The Best Cult Novels at Your Public Library

What is a cult novel?  A cult novel is one in which a rabid group of fans swears it’s the best book of all time.  I’m sure there are better definitions, but that’s what I’m going with.

  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger:  Everyone knows this classic, but it used to be super underground in the 50s.  In fact, it used to be the most banned book of all time after it caught on with the youth!catcher in the rye
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac:  Reviewers around the time this book was published weren’t too keen on this novel, but it has become an essential book for those who like to wander a little bit more than average.on the road
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole:  Sadly, our culture tends to revere authors and other artists when they die too soon or before their work becomes famous.  That’s the case with this novel.  There are a huge number of cult fans who will swear this is the funniest book they’ve ever read.

confederacy of dunces

  • Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis:  Another funny one!  A cult novel written by a cult author about a cult!

masters of atlantis

  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse:  Thinking about travelling to the Himalayas?  You should probably read this book.


  • Dune by Frank Herbert:  This book has the most intense fan-base I’ve ever seen.  If you haven’t read this amazing piece of science-fiction, I’m here to tell you that you probably should.


  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein:  The main character was raised by aliens. Need I say more?  Oh, it has also been very influential in the realm of science-fiction.


  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt:  Teenagers love this book because it follows around a group of college students–it’s both successful and culty (is that a word?).

secret history

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski:  A lot of people hate this book with extreme passion, but a lot of people also really love it.  This is one of those books that had a cult following online before it was officially published in print.  The mystery, as well as the stark differences in opinion regarding its literary merit, will make this a cult novel for years to come.

house of leaves

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig:  This book was rejected by more publishers than any other bestseller.  While this book is kind of kitschy at this point, it is still incredibly popular.

zen and the art of

jimmy corrigan

  • Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski:  Everything Bukowski has ever done is culty.  I personally think his work can be hard to get into, but not everyone agrees.

ham on rye

  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card:  While there have been questions about the author’s homophobia, many fans still champion this book quite fervently.

ender's game

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong:  A coming-of-age story for the ages…

fear of flying


  • Generation X by Douglas Coupland:  This novel is responsible for coining its namesake.  What do people born after 1960 think?  I don’t know; read this book.

generation x

  • The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk:  The first book by Pamuk where we really get to witness his chops as an author.

black book

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace:  Everyone I’ve every known that has read this book likes to act like they’re better than the people who have not read it.  Ah well.

infinite jest

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler:  Everyone who reads this author falls in love with her!


why did I ever

  • Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann:  This novel is seen as the ‘girl’s’ version of Catcher in the Rye and was self-published before it was picked up by Random House years later.  Sounds like the makings of a cult novel!

anthropology of an american girl


All of these books are available at the Jacksonville Public Library.  Let us know if you’re interested in any of them.


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