“I was into that before it was cool.” The phrase has become a cliche among hipsters. So with that in mind, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here are ten books for the Hipster’s bookshelf, books that were (blank) before (blank) was cool.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
dystopian before dystopian was cool.
Before Suzanne Collins created a YA craze with the Hunger Games, adult writers were playing around with dystopian societies. Keep a copy of the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood around, so when teens come over you can inform them that you were reading dystopian novels before dystopia was cool.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
Vampires before vampires were cool.
Some particularly clueless teens actually think Stephenie Meyer came up with the idea of vampires. Or at least, she made them popular. Clueless people of my generation know that it was Anne Rice that made vampires famous. The truth is that vampires have been cool for a long time. Even Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel Dracula, is not the first vampire novel, but it’s close enough and its the novel that made the genre what it is today.
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
YA before YA was cool.
Before Harry Potter came along and made YA cool, there was the Narnia books. Like the Harry Potter books, Narnia has the feel of YA but enough depth for adult readers to enjoy as well.
- Bertram Cope’s year
LGBT before LGBT was cool
Back in 1918, long before there was an LGBT genre, movement or anything resembling gay pride, there was Bertram Cope. One of the first gay novels ever written, Bertram Cope’s Year tells the story of a graduate student who is wooed by a procession of women and one older man, but he’s emotionally attached to his friend and housemate. The writing style is quite different from what modern readers expect but it’s a good story and a must have book if you are going to insist that you read gay literature before gay literature was cool, or even a thing.
- Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
Steampunk before steampunk was cool
Steampunk is the latest craze in both fashion and writing. It blends Victorian sensibilities and style, steam powered technology and science fiction premises. But they were writing science fiction as far back as the Victorian age and there are some classic sci-fi gems that are literal steampunk. Check out most of Jules Verne, but especially Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea.
- The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
Erotica before erotica was cool
The kindle has led to an explosion of erotica. Thanks to ereaders lack of a cover, you can read the raunchiest titles on the bus with no one the wiser. And it’s clear that many people are. But before erotica became a big ticket genre, a few intrepid writers were already braving those waters. So why not pick up Anais Nin’s classic collection, the Delta of Venus.
- The Story of O
BDSM before BDSM was cool
Before Fifty Shades of Gray shocked and titillated a nation, Anne Rice was shocking and titillating the nation with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. And before that came the Story of O, which shocked and titilated the Nation of France way back in the 1950s. The Story of O tells of a woman’s journey into sexual slavery.
Warning: It’s a journey that’s not for the faint of heart.
Another warning: while the Story of O comes before Fifty Shades, any claims that it is better written or a better portrayal of BDSM are dubious at best. Read at your own risk.
What it is the hipster answer to Fifty Shades.
- Lord of the Rings
Epic fantasy before Epic fantasy was cool
Before everyone was obsessed with Game of Thrones, before all the movie nerds were obsessed with Peter Jackson’s movie version, the Lord of the Ring was the original epic fantasy series. Gain extra hipster brownie points with a nice hardbound edition of the Silmarillion next to your Lord of the Rings box set. Just remember to dismiss everything after the Silmarillion as drek his son Christopher scraped together from Tolkien’s notes in a vain attempt to capitalize on his father’s fame. (which for the most part, they are.)
- The Iliad
Action/adventure before action/adventure was cool
We think of action and adventure novels as new things, but they aren’t. In fact to find the before it was cool action novel, we have to go back into ancient history. Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey show that even in ancient times, people loved a good action story. Keep a copy of one or both on your shelf to maintain proper hipster cred.
- The Hymns of Inanna by Enheduana
It’s just… before anything was anything.
For the most part, the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian scribes are nameless writers. They copied down dictation; older oral myths, declarations from the king and day to day practical lists (of the clay tablets found so far, a surprising number are inventories or records of business transactions). The Hymns of Inanna, written in the third millennium B.C. are unique. The author, a high priestess Enheduana, recorded her name for posterity and wrote in her own personal voice. That makes the Hymns the first piece of writing in the modern sense of the word. Diane Wolkensteins 1983 translation by the same name make a great addition to the hipster bookshelf, because it’s essential the first anything before anything was cool.
What books would you add to the list? Respond in the comments.