). I confess I struggled through parts of it, and got lost in others in good ways and bad, but it’s stayed with me forever so it’s here in my top five.

The Doors of Perception (US)
The Doors of Perception (UK)

And before I finish, a moment’s silence for Catch 22, Siddhartha, Slaughterhouse Five, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and the many, many more cult classics I have started and tossed to one side.