Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Junky” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  34,236 ratings  ·  949 reviews
Before his 1959 breakthrough, Naked Lunch, an unknown William S. Burroughs wrote Junky, his first novel. It is a candid eye-witness account of times and places that are now long gone, an unvarnished field report from the American post-war underground. Unafraid to portray himself in 1953 as a confirmed member of two socially-despised under classes (a narcotics addict and a ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Definitive Edition, 208 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Penguin (first published 1953)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Some Are Sicker Than Others by Andrew SeawardGo Ask Alice by Beatrice SparksCrank by Ellen HopkinsEvery Silver Lining Has a Cloud by Scott StevensA Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Substance Abuse & Addiction
11th out of 511 books — 1,149 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Cult Classics
52nd out of 666 books — 824 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jeffrey Keeten
”Morphine hits the backs of the legs first, then the back of the neck, a spreading wave of relaxation slackening the muscles away from the bones so that you seem to float without outlines, like lying in warm salt water. As this relaxing wave spread through my tissues, I experienced a strong feeling of fear. I had the feeling that some horrible image was just beyond the field of vision, moving as I turned my head, so that I never quite saw it. I felt nauseous; I lay down and closed my eyes. A ser ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Well holy shit, high-five to you, early teens me! Though I may have mixed feelings about some things I loved back in my formative, pointlessly cynical years, this rereading experience was actually, well, kinda rad. Can I say that at almost 30? Rad? Or am I getting to where it's like when your folks n' grandfolks try to quote "the hip lingo of the kids these days" and it enters your brain like aural chipboard? This novel held up, is my point.

Maybe I'm just an asshole (probable), but Burroughs ma
Nov 15, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 1001 readers and people who'd rather read than get high
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list and a long standing literary pedigree of greatness
Mmm mmm drugs. Yummy. Like adult smarties with extra kick and an added naughty factor.
Ok, that is not strictly true but you have to admit that sometimes it is difficult to pick your way through the troubled and varied history of drugs culture in literature. Drugs good? Drugs bad? Drugs indifferent? You're cool. Or not cool. Or an addict or a victim. See? Confusing.

Lets look back through the literature - Coleridge, De Quincey, Kerouac, Thompson and the production of wondrous drugs madness such a
I think I prefer looking at this text in its original light: a sensationalized, dime-store paperback about junkies. I just can't take this type of work too seriously. I've met so many people who hail Burroughs as genius and I have yet to find out why. While he offers a grisly account of opiate addiction, it's hard for me to say that Junky is an important piece of literature. It spawned many copy cat memoirs and was influential to the genre of confessional fiction, which I find to be overrated.
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 03, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 101 Books For Men, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, guy-lit
This is a semi-autobiographical novel by William Burroughs (1914-1997) covering an 8-year period when he became a heroin addict. Mr. Burroughs is a "beatnik" writer. The Beat Generation is that group of American writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, and the cultural phenomena that they wrote about and inspired (later sometimes called "beatniks"). Central elements of "Beat" culture include a rejection of materialism, experimentation with drugs and alternate forms of sexuality, and an inter ...more
Kelly B
It's William S. Burroughs, dude. Made me wanna do heroin to get a grasp of what he was going through though. But to really understand his plight I would have to become a junky, which you really gotta put effort into, and I don't really wanna be a junky, because once you are you are for life. Read it, he'll tell you. Or read a bio on him or any other heroin addict. You can do it once and be okay but once you're a junky you can go 20 years without and then do it once and you're hooked or sick all ...more
This could be the best anti-drug book ever written. It is certainly the odd-boy out in the Burroughs family of novels.

This is not the William S. Burroughs of The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead (Burroughs, William S.) and certainly not the same guy who wrote Naked Lunch: The Restored Text. This is a Burroughs who's not talking to himself or talking to his admirers. Instead this an author who is stretching to reach the reader with the actual smelly, lonely, desperate, empty reality of the junky.

Dec 15, 2008 Clare added it
I found a copy of Junky in the trash outside my apartment. Penguin edition, with an introduction by Allen Ginsberg I can't remember. Its previous owner had written HEROIN!!! in red bubble letters on the inside cover, and drawn several stars around the word. Seemed promising, so I read on (I can say this is the only William S. Burroughs book I have ever finished). The book moves chronologically, and you sort of follow along. You know, I would like to think if I had been a junky, I would've come o ...more
Burroughs does not pull any punches in this, his first novel. It is a plain account of the life of a junkie based on his own life. Burroughs describes his experience in a very matter of fact way; the many lows and very few highs. The descriptions of coming off heroin are horrific. It is still difficult to read, but describes a way of life and a downward spiral. The glossary at the end was very necessary for me.
Burroughs illustartes how much junk dominates your life when you are an addict and the
David Sarkies
The life of a heroin addict
30 July 2011

When I first bought this book I thought it was written by the same guy that wrote Tarzan (yes they have the same last name, but that is about it). It turns out that it wasn't, and Burroughs was not a fiction writer, but rather, as the introduction to the version that I read, the father of the beat generation. However, one does wonder how he ended up becoming a writer because from reading this book one wonders how he ever actually amounted to anything.

It's very dry. I felt the whole thing was a list of prices and complaints that noone was paying. At the same time, the dryness of it had this normalizing effect that would wear off every 20 or 30 pages. My awareness of the horror of it would thus come in and out. Likewise, the introduction could have been a more-interesting substitute for reading the whole book--I felt like whatever interest the novel had was condensed into those 25 pages. So from then on it was hearing those same things a secon
Guy Portman
Set in 1950s America and Mexico, Junky is a confessional novella about drug addiction. Its protagonist Bill Lee chronicles his drug-centred existence, which entails searching for his daily fix, scoring, and intravenous drug consumption. The population of this seedy underworld have a variety of roles including that of pusher, pigeon and lush.

Lee’s cycle of addiction sees him go cold turkey in various rehabilitation centres, only to return once again to opiate addiction. During his periods of remi
Erik Graff
Jan 06, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Burroughs fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
Other than smoking some in high school and reading some books taking either a sociological or pharmacological approach to the subject, I've never had much exposure to the heroin habit. The pleasure it afforded during a week of adolescent experimentation wasn't captivating and although I've been acquainted with some habitual users, I've never been intimate with one, never lived with one. This semi-autobiographical account is the closest I've ever gotten to how it might feel to be a person with th ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Mark added it
Well I had this great job and was getting in my car to go it, and my boss was calling my cell phone so I answered and said "hold on I'll be there in a second." But it was my bosses wife and she said he's been arrested, he's gone to jail, the job is canceled. So I said oh shit! So then I called my friend North of San Francisco and asked him for a job in his tree service, cutting down trees and grinding up stumps in the chipper---he said come on up! So I did...I stayed a week and a half and choppe ...more
Lee Kofman
Okay, I can see the artistic merit in this novel. Burroughs's prose is lean, cool and convincingly realistic. He’s good with (mostly brief, introductory) characterization and telling of anecdotes. He knows his material, the drugs that is. And yet, there was absolutely nothing that held my attention as I kept reading the book. This novel was completely focused on drugs – the quest for them, the dealing, the administering – and in a tediously technical way. There are absolutely no digressions. In ...more
I have to say, I was disappointed with this book.

I know a lot of people love William Burroughs and his writing, but this is the third book that I have read by him, and I honestly can't get into him.
The writing style was extremely straightforward which was definitely a relief (I had a bad experience attempting to read 'Naked Lunch' a few years ago...), and the book was very informative on the subject of Heroin and the lifestyle of users. However, to put it simply, I found this book incredibly bla
May 22, 2008 Chris rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: small-time suckaz
Recommended to Chris by: the voices that beg for the needle, maaaaan
Junkies suck. This may not be ‘breaking news’ to some, but I just had to get that off my chest. Also, the undeniable fact that junkies suck is going to come into play a lot here, so I would guess that if you’re sympathetic to the plight of the many nimrods currently haunted by the specter of addiction, you’re probably not going to give much of a shit about what I have to say. Later. Piss off.

We haven’t purged all the scourge yet. The ‘beat’ movement sucks too. Oh, you think because a handful of
Eric Hendrixson
There is a sense of numbness throughout the book, which makes sense for a book about opiates. Burrough's take on the beginnings of the War on Drugs is interesting, but I don't think his life will ever be a convincing argument for legalization.

The most shocking moment for me in the book was when, three quarters of the way through the book, he mentions his wife taking the children out of town for a day. Apparently, they've been there the whole time and Burroughs never bothered to mention them befo
Aug 13, 2007 Justin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misfits, trouble-makers, aspiring journalists, aspiring writers, addicts of all types
Perhaps to my shame as a reader, I'd never come into contact with any of Burroughs' works, with the exception that I'd occasionally catch random bits of the film Naked Lunch on the pay stations at friends' houses. At that time (circa 1996), I was far more interested in authors like Steinbeck and Hemmingway rather than fantastic tales of hallucinatory madness-I was still in the land of Cannery Row and Cuban fishermen and ill-prepared for beetle-typewriters, talking radiators and opiate-leaking ph ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Maureen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Maureen by: Patti Smith
Shelves: experimental
No matter what title this book is given, it is a lucid account of Burrough's long walk off a short needle, and well worth reading. Whether Burroughs is describing buying junk on a New York street corner, or trying to recover from the worst hangover of his life in Mexico after eight hours of drinking tequila, he is mercilessly honest in his descriptions of his actions. Oddly, I have never gotten the feeling from reading any of Burroughs books that he celebrated heroin use, although plenty of othe ...more
Junky is Burroughs semi-autobiographical novel about being a Heroin addict cirka late 1940s/early 1950s in New York, New Orleans and Mexico City. This book is entertaining and interesting even if it paints a seedy and depressing picture of this lifestyle. Another thing I liked is he talked intelligently about Marijuana (which was rare back then) and there was a seemingly random tangent he went on for several pages about Wilhelm Reich. The thing is even though reading this would serve as a deterr ...more
Tim Weakley
This is the second book by Burroughs I've read, the first being Naked Lunch. I enjoyed this one a lot better. The writing style was similar to Dashiel Hammett strangely enough. The books details Burroughs fall into using and the drug culture. It wasn't a comfortable read because I'm needle phobic and a lot of the scenes gave me a bad case of the creeps. The brilliant turns of phrase along with the bald declarative style of narration really made the book flow well. It was a quick read being only ...more
This was on my 'on-hold' shelf, and finished today.

The sign of a good book is one you can put down, return to months later and remember everything about it. Junky is one of those hence the 5 stars. Not shocking,graphically upsetting, or emotionally compelling just a fascinating visit into the world of addiction.
Michael Scott
The semi-autobiographical novel Junky follows the life of William Lee (Lee was the maiden name of William Burroughs's mother), the quintessential 1950s addict on heroine (H) and occasional consumer of methadone (M), benzedrine (benny), cocaine (C), and many others. The writing style and storyline, both rather simple, fit well original publisher, Ace Books; this publisher was catering in the 1950s to the subway riders with novelettes, detective stories, and other mass-production literature. What ...more
"Morphine hits the backs of your legs first, then the back of the neck, a spreading wave of relaxation slackening the muscles away from the bones so you seem to float without outlines, like lying in warm salt water. As this relaxing wave spread through my tissues, I experienced a strong feeling of fear."

Coincidentally, this was how I felt when I read the first few pages of Junky. I don't have prior experience with recreational morphine use, so reading this book was quite an enlightening experi
Nicole Rabalais
This book is an exhausting chronicle of the plight of William Lee, a heroin addict. To probably a large extent, this book is autobiographical. It gives an honest insight into the drug culture of the 1940s. It's a little hard to get through because of all the (dated) slang that is/was very specific to drug addicts. Luckily, this edition provides a glossary and a thorough introduction.

This first-person narrative recounts the day-to-day experiences and challenges involved in finding the means and t
Jeremiah Walton
This book holds true to the Beat generation, a generation that produced some wonderful writing. Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso all had an inventive and switch-blade flick style that reinvented poetry. Junky is a short read, but one that leaves the sour taste of H in your mouth, the sour back throat drip of fresh junk swallowing your body in a high that won't leave. The prose of Burroughs is always beautiful, such as in Naked Lunch, and Junky is not an exception from the standards set. He offers ...more
La curiosità è stata la molla che mi ha spinto a voler conoscere questo libro e questo scrittore, di cui Fernanda Pivano, in "Libero chi legge" ne consiglia caldamente la lettura.
"La scimmia sulla schiena" che prende il nome dal vizio degli stupefacenti nella malavita di Chicago è più un saggio che un vero e proprio romanzo, in cui Burroughs racconta la sua infanzia di bambino felice che temeva la solitudine e il silenzio, il suo rapporto con le droghe, sperimentandone tutti i tipi: dalla benze
No Remorse
A deep, detailed account into the underground of the drug world. The main character is based on true events by the author William S Burroughs. The story of drug addicts doing heroin, opium, cocaine, pills, or anything to get high. Robbing people on the subway, getting wasted on alcohol, traveling to places like Mexico and hustling and trying to score. Getting extremely sick and trying to kick a drug habit. Going to jail and prison and a few accounts of homosexuality. Burroughs was a real piece o ...more
Matthew W
The title "Junky" says it all, William S. Burroughs' virtual junky diary is a trip through the author's own self-inflicted and self-injected personal hell. If public schools really wanted kids to abstain from injecting needles in their arms they should drop D.A.R.E. and force students to read William S. Burroughs's "Junky." I don't think I have ever read another book (including autopsy and death scene photo books) that has nauseated the way this book has and that includes all the other novels I ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2015 Reading Chal...: Junky by Wiliam S. Burroughs 2 7 May 18, 2015 12:45PM  
  • Kaddish and Other Poems
  • Go
  • Desolation Angels
  • The First Third
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • The Portable Beat Reader
  • The Basketball Diaries
  • Water from the Sun and Discovering Japan
  • William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle, Brion Gysin
  • Factotum
  • Selected Essays from: How to be Alone
  • The Road to Los Angeles (The Saga of Arthur Bandini, #2)
  • Crash
  • The Coma
William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th century ...more
More about William S. Burroughs...
Naked Lunch Queer And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks The Soft Machine (The Nova Trilogy #1) Cities of the Red Night

Share This Book

“The question is frequently asked: Why does a man become a drug addict?
The answer is that he usually does not intend to become an addict. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to be a drug addict. It takes at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all. And you don’t really know what junk sickness is until you have had several habits. It took me almost six months to get my first habit, and then the withdrawal symptoms were mild. I think it no exaggeration to say it takes about a year and several hundred injections to make an addict.
The questions, of course, could be asked: Why did you ever try narcotics? Why did you continue using it long enough to become an addict? You become a narcotics addict because you do not have strong motivations in the other direction. Junk wins by default. I tried it as a matter of curiosity. I drifted along taking shots when I could score. I ended up hooked. Most addicts I have talked to report a similar experience. They did not start using drugs for any reason they can remember. They just drifted along until they got hooked. If you have never been addicted, you can have no clear idea what it means to need junk with the addict’s special need. You don’t decide to be an addict. One morning you wake up sick and you’re an addict. (Junky, Prologue, p. xxxviii)”
“When you stop growing you start dying.” 231 likes
More quotes…