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  ·  Rating details ·  57,477 ratings  ·  1,689 reviews
Burroughs' first novel, a largely autobiographical account of the constant cycle of drug dependency, cures and relapses, remains the most unflinching, unsentimental account of addiction ever written. Through junk neighbourhoods in New York, New Orleans and Mexico City, through time spent kicking, time spent dealing and time rolling drunks for money, through junk sickness a ...more
Paperback, 166 pages
Published November 6th 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published April 15th 1953)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Junky, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  57,477 ratings  ·  1,689 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Junky
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”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 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list
“I have learned the cellular stoicism that junk teaches the user. I have seen a cell full of sick junkies silent and immobile in separate misery. They knew the pointlessness of complaining or moving. They knew that basically no one can help anyone else. There is no key, no secret someone else has that he can give you.”

Junky was a concise yet vivid account of heroin addiction, delineated by someone who’d actually lived the life. Though the book was often bleak, it never degraded itself by ind
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less flouncy/convoluted and real(istic?) than Naked Lunch or Queer. (True masterpieces these.) Oddly straightforward--espesh for a first novel--it valiantly emerges as some sort of sad recounting of events in all their incendiary yet undoubted existence. So brave, so brave coming out as gay; but for a literary juggernaut, the honest truth of drug addiction MUST be depicted... & that Truth is the passport to the future glories (the aforementioned novels).

Articulate clear-headedness here (not inc
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Apr 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa
First published as a pulp novel as other publishers didn't dare to put it out into the world, Burroughs' largely autobiographical account talks about his descent into addiction, his criminal career and the cycle of withdrawal and relapse. In dry, laconic language, the author turns away from the romanticization of drug as tools to expand the mind; rather, he shows opioid consumption (junk as opposed to psychedelic drugs) as an all-encompassing, pervasive lifestyle which, just as mirrored in Burro ...more
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
I read this while in rehab so as you can imagine it held a very special place in my heart. This is a crazy, self- indulgent, occasionally offensive defence of the junkie lifestyle. The author never really managed to break free from his addiction and despite his hatred for all things government and society died dependent on govt. administered methadone. It's unapologetic. It's hilarious. And when you finish the book you can't help but be struck by the tragedy of addiction despite the crazy ride y ...more
Michael Kress
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1950s, biography
I listened to the audiobook on YouTube. There are two different audiobooks, one read by the author and one read by David Carradine. The reader is not credited in the YouTube video, but I'm guessing it's the author. He has a raspy voice, but it works well for the reading. This was my first time reading anything from the beat generation, unless you count Charles Bukowski, who came along a little later. I tried reading some Jack Kerouac things and didn't get into them right away, so I moved on to t ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

John Bruni
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start this out by saying that a few years ago, my pancreas tried to kill me. The doctors in the ER decided that I was going to die, so they didn't spare the painkillers. They loaded me up with Dilaudid, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. They kept giving it to me, and then surprise! I lived. I kept getting shots of Dilaudid until I realized that the pain was gone, and I no longer needed it. But I considered lying to get another shot. Heh. That was a bad idea, so I stop ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
I absolutely adore Burroughs' prose; but I just couldn't find any space where I could insert myself in the book. It'll certainly appeal a lot more to those who have struggled with drug addiction; but I just couldn't get much out of it. ...more
Kelly B
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Technically, I didn't "read" this, I listened to it, as read by the man himself. The reading of the full text is up on Youtube: (Junkie) and I had some repetitive formatting work to do, so...

Interesting for any number of reasons: as a detailed examination of a place and time and social class as recorded by a sharp observer directly involved with that class; as a blunt record of the culture around that class, both social, legal and moral; as an early example of the dry, "disinterested", direct an
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-novels
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
Greg Brozeit
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Junky as a college student was a revelation: it was the first time I felt I heard an author’s authentic voice. Burroughs’s clipped sentences, his directness, his matter-of-fact statements about what things were really like, his view of a world I didn’t know about began a life-long fascination. It’s easy to dismiss Junky because of it’s subject matter of heroin addiction; that it’s just a fad or something young adults might think is cool. But he does it with such artistic depth. Even the ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
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.
Lee Kofman
Jan 10, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roxana Chirilă
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, but numb, heading nowhere in a world where the uplifting hope written in at the end of the book feels like yet another trap. It's enough to turn sane people away from drugs, with its silent warnings and constant feeling of bleakness and dullness.

It made me wonder why the policemen who showed up at our school to explain how we shouldn't do drugs felt compelled to lie and make it sound like we'd be dead a few months after the first shots, when Burroughs would have done the trick much
Lavinia Zamfir
I've wanted to read this book several years ago, but it wasn't translated into my language and I couldn't find it in any English bookstores. Somehow, I managed to randomly find an English copy this year and so I have finnaly bought it. I think I would've given it more than 3 stars (actually, 3.5 - I want to give this book 4 stars so badly, but something doesn't let me do so. I think 3 stars is too low and 4 stars too high. My rating would honestly be 3.5 stars.) if I had read it last year. I was ...more
andreea.  (paperrcuts)
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fast-reads
Very. Informative, I dare say. But also truly unique.
K.D. Absolutely
May 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
Erik Graff
Nov 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
The book that taught me about peyotl :)

Matching Soundtrack :
The Gumbo Variations - Frank Zappa
People ask me how a man comes to live a clean life, and I tell 'em there's no one way to get there. Sometimes religion's got something to do with it, but sometimes a guy can stray from the holy life and stay clean regardless. A libertine secular humanist can take up exercise and macrobiotics and ape some dogma or other to get his mind fix.
I thought back on the day and the vigorous cycling and the healthy three-course meals, gold-star FDA-approved food-pyramid-calibre fare, signed off by some hap
Matthew W
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven Godin
A honest,truthful and personal account of the constant struggle with drug addition, set in 40's new york,new orleans and mexico city it was tough going but not as hard hitting as I thought it would be.Not knowing much about this subject I did find it rather interesting and you reallv do feel the desperation of trying to come of junk only to fall prey to it once again, but its difficult to feel much sympathy as this hell hole of a life was chosen and not forced upon and it leaves you in the end w ...more
Wayne Barrett
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2019

I want to point out that my low rating for this one is based from a perspective of someone who, unfortunately, grew up around a lot of junkies. I can only guess that for those who have not experienced it, this story could be poignant, shocking even. As for me, not only was there nothing disturbing about this book for me, but there just seemed to be no story here. It felt like reading the journal of an addict who daily described how he did his drugs, how he scored, and the prices he paid for his
After reading this, Trainspotting, and Requiem for a Dream, have decided that injecting heroin is unambiguously awful. (Text is unequivocal that junk is “the worst thing that can happen to a man” (8).)

Non-fictive outworks proclaims that it takes “at least three months’ shooting twice a day to get any habit at all […] no exaggeration to say it takes about a year and several hundred injections to make an addict” (xv).

Addiction rewrites the corporeal constitution: “when you stop growing you start
May 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading 1001: Junky 3 9 Oct 27, 2019 07:00PM  
Transgressive Fic...: Transgressive Fiction: A History 1 21 Sep 24, 2018 10:45AM  
Transgressive Fic...: 10 Works of Transgressive Fiction 8 33 Jun 27, 2018 04:58AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Junky by Wiliam S. Burroughs 2 11 May 18, 2015 12:45PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lost in Yaba: Down and Out in Laos
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Trainspotting (Mark Renton #2)
  • On the Road
  • The Dharma Bums
  • The Portable Beat Reader
  • Post Office
  • Howl and Other Poems
  • Requiem for a Dream
  • The Basketball Diaries
  • Factotum
  • Lonesome Traveler
  • Ham on Rye
  • La última raya
  • Big Sur
  • Pattaya Youtuber: And other true stories from Thailand
  • The Rum Diary
  • Hell's Angels
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
13 likes · 0 comments
“When you stop growing you start dying.” 399 likes
“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)”
More quotes…