S-Town’s John B Mclemore: A Reading List


Like many, I was completely blown away by the podcast S-Town and deeply moved by the life of its central character, John B McLemore.

Being me, I immediately focused in on the books and stories mentioned in the show. Here’s a list (and yeah, its going to reveal some information about the show)

Rose for Emily, William Faulkner  I’ll just quote the show’s narrator, Brian Reed here: “narrated by the gossipy collective townsfolk of imaginary Jefferson Mississippi who tell the tale of Ms. Emily Greerson, an unmarried middle age outcast who lives alone with her father and who after he dies wholes up in her house for years.”

The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant Reed again: “about a woman who longs for a much grander, more spectacular life than the one she has, and gets it, for a single night, only to have to pay for it, dearly, for the next ten years.”

The Renegade, Shirley Jackson. Reed: “about a woman who recently moved from the city to a small country town whose family dog, lady, is accused one more of killing a neighbor’s chickens, the woman listens in growing dread throughout the day as townsperson after townsperson laughs at the torture and death that will befall lady as a result including finally, the woman’s own children who describe to lady’s face in grave detail how they will use a spiked collar to chop off her head.

Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx Olan Long, John B’s close friend, sends John B this classic story of two cowboys who fall in love, but because of life, and homophobia, and fear, never get to fully be together.  A book John B would describe as “the grief manual.”

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore John B was obsessed with climate change, and read about it voraciously. Reed mentions this amongst other books John would refer to in their conversations.

Going Dark, Guy McPherson John also referred to the works of Guy McPherson, who I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with until listening to this show. McPherson is an academic who taught at the University of Arizona. He’s also a radical climate change activists. I haven’t read any of McPherson’s books, but he’s often described as a radically critical of western society and a having a bit of an apocalyptic view of future of the world.

Walking Away From Empire, Guy McPherson Another McPherson book referred by John. This one a memoir of sorts about his transformation from mainstream ecologist to radical “friend of the earth”.

It’s clear from listening to John speak that he was incredibly well read. I’m sure I only scratched the surface with this short list, but I hope it gives some insight into this fascinating and tragic man.

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  3. mark falzon

    I’d love to get a copy of the list of problems facing humanity such as “We’ll Need More Food in the Next 40 Years Than in the Previous 10,000 Combined”

    Do you know where we can source that?

  4. mark falzon

    Any chance you know where I can get a copy of John’s list that included we will need more food in the next 50 years than in the last 10000 years combined.

    1. seanv2

      Thanks for the comment, Mark. Unfortunately, I don’t have the source for that. Good luck finding it, if you do, drop a note so I can add it to this list!

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