William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs was an influential American writer and visual artist, born on February 5, 1914, and passed away on August 2, 1997. He was a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a postmodern author who affected popular culture as well as literature. Burroughs wrote eighteen novels and novellas, six collections of short stories, and four collections of essays, among other publications. His most famous work, 'Naked Lunch,' was published in 1959 and is considered a landmark publication that underwent a court case for obscenity. His writing is known for its experimental style, dark themes, and the use of the 'cut-up' technique.


This list of books are ONLY the books that have been ranked on the lists that are aggregated on this site. This is not a comprehensive list of all books by this author.

  1. 1. Naked Lunch

    A controversial novel that explores the dark depths of drug addiction and societal decay, following the protagonist, a junkie, as he navigates through a series of surreal and grotesque scenarios. The narrative is nonlinear and disjointed, reflecting the protagonist's fragmented consciousness and the chaotic nature of addiction. The book is known for its graphic depictions of sex, violence, and drug use, and it challenges traditional notions of morality and narrative structure.

  2. 2. Junky

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of the author's life as a drug addict in the 1950s. The protagonist, living in New York City, becomes addicted to heroin and resorts to petty crime to support his habit. As he navigates the seedy underworld of drug addiction, he experiences the highs and lows of substance abuse, the desperate scramble for the next fix, and the constant threat of arrest. The book offers a stark, brutally honest portrayal of addiction and its effects on the human psyche.

  3. 3. Cities of the Red Night: A Novel

    "Cities of the Red Night: A Novel" is a surreal, hallucinatory narrative that intertwines three storylines: an 18th-century pirate crew seeking utopia, a detective investigating a series of grotesque murders, and a pandemic causing spontaneous orgasms. The novel explores themes of homosexuality, anarchism, and the occult, using its disjointed narrative structure to challenge traditional understandings of time, space, and reality.

  4. 4. Nova Express

    In this experimental novel, the protagonist, a detective, navigates a dystopian world where control systems manipulate human behavior. The narrative is a complex interweaving of hallucinatory landscapes and seedy characters, punctuated by the author's unique 'cut-up' technique. The book is a critique of societal control mechanisms, exploring themes of addiction, sexuality, and the human condition. It is part of a larger series that uses science fiction and satire to challenge conventional narrative structures and societal norms.

  5. 5. The Soft Machine

    "The Soft Machine" is a surreal and experimental novel that employs a non-linear narrative and the cut-up technique, a method of rearranging or juxtaposing text to create new meaning. The book explores themes of control, conformity, and corruption in society, using a variety of characters and settings, including a junkie, a time traveler, and various dystopian societies. The narrative is marked by its explicit content and its critique of traditional societal structures, making it a notable work of the Beat Generation.

  6. 6. The Ticket That Exploded

    This novel explores the concept of language as a virus and the use of sound and visual editing techniques to create nonlinear narratives. It follows a secret agent who is part of an organization that manipulates and controls human behavior through the use of language and media. The agent becomes disillusioned with the organization's methods and seeks to undermine them. The book is known for its experimental style, including the use of the "cut-up" technique, which involves rearranging words and phrases to create new meanings.