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John Waters' 6 favorite books

The writer/director of Hairspray, Pink Flamingo and Cecil B. Demented shares his "harrowing," "politically incorrect" and "feel-good" favorite reads

John Waters, who's created some of the most controversial cult films in American cinematic history, reflects on the figures that influenced him in his new memoir, Role Models. Here, he shares some of the books that helped shape his world-view, too:

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (Harper, $17). This harrowing, repulsive, and witty thousand-page, gay–Nazi–Final Solution novel may have won the two top French literary prizes, but here in America it was panned by the critics. Of course, the French were right. Not since the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom has there been such an explosive literary shocker. And there’s a 39-hour audiobook version available, too. Just imagine that recording session!Swimming Underground by Mary Woronov (out of print). Still the best book written by a Warhol superstar. If a speed freak’s memoir makes you feel nostalgic, like this one did for me, is there something the matter with you? Unfortunately, yes, there is.Suicide in the Entertainment Industry by David K. Frasier (McFarland & Co., $50). The perfect gift book for disillusioned showbiz types. An encyclopedia of sad deaths—not only of famous stars but obscure editors, sound technicians, and other never-heard-of, unfortunately depressed, behind-the-scenes crew members.The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq (Vintage, $15). My favorite politically incorrect novelist can write like nobody’s business, including yours. Incredibly cruel, sexist, and outside any moral standards, this insanely brilliant science-fiction novel is as good a place as any to start reading this author … or stop. Sita by Kate Millett (out of print). Every possible, miserable second of the breakdown of a doomed lesbian love affair is captured in meticulously maddening prose by the No. 1 feminist writer of all time. The kind of lovesickness that usually sends one to psychiatric help here inspires Ms. Millett to use her readers as soundboards for her own therapy, and I couldn’t be more happy to oblige.The Ghastly One by Jimmy McDonough (Chicago Review Press, $27). An eye-popping biography of a forgotten monster, exploitation film director Andy Milligan. Scary, disgusting, violent, and anything but inspiring, this feel-bad book makes me feel good by asking the all-important question, “Can a genius be untalented, too?”

John Waters is the writer/director of the films Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Cecil B. Demented. His book Role Models will be published next week by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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