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Ham on Rye

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  85,489 ratings  ·  3,623 reviews
In what is widely hailed as the best of his many novels, Charles Bukowski details the long, lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski. From a harrowingly cheerless childhood in Germany through acne-riddled high school years and his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of D. H ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Ecco (first published September 1982)
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Kathrina No, "Becker" died in the War and is unpublished (and an orphan so I hardly doubt we can find those stories now, they probabl got lost).…moreNo, "Becker" died in the War and is unpublished (and an orphan so I hardly doubt we can find those stories now, they probabl got lost).(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  85,489 ratings  ·  3,623 reviews

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Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
So what is a middle-class old woman who seldom drinks and never fights doing reading this book?

Enjoying the hell out of it.
Glenn Russell
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing

I was sixteen, tan, blonde and good looking, catching waves on my yellow surfboard along with all the other surfers, handsome guys and beautiful gals, each and every day that summer. Little did I know this mini-heaven would quickly end and hell would begin in September. Why? My smooth-skinned tan face turned into an acne-filled mess. I suffered pimple by pimple for three years straight; many fat red pimples popping up every day. Oh, yeah, on my forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, chin and nose. Unli
Vit Babenco
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There is this eminent poem by Philip Larkin:
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you. But they were fucked up in their turn by fools in old-style hats and coats, who half the time were soppy-stern and half at one another's throats.”
And everything in Ham on Rye develops under this scenario…
So, that’s what they wanted: lies. Beautiful lies. That’s what they needed. People were fools. It was going
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the outsiders

Up until recently, all I knew about Charles Bukowski was what I learned in one of my all time favorite films, ‘Barfly,’ staring the incomparable Mickey Rourke as our antihero Henry Chinaski. If you haven’t seen it, you should remedy that immediately:

This is a world where everybodys gotta do something, gotta be something... sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do.. that I don't wanna be


Henry Chinaski is a bit of a
Elyse  Walters
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Update: $1.99 Kindle special today --- Its not for everyone -- but I thought it was fantastic! -- I own it -- and couldn't pull away from it the first time I read it. I'd suggest reading high and low reviews. Then trust your gut! Its 'based' on a true story --but written as a novel.

"I had begun to dislike my father. He was always angry about something.
Wherever we went he got into arguments with people. But he didn't appear to frighten most people; they just stared at him, calmly, and he became
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: truth seekers
It is true that Ham on Rye lacks a serious plot. It is also true that Mr. Bukowski writes in a crude, whiskey soaked style. However, the novel makes up for its deficiencies with a well-honed theme on the bullshit realities of middle-class existence and the ugly truth of how our society deals with those who reject that path. Such a novel should necessarily cause the reader to taste a tinge of bile in his or her throat. If you don't finish the book weary and angry, then you missed the point. As to ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
The ultimate non-conformist

Wow. This is really something else. I was somewhat prepared for this after seeing the film "Barfly" which was based on Bukowski's alcoholic, pessimistic lifestyle - screenplay written by Charles Bukowski himself. But wow.

Bukowski, with Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke on the set of Barfly

Instead of Ham on Rye, this book should have been titled: "How I Became a Raging Drunk". Heavily autobiographical, this novel follows Bukowski's literary alter-ego Henry Chinaski through
Ham on Rye is flanked by sauces of happenstance and its delectability depends on the preferences of one’s reading tongue. Mine, for one, could not bear its sour, unsavoury ingredients.

In this bildungsroman, which is semi-autobiographical too, the protagonist, Henry Chinaski loads his bag of dilemma and expletives, and throws its weight around with nonchalance and non-disruptive disdain. The backdrop of the Great Depression, fuels the negative sentiments and Chinaski finds its shackles, throughou
Arthur Graham
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The first thing I remember is being under something."

So begins this chronicle of the dirty old man's humble beginnings, his formative years, and the myriad oppressions he endured throughout his childhood, adolescence, and early adult life. In the most literal sense, this opening line represents baby Hank's first concrete memory, but it also sets the tone for the entire memoir to come. Dedicated to "all the fathers," Ham on Rye is both an indictment of and a tribute to every boss, bully, teacher
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.”

― Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye


Reading Charles Bukowski in public is a rather curious thing. Every once in a while, you come across some line or paragraph that is suffused with such a potent strand of open misanthropy it makes you chuckle. You thi
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like this kid is someone that I've known well, not just read a book about him. ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A masterpiece of ennui, isolationism and vulgarity.

Charles Bukowski’s 1982 semi-autobiographical coming of age story made me laugh, cringe and contemplate humanity – sometimes all on the same page.

Using as a vehicle his pseudonym and literary alter-ego Henry Chinaski, we follow the early years of a boy and young man who is outcast from society. Born in Germany after the first world war, he moves with his family to Los Angeles. The Chinaski’s are poverty stricken as are many during the depression
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
My life did not resemble Henry Chinaski's. No abusive father here. No ritualized beatings. No helpless mother. No culture of fighting. One lost fight was enough to teach me the purposelessness of all that. I liked school. Not that I go to the reunions. Sure there was the pimply phase, but nothing like the scourge of boils that rendered Henry a monster.

And yet...and yet...

Something rang so true reading this book. The sense of alienation. The understanding of the absurdity of it all. The rejection
Dave Schaafsma
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me”—Hunter Thompson

“And my own affairs were as bad, as dismal, as the day I had been born. The only difference was that now I could drink now and then, though never often enough. Drink was the only thing that kept a man from feeling forever stunned and useless. Everything else just kept picking and picking, hacking away. And nothing was interesting, nothing. The people were restrictive and careful,
Mutasim Billah
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“What a weary time those years were -- to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.”

Imagine coming to a world where you're treated as an outsider, a misfit. A world where you don't have many friends, where your parents fail to understand you. A world where mental connection is rare. Charles Bukowski's entire career could be written down as a single story, the story of the misfits. At the center of it all, Ham on Rye is arguably the one story people will most connect with.
It all started in 7th grade with these stupid clubs they made us join. Some kind of “get involved” self esteem horseshit. Every other Friday was club day. An hour before school let out everyone had to pick a club to go to. They gave us a list. I left mine blank, so they put me in the Sports Cards Collecting Club. Better than the Baking Club, I guess. My friend Joe, whose dad was president of the Charles County fire department, didn’t leave his blank. He actually chose the Sports Card Collecting ...more
Greg Watson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ham on Rye is the rough-and-tumble tale of Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter ego. In telling his story, Bukowski is alternately sad, funny, earthy, raunchy, and angry.

Bukowski's character sees no higher purpose to life. It's all about minimizing effort and maximizing the pleasures of the moment. Those who find fulfillment in marriage or careers are living a lie.

There are perhaps similarities to Bukowski's philosophy of life and that of Sartre's. However, instead of a cafe philosopher, Bukowski'
Edward Lorn
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, and women who want to understand why men act the way they do
Masculinity is hilarious. Men are expected to kick ass and fuck anything that moves, as long as your peers approve of those whose asses are to be kicked, or that the housing for the orifice you seek to penetrate meets their requirements. In other words, dudes are fucking stupid. We covet the approval of other dudes when other dudes do little to nothing for us.

"GET ALL THE PUSSY!" is their battle song. But make sure the girl is sexy enough so that your buddies don't rag you over fucking some tro
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: american
Holy shit!

This is the story of Henry Chenaski, Charles Bukowski’s alter ego, who had a helluva depressing childhood in large part due to a father who was a real son of a bitch and whom I blame for Henry’s later love of the bottle, to a lesser extent due to the Depression that hit the States, and Los Angeles, when Henry grew up.

My heart bled for young Henry; like when his father forced him to mow the lawn when all the other kids on the street were out playing. When Henry was done, his father put
Ahmad Sharabiani
Ham on Rye, Charles Bukowski
The novel focuses on the protagonist, Henry Chinaski, between the years of 1920 and 1941. It begins with Chinaski's early memories. As the story progresses the reader follows his life through the school years and into young adulthood. Chinaski relates that he has an abusive father, and his mother does nothing to stop his father's abuse. She is, in fact, a victim of her husband's brutality as well. Henry is not athletic but wants to be and therefore tries hard to impro
Glenn Sumi
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemp-classics
Review to come, after I pick my jaw up from off the floor. Bukowski’s rude, crude alter ego, Henry Chinaski, drunkenly but oh so convincingly knocked me out with his story of growing up poor in LA during the depression, his sadistic Dad and ineffectual mom, and lots more. I didn’t know I was getting into a fight, but I will gladly step into the ring with him again.
Henry Chinaski, our fellow laureate of American lowlife, is back and "younger" than ever!
Sharp, honest, and crude that's how Bukowski delights his readers, in his special and humorous way. In this novel, Bukowski narrates his youngest years. Like the previous novels, Ham on Rye narrates his childhood, between the years of 1920 and 1941. It begins with Chinaski's early years in Germany, with his own grandmother ranting at him and his family "I will bury all of you" until young adulthood, jobless
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Portrait of the Bastard as a Young Man...

My second Bukowski book. Just as I did the first time, I assumed this novel would be profane, profane for the sake of being profane. And yet here I am, again surprised.

This is a compassionate, humane story. The obscenity exists, not because Bukowski wants to shock us, but because it's simply a part of his world.

There's just so much heart here, and the storytelling is raw and masterful.
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Charles Bukowski has led me to some amazing books, but this was not one of them. It was well told, but I personally prefer fiction. The problem with non-fiction is that, whenever you get to a part you enjoy - it doesn't last long. There were incredible parts, but then the main character grew older and all of the supporting characters changed. ...more
Steven Godin
"I would rather be a dishwasher, return alone to a tiny room and drink myself to sleep"

Just one of many brilliant lines from the dead beat king Henry Chinaski, in what is probably Bukowski's best work. From his early roots as a troubled kid who was treated appallingly by his father through to his angst teenage years of feeling miserable and looking at everything in a downtrodden and pointless way Bukowski simply doesn't hold back on anything . Chinaski's wallowing about the world gets more bitte
Wayne Barrett

I've read bits of Bukowski's poetry throughout the years but this is the first of his books that I have read... and it won't be the last. Hilarious, gritty, raunchy stuff. This book literally had me laughing out loud.
Raegan Butcher
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Charles Bukowski is one of my favorite writers. This is one of his best books. Heartbreaking and hilarious, this was written at the perfect time by the man himself--if he had been younger it wouldn't have had the wisdom that it contains---this is probably Bukowski at his finest; all of the foundations for his later life and work are laid here: his father's brutality, his mother's complacency, the cruelty of his classmates and his rejection by just about everyone once his acne erupted;these exper ...more
Henry Martin
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a reread for me, so I knew what I was getting myself into. Nevertheless, Bukowski never bores, no matter how many times I read his stories.

Ham on Rye is a quintessential tale of an angry young man. What sets this one apart is the fact that he has a plenty to be angry about. Bukowski's writing is always a breath of fresh air amid pretentious novels dealing with a similar subject. What sets him apart is hard to classify. His language is plain, his grammar sparse but perfect, and there is
Sentimental Surrealist
Bukowski is impossible to separate from his fans, at least for me: those driver-cap wearing kids you see in every undergraduate creative writing seminar who still think it's not just funny but somehow or other beneficial to society to be "edgy" and "politically incorrect," who wish they had mental illness so they could "tap into genius," and who feel that living the "real writer's life" involves being homeless and alcoholic. They're pretty much the "manly men" of the creative writing sphere. It' ...more
Adam Floridia
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know if this book is supposed to be funny, but I found it freakin’ hilarious. I mean if you stop to think about it, everything in it is really, really depressing. Henry Chinaski’s life is miserable from the moment he’s born—or at least from his first conscious recollection of hiding under a table and listening to angry adults yelling. His father is almost cartoonishly mean throughout, not only to Henry, who receives weekly beatings, but to everyone he encounters—like the old man in the h ...more
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Henry Charles Bukowski (born as Heinrich Karl Bukowski) was a German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands ...more

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