How to Read… Hunter S. Thompson


Few authors have had the sheer cultural impact of Hunter S. Thompson. Alongside the likes of Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe, Thompson found himself acting as a pop-culturist at the centre of some of the most revolutionary changes of 20th century America. In truth, that was because he put himself there quite intentionally.

Since Thompson took his own life in 2005, numerous books have been written by friends, family and cohorts discussing the legendary iconoclast. These include William McKeen’s superb 2008 release Outlaw Journalist, as well as an upcoming book from Rolling Stone that collects his work in the long-running magazine. Here are a few other books by Thompson insiders that have done a stellar job giving HST fanatics a vivid look behind the curtain.

It’s just kind of weird how so many of them have the word “gonzo” in the title…

Ralph Steadman, The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories: Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, and Me
4.5 Stars out of 5
Few people knew Thompson as well as British artist and writer Ralph Steadman. A trip to the Kentucky Derby in 1970 on behalf of Scanlan’s Monthly magazine started a nearly forty-year friendship and collaboration: Hunter provided the words, Ralph provided the art. Steadman’s book does an incredible job outlining their decades-long friendship on an insane encounter by insane encounter basis.

Corey Seymour and Jann Wenner, Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson
4 Stars out of 5
Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone, is another of those people with a great deal of firsthand experience with Thompson as his editor and enabler. In Gonzo, Corey Seymour, another Rolling Stone/Thompson survivor, and Wenner have built an amazing oral biography from interviews with over 100 of Thompson’s friends, family and contemporaries. It provides a wide view of a legendary life, offering an impressive variety of perspectives.

Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo
4 Stars out of 5
Gonzo is a collection of Thompson’s personal photographs and memorabilia. Organized chronologically, it gives the reader an idea of the perspective through which Thompson saw his life – it is as close as you can get to looking at his life through his eyes. Despite being released by separate publishers, Gonzo is an excellent companion to Seymour and Wenner’s Gonzo, as it provides images that correspond to many of their collected stories.

Anita Thompson, The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
3.5 Stars out of 5
A quick but insightful read, Thompson’s widow chose to write a book more about the philosophy than the man. The book reveals a different side of Thompson; an intimate side that only his wife could know and share. Anita will follow up this year with Ancient Gonzo Wisdom, which chronologically collects interviews Thompson did with Playboy, The Paris Review and Esquire.

There are several books by other HST insiders and alum worth taking a look at; many of which were published prior to Thompson's death. In addition, another collection of writings from Thompson titled The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings, and Missives from the Mountaintop 1977-2005 is scheduled to be released this October.

Mutineer will undoubtedly not be the last posthumous release from the world’s most infamous “Doctor of Journalism.” In the meantime, check these out too:

Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis, The Kitchen Readings: Untold Stories of Hunter S. Thompson

Beef Torrey and Kevin Simonson, Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson

Paul Perry, Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson

E. Jean Carrol, Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson

Jay Cowan, Hunter S. Thompson: An Insider's View of Deranged, Depraved, Drugged Out Brilliance (due March 2009)

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