Trashy Book Club looking for suggestions
July 15, 2009 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Some friends and I are starting a super trashy book club, and are looking for suggestions for the trashiest books you can come up with.

Already in mind: Valley of the Dolls; Flowers in the Attic; Go Ask Alice; Mommy Dearest; Chocolates for Breakfast.

Looking for: Anything sordid and campy and ridiculous and obnoxious. Best still: If a cocktail would go with it. Even better: If there is some costume that might be worn to the book club discussion. Better than the best: If a movie was made of the book.
posted by Astro Zombie to Writing & Language (77 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh, definitely The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage. Sordid, yes; ridiculous, yes; obnoxious, yes. It reads like a made-for-TV Fox movie. It's horrid, and the prose is laughably bad. Should keep you guys entertained.
posted by Nattie at 9:40 PM on July 15, 2009

Anything by Jacqueline Suzann, esp Valley of the Dolls which was made into a movie.
posted by x46 at 9:43 PM on July 15, 2009

Oh, I guess I should learn to read, eh?
posted by x46 at 9:43 PM on July 15, 2009

Black in Time, by John Jakes
posted by pseudonick at 9:44 PM on July 15, 2009

Disco Bloodbath! Trashy, funny, great costumes and I'd recommend a drug cocktail.

(oh, and two movies.)
posted by Bookhouse at 9:52 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some Mickey Spillane, perhaps? My Gun Is Quick might be a good place to start.
posted by otolith at 9:54 PM on July 15, 2009

Wild Animus, by Rich Shapero. They were giving hundreds of copies of this book away in Austin a few years ago. The Amazon reviews (which are of more literary value by an order of magnitude than the book itself) seem to suggest this was done in other cities as well. If anyone, anywhere, paid for a copy of this book my heart breaks for them.

In fairness to Shapero, it is the best book that I have read in which the narrator turns into a sheep.
posted by dr. boludo at 9:55 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you can find it: Christiane F. (Bonus: movie with awesome David Bowie soundtrack and concert scene!)
posted by scody at 9:55 PM on July 15, 2009

Anything by Judith Krantz should work. Princess Daisy, Scruples, and Mistral's Daughter were all made into equally awful TV movies in the 80s.
posted by stefanie at 9:56 PM on July 15, 2009

Oh, and a homemade sheep and/or ram costume would be entirely appropriate. It's actually a plot point. I can not emphasize enough how ludicrously bad this book is.
posted by dr. boludo at 9:57 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Prince of Tides and Beaches. Both with the bonus of having been made into super-campy movies.
posted by lunasol at 9:58 PM on July 15, 2009

Anything by Edgar Box.
posted by aquafortis at 10:00 PM on July 15, 2009

Oh my God this Shapero guy is the gift that keeps on giving. He's got a website where you can download a pdf of the book and the first of 3 CDs of music meant to accompany the novel. And revel in pages of self-important prose about how this is a Totally New and Totally Deep Artistic Innovation.
posted by dr. boludo at 10:05 PM on July 15, 2009

Does deliberately, consciously and cynically trashy count? A cabal of Newsday writers created Naked Came the Stranger under the pseudonym Penelope Ashe. It became a best-seller (after the hoax was revealed) and was made into a porn flick, too.
posted by maudlin at 10:06 PM on July 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

White Oleander. I haven't seen the movie, but god the book is bad. I'd put it on par with VC Andrews. It doesn't quite reach Flowers in the Attic trashiness, but close.
posted by peep at 10:16 PM on July 15, 2009

Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds ought to qualify. You can wear a clerical collar for costume, and practice looking stiffly stern as your clubmates serve tea.
posted by paulsc at 10:22 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

No doubt Lace. It defies description... but I think the costume opportunities are endless. Socialites, underage French porn actresses, hockey players, schoolgirls, and of course an Arab prince. I see your movie request and raise you an 80s TV MINISERIES! Apparently not on dvd, alas. Plot summary (miniseries), if you dare.

The most famous line is, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?" MUST MORE BE SAID?
posted by pekala at 10:24 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, Twilight? Although the vampires are too lame to have good costumes, or even pointy teeth. The books are worth it for the typos alone. (There was one about dust "moats" floating in the air. Beautiful. I wonder if the dust moats are stocked with dust bunnies as well as crocodiles.)
posted by artychoke at 10:29 PM on July 15, 2009

Hmm, I'd say that just about anything by Jane Green would qualify, but most notably Jemima J.

I recently read Addicted for a class I took this summer. It's supposed to be a combination of street lit and erotica, but the plot was beyond ridiculous and the handful of sex scenes in no way made up for it.
posted by anderjen at 10:30 PM on July 15, 2009

Oh, also: anything by Laurell K. Hamilton.

And the Twilight series, while we're at it.
posted by Nattie at 10:30 PM on July 15, 2009

What about Jackie Collins? Does it get any worse? And the entire chick-lit genre which have women in heels and shopping bags on the cover art?
posted by lottie at 10:33 PM on July 15, 2009

Irvine Welsh, start with Porno.
posted by knowles at 10:36 PM on July 15, 2009

Moon People has got to be the trashiest book ever published. I can envision many drunken sorties trashing this book. Costume opportunities abound! Bonus: a sequel!
posted by torquemaniac at 10:44 PM on July 15, 2009

Harlequin NASCAR romance novels.

I couldn't believe it either.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 10:45 PM on July 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm currently dabbling in My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl, the premise of which surrounds an aphrodisiac & fornication. It's not as clever as The BFG. To go with it, might I suggest a bottle of port?
posted by knile at 10:51 PM on July 15, 2009

Jilly Cooper for upper class English trash - start with Riders or Polo and your costume/cocktail ideas will just jump right off the book cover.

I feel a bit guilty saying this because I enjoyed her books growing up but I guess Judith Krantz might fit the bill for rich American trashy novel.
posted by ceri richard at 10:54 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Romance novels are excellent for this sort of thing, because the titles are always something like His Savage Ascot or To Fuck a Sweaty Highlander.
The costume possibilities make it an option worth exploring, not to mention the dramatic readings you could do.
You might also consider Sylvia Brown, because although she's not lascivious, she definitely fits the bill for trashy.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 11:03 PM on July 15, 2009

not trashy, but very fitting in with your list - Peyton Place, Grace Metallious.

If you want old school historical trash, Forever Amber, by Kathleen Windsor. It's very thick, but it's unputdownable.

I'd go for Jilly Cooper's earlier stuff; Harriet, Bella, Imogen, Prudence etc.
posted by nunoidia at 11:12 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The DaVinci Code. They made a movie out of it.

runs away, giggling

No, really. Drink Brown ale. Or cognac with peanut powder. Or wine. With bread on the side.
posted by knile at 11:20 PM on July 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Off the obnoxious scales: Hedge Fund Wives
posted by milkrate at 11:25 PM on July 15, 2009

Clan of the Cave Bear is a definite possibility, complete with terrible movie. Although the sequels are even trashier so you could just go straight to them.

Friends of mine who had a similar book club seemed to get a kick out of The Very Virile Viking, although I could not bring myself to read it so I can't personally recommend it.
posted by Stacey at 2:52 AM on July 16, 2009

Carl Hiassen. His books are like arch parodies of trashy novels.
"The only trace of the first victim was his Shriner's fez washed up on the Miami beach."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:53 AM on July 16, 2009

Anything by Harold Robbins. If you borrow a copy of one from a public library, I imagine it will fall open at the stained pages with the naughty bits.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:01 AM on July 16, 2009

Anything by Maeve Irish housewife trash
posted by dzaz at 3:45 AM on July 16, 2009

The late Steven Wells' opus: Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty.

If you actually get it and dress up in character, I will love you forever.
posted by permafrost at 3:51 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to do YA, pick up LJ Smith's Night World series, which is a deliciously trashy predecessor to Twilight.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:47 AM on July 16, 2009

You definitely need some of the fine work of Tabor Evans, author of the Longarm series of "adult" Westerns. Porno in the Wild West!
posted by Daily Alice at 5:12 AM on July 16, 2009

People associated with Dick Cheney seem to have a predilection for having written sordid novels in their past:

Former Second Lady Lynne Cheney wrote Sisters, which she now denies is about Wild West lesbians:
Helen, my joy and my beloved,

Why do we stay? I have no reason beyond a few pupils who would miss me briefly, and your life would be infinitely better away from him. Let us go away together, away from the anger and imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare not venture. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while you work your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl. . . .
Scooter Libby (Cheney's former Chief of Staff, and current convict) took "sordid" several steps further, when he wrote The Apprentice:
At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.
Here's a fascinating article about Libby's novel.
posted by Flunkie at 5:25 AM on July 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Karrine Steffans.
posted by box at 5:50 AM on July 16, 2009

Why Men Call Girls! by Shannon Canfield. 1975 biography of a former prostitute tells what makes men happy sexually, instructs women how to perform well sexually, and why prostitution will always be a needed social construct. This easy trashy read could make for a very interesting discussion for sexual mores and societal changes regarding gender and sexuality in popular media during 2nd wave feminism. If I remember correctly she covers how-to on golden showers, blow jobs, ball massage, pussy hygiene, pre-coital cocktails... Dang that book was trashy!

Not in print but this mass market paperback of its day (I think my mom bought our copy at the Piggly Wiggly while grocery shopping) is dirt cheap used at amazon and some other booksellers. I read ALL these books as a pre-teen in the '70's and 80's and this is the only one I have kept. I'll loan you my copy if you promise to return it. Just look at the picture on the cover with Ms. Canfield in 1970s chambray, legs crossed, leaning back, all knowing. Really fabulous stuff. No movie but how fun to dress up as 70's pimps and johns.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:51 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh my god. Flunkie! Scooter. I had no idea.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:59 AM on July 16, 2009

Ikon by Grahm Materton
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:11 AM on July 16, 2009

Anything from The Destoyer series featuring secret agent Remo Williams.
posted by dortmunder at 6:12 AM on July 16, 2009

There's a UK-based website all about it (which might limit its usefulness for you I admit); I'll link one of the classic trash novels that did the rounds at school when I was a youth.
posted by Abiezer at 6:13 AM on July 16, 2009

I seem to remember reading a bunch of 'stewardesses in heat' type novels when I was ~14, the only one I rememebr the name of is 'Coffee, Tea or Me'
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:14 AM on July 16, 2009

Dick Francis detective fiction...they all involve horses...I've read five or six of them and I can't tell you which they are, there are seemingly hundreds, all the same.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:17 AM on July 16, 2009

The 70's and 80's were really the heyday of this era imho. Deadly Intentions, a TRUE STORY of a doctor who enjoys terrorizing his wife had a great tv movie. The trailer is too funny (young Michael Beihn is in it).

Along those same lines is the book Prescription Murder with the tv movie Murder in Texas. True story about a 1970s plastic surgeon (a young Sam Elliot in the 1980 movie) in Texas who murdered his wife (Farrah) and married his mistress (Kathrine Ross). Angry Houston socialite father-in-law (Andy Griffith) pursues him all the way to trial.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:18 AM on July 16, 2009

posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:19 AM on July 16, 2009

Ooh! And I Don't Want to Live This Life, the story of Nancy-as-in-Sid-and-Nancy, told by her mother. The weekend I spent at the beach with that book led to my sometimes-nickname Bookface.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:19 AM on July 16, 2009

Are you looking for good trash or bad trash? Trashy books reasonably well written or any old crap? Our "serious" bookclub read Jackie Collins on a lark, and while we could tolerate the trashy story lines and the character names -- "Link Blackwood"? Really? -- the writing was just unsufferable.

On the other hand, as readable trash goes, I like Penny Vincenzi for upper-middle class British family sagas.

Also, I asked the awesome gals from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for a recommendation for some good, yet still clearly genre, romance novels to read with my book club, and they recommended:

Laura Kinsale's "Flowers from the Storm"
Anything by Georgette Heyer
Jennifer Crusie's "Bet Me"

I haven't read any of those yet, but I'd stake my reputation, such as it is, on a second hand recommendation from the Smart Bitches. They're Smart. And Bitchy.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:45 AM on July 16, 2009

You have to read Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karinne Steffans.

The book is about the author's exploits as a hip hop groupie. Every chapter has sex, drugs, or violence. Often all three.
posted by reenum at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2009

Anything by Danielle Steele. Apparently she snacks on little heart-shaped sandwiches while she writes to keep herself in the right mindset, so your book club could do that as well.

This old thread of mine might also be of interest to you.

HILARIOUS idea for a book club, by the way. I imagine that a lot of book clubs could benefit from indulging in the occasional trashy selection.
posted by orange swan at 7:12 AM on July 16, 2009

Besides Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins I think you should not forget the inestimable Harold Robbins who has a LARGE ouevre of books that were made into miniseries in the 1970's and 1980's. Films too such as, the Betsy, which had Sir Laurence Olivier as an automotive patriarch. I admire British actors for the fact that they can say the cheesiest lines with conviction and Laurence Olivier delivers in the Betsy.

Think of him as a literary version of Paul Verhoeven. Besides how can you not like a guy who describes his first wife's death was due to parrot bites?

Also, for cheesy romance that will take less than 3 hours to read is yes, the grand dame herself, Barbara Cartland, a publishing machine. She dictated her romance novels in the afternoon. Titled, wealthy men who are always rescuing virginal 17 year old heroines with great details on what people wore for the novel's time period. Her stuff is very pro monarchy/nobility and she was Princess Diana's step-grandmother. She has over 700 titles to choose from for period costuming purposes. Did I mention that her portrait in a floor length, gold sequined dress, in a room whose decorative style should be titled "high brothel" with a white, furball of a dog is iconic or at least scarring? Here is a very tame photo of her and in pink.
posted by jadepearl at 7:14 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh, and Olivia Goldsmith, of "The First Wives Club", wrote trashy stuff.
posted by orange swan at 7:14 AM on July 16, 2009

The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore which was made into the movie Gymkata.
posted by maurice at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2009

I'd take a look through the works of John D. McDonald. You get pulp thrillers with titles like One Monday We Killed Them All, A Bullet for Cinderella, and Murder for the Bride, plus the entire Travis McGee series about a semi-retired debt collector who lives on a houseboat, runs a never-ending Tracer-Bullet-style inner monologue, and "salvages" his clients' lost money with guns, brass knuckles, and, in one book, a missile launcher.

Several of the McGee series were made into a string of godawful TV movies that you may or may not be able to find.
posted by hayvac at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The's relentlessly bad...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2009

Wild Wives is free and was recently on boing boing.
posted by chairface at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2009

How has nobody mentioned Sidney Sheldon? Apparently a career helming I Dream of Jeannie wasn't enough; he had to write books like Windmills of the Gods, which I take it is supposed to be the bastard child of Tom Clancy and Jackie Collins but raised by Danielle Steel. And you bet they're movies; we're talking Jaclyn Smith as an ambassador and Robert Wagner as Mr. Dashing Helpful Man.

A quote: "I like to write about women who are talented and capable, but most important, retain their femininity. Women have tremendous power - their femininity, because men can't do without it."

I'd perhaps start with The Other Side of Midnight. Trust me, it's "good," but it says something when Amazon doesn't include a summary :P

And I read every one of them I could get my hands on.

Re: Barbara Cartland, see Dame Sally Markham (YT) from Little Britain.
posted by Madamina at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2009

Oooh. Sidney Sheldon was one of my favorite trashy book authors. I strongly recommend Rage of Angels for pure, unadulterated trash.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2009

Rent Boy by Gary Indiana
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2009

Long out of print, but one of the best titles ever.
posted by permafrost at 8:22 AM on July 16, 2009

Forever Amber? Set in the 1600s (= good costumes) plus super trashy main character. It's really long, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2009

I can't believe no one has recommended Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. There's a sequel, which is not nearly as good as the first novel but which was available for awhile in an omnibus addition. Lots of drinking in the book: cheap beer seems to be the beverage of choice. Also, while the book is super-trashy, it's still got literary merit, and a lot of historical importance. To up the trash quotient, watch the movie or TV series. (Contents: Booze, incest, abortion before it was legal, murder, etc.)

Also in the realm of trash is the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar. Once again, you can pair the books with the TV series. These are easy reads; you can devour one in an hour or two. (Contents: Obnoxiously rich teenagers, booze, weed, sex, betrayal.) Drinks of choice: Expensive booze. They drink a lot of Veuve Clicquot in the series.

For some super-literary trash, you could go with Robertson Davies' Fifth Business, and possibly take on the entire Deptford trilogy from there. (Contents: Buggery! Also circus freaks.) Not sure what you should drink with this. Something Canadian, perhaps.

I have always thought that The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving is super-awesome trash. (Contents: Bears, hotels, prostitutes, radicals, sibling sex.) The movie with Rob Lowe and Jodi Foster is awful, but if you are watching it with a book club, it's worth your time. As long as you're tipsy. The drink most mentioned in the book is hot chocolate with marshmallows. Spike the cocoa?

Love your list so far. Although Go Ask Alice has been debunked. Maybe that makes it even better trash?
posted by brina at 8:35 AM on July 16, 2009

Steffie Can't Come Out to Play! (SPOILER: Because she is a prostitute.) You could all come dressed as Favor, the most luxurious pimp who ever lived.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:35 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh! And if you're looking for insanely long books that are super-trashy awesome, check out the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Time travel, lots of sex, set in 18th century Scotland, witchcraft, buggery. What is it with buggery?
posted by brina at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats is not nearly as trashy as it sounds, but it's a fun read.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:46 AM on July 16, 2009

Anything with Fabio on the cover.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2009

Jenna Jameson's autobiography is super-trashy but actually very interesting!
posted by radioamy at 10:13 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh! And if you're looking for insanely long books that are super-trashy awesome, check out the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Time travel, lots of sex, set in 18th century Scotland, witchcraft, buggery. What is it with buggery?

Good god. A few Christmases ago I asked my parents for gift suggestions, and they enthusiastically said they wanted the whole Outlander series. And so I bought it for them! Jesus! I had no idea.
posted by scody at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2009

The Manny is the trashiest book I have ever read. And I've read some trash.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:11 PM on July 16, 2009

The co-author of Secrets of the Model Dorm is a friend of mine, and I happen to know that he was shooting for maximum trashiness.
posted by willpie at 1:18 PM on July 16, 2009

When I was a young lad, I happened upon "Boots of the Virgin" by Earl Shorris, c 1968. After reading it straight through with hardly a pause to blink, I gave it to two of my friends to read. To this day when faced with a situation requiring courage, we defiantly proclaim "me cago en las botas de la virgen." (I shit in the boots of the Virgin.)

It's out of print, but looks to be available through amongst others. Some highlights: the main character is a Jewish boy from Michigan who aspires to be the world's greatest bullfighter, his love interest is a prostitute who keeps her nipples covered in vinyl and suffers amoebic dysentery at just the wrong moments (he almost cheats on her with a rich girl who has something extra, though not what you might expect), and there's a notable scene in which the transvestite antagonist is rendered unconscious by a snot-rocket to the temple.

Campy, outrageous, hilarious, and just plain odd. Bill Melendez (animator of the Charlie Brown TV specials) wanted to do an animated version, but sadly we'll never get to see his vision come to the screen...

I could see warm tequila being an appropriate cocktail, and who wouldn't want to dress like an incontinent matador in a yarmulke?
posted by krippledkonscious at 5:30 PM on July 16, 2009

How has no one yet mentioned Janet Evanovich yet. One for the Money is the first in the series. Incredibly easy to read murder mysteries with bounty hunters, policemen, funeral homes, crazy parents and lots of doughnuts. Further on in the series, she even introduces a golden retriever. What's not to love.
posted by kjs4 at 6:33 PM on July 16, 2009

Left Behind: The Movie has conveniently been divided into 11 parts for posting on YouTube...
LBTM: That's our Buck!
LBTM: Meet the Steeles
LBTM: Growing Pains
LBTM: Gone off naked
LBTM: In case of Rapture
LBTM: Jesus met the woman
LBTM: Lone Gunmen
LBTM: Accumulated radiation
LBTM: No love for Hattie
LBTM: Think Different
LBTM: Something happens
LBTM: The worst mankind has ever seen

All part of slacktivist's brilliant and incisive commentary on all things Left Behind - books (and movie!) that are not just bad, they're instructively bad.

(See also this site for fanfic, RPG, musical, etc.)
posted by puddleglum at 3:17 PM on July 17, 2009

Almost anything by Anne Rice. I'm thinking of The Witching Hour, But just about anything will do for lurid trash.
posted by faceonmars at 12:37 AM on July 18, 2009

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