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The “Hipster Lit” Reading List

I laughed when I read the Hipster Lit Flowchart from Goodreads. “Hipster” is one of those words you only ever use to describe someone else. But if the shoe fits, you know?

So it’s true, I read Hipster Lit. I didn’t even know that was a thing until this morning. But any reading list that has both Zone One
and The Boy Detective Fails has obviously got me dead to rights.

It’s also convenient to be able to fit a name to my reading tastes. Now when people ask what I’m reading I can tell them, “I’m reading this great book, but it’s pretty obscure, you probably haven’t heard of it.” (Which in my defense is usually true.)

That being said, naturally Goodreads left off some classics of the hipster genre. If you want to delve more deeply into Hipster Lit, allow me to humbly recommend the following:

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware
Last Night at the Lobster, Stewart O’Nan
The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
Achewood (3 hardbound books and/or the webcomic), Chris Onstad
VALIS, Philip K. Dick (hipsters will argue which PKD book belongs on this list. I have chosen Valis somewhat at random.)
Bossypants, Tina Fey. (A touch mainstream, but Tina Fey, come on!)

Hmm, what else? I was going to say Winter’s Bone: A Novel, but they made a movie out of it, which would ordinarily exclude it from hipsterdom. But the movie was bleak and critically well-received while also kind of a flop financially. So put that in the “maybe” pile.

Update: Similarly, I debate whether Murakami belongs on the list, or are his books too mainstream? I think the most correct answer, if you want to be a true Hipster Lit aficionado, is to sing the praises of his earlier work (like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) while turning up your nose at his newer offerings.

P.S. I read Murakami before it was cool. Seriously! I picked up Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World when it was published in 1993, and it blew my mind.

12 comments to The “Hipster Lit” Reading List

  • Heh, I haven’t read a single one of those. Guess I’m not a hipster. (I suspect I’m too old and too square to be a hipster, anyway. They’d probably yell “go home Granny” at me if I tried to do hipster things).

    I’ve heard of Achewood, though, and Iain M. Banks, so I guess that counts? And I think I’ve read a couple of Jennifer Egan’s shorter pieces….

    I seem to mostly read stuff everyone has heard of but dismissed as boring or too old-fashioned….

  • Patti

    I avoided Gone Girl for quite a while because it was too popular, but it was AMAZING. Also, that’s a good list, not just for hipsters.

  • Erika

    Frankly I’m just glad, as an overweight 40 year-old woman with cats who knits and lives in a rural area, to be considered “hip” at anything.

    Patti, that’s funny – Gone Girl is next in my Audible queue. I think a true hipster understands that popularity alone is not grounds for dismissal (c.f. Tina Fey).

  • imjustlori

    House of Leaves freaked out my hyperactive imagination so much I couldn’t finish it. But hey! I was almost a hipster! I guess.

  • Did y’all know House of Leaves has a soundtrack? The singer Poe is the author’s sister, and her album “Haunted” contains many references to the book (which I haven’t read, just read about).

  • Erika

    Very true! Although I consider Poe kind of un-listen-able, she’s just not my thing. But I love the additional tie-in. (And I always buy Pelikan ink and smile.)

  • I LOVE reading lists of books. I have only read one of the books (Choke, thanks for asking) but I did read The City and the City by China Mieville and I tried to read Last Exit to Brooklyn last month but the first few sentences were so depressing I gave up. As an overweight woman in her 60s with cats who knits and lives in a rural area, I am also amazed to have even the most distant relationship to hip.

  • Apparently I have hipster aspirations but lack follow through. There’s a few of those books on that list that I’ve been meaning to read. But haven’t. As if I could have ever been described as hip. Hahahahahaha.

  • Erika

    I never thought I would be hip, either! You could be harboring a secret inner hipster and never know about it!

  • Erika

    kmkat, I think any Mieville book would count, but they obviously had to pick just one for the list, so they picked his newest. Frankly I was not gripped by Embassytown, I gave it up after about the first 1/4th. I don’t think it was his best. The City and the City was pretty great, though!

    I read Last Exit to Brooklyn in high school. I could never handle it now as a grown-up. Grim stuff.

  • Ahahahaha I did not know of this hipster flowchart and I agree that it’s good to find an accurate descriptor of my reading tastes, though I’d do everything possible not to actually say the bit about obscurity if asked point-blank…although Murakami, man, I have a bone to pick with him. Hard-Boiled was the first of his I read; it’s what made me get my MA in Japanese and go over and live in Tokyo for two years, but now? 1Q84? What is this business? Why did I waste so much money on it? I–er–oh. I see you have a note addressing his newer stuff. *cough* Nevermind then.

    Also, Goon Squad. Did you _like_ it? I got so sick of all the “it was SO much better when punks were punks” whining, and the unshakeable conviction that all modern children were turning into antisocial little shits. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of kids either, but I imagine some of them will grow up into the people I did–capable with technology, as the times require, but bookish and desiring of human companionship still, etc. etc.

    Also Infinite Jest IS good. But I’ve never seen anyone reading it! And I live in a–well, if there were ley-lines of hipsterdom, this town’s node would be crackling with energy.

  • Erika

    I read Infinite Jest when it first came out, I remember very well lugging that doorstop around town. Maybe you don’t see many people reading it because it is so non-portable!

    Re Goon Squad, I think that was the point, the cyclical nature of “kids these days aren’t as awesome as they were when I was a kid.” I read that as tongue-in-cheek satire. I’m honestly not sure which of us is correct on that score, but it certainly made for a better book.