80 of the Best Books EVER and Great Summer Reads For The Freaks

Books are my drug of choice.
The worlds that I’ve found within them
have saved my life and my heart.

When my house burned to the ground and I was lost,
I went to the local coffee shop and grabbed a dog-eared copy of
Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire
from the shelf and escaped with Lestat.
For a few hours, I forgot about all that I lost.

Books have numbed my pain.
They have made me feel more than I’ve felt in real life sometimes.

This just appeared in town and I’m psyched.
Storytellers are my rockstars.

Here is a list of my favorite books:

1. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov. (adult)
2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
3. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
4. On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
6. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
7. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.
9. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
11. The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.
12. Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins.
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.
15. The Stand by Stephen King.
16. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
17. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
18. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
19. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.
20. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.
21. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
22. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe.
23. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
24. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (Adult).
25. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb.
26. Just Kids by Patti Smith.
27. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
28. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
29. Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein
30. High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby.
31. The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
32. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.
33. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
34. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.
35. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
36. Here is New York by E.B. White.
37. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.
38. Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis.

I wandered into my favorite bookstore, The Golden Notebook and met poet and author, Gretchen Primack.
She has this awesome literary tattoo that is a Kurt Vonnegut quote.
She is also the author of Doris’ Red Spaces, Kind and The Lucky Ones. Check them out and support this awesome author!
She suggested the below books to me and I left with a brand new copy of The Panopticon (which I read with a clip light under the stars and surrounded by fireflies on my front porch last night).

39. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan.
40. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.
41. My Abandonment by Peter Rock.
42. Fools by Joan Silber.
43. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
44. Vegan with a Vengence: 150 Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Burke Heffner, my darling husband and co-conspirator recommends:

45. The Stranger by Albert Camus.
46. 1984 by George Orwell.
47. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
48. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
49. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
50. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
51. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ collection by L. Frank Baum

One of my best friends, Mr. Jeff Stark – art star and of the Nonsense NYC list and underground experience fame recommends:

52. Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac.
53. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemmingway
54. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.

Jo Weldon, Burlesque Icon and Head Mistress of the New York School of Burlesque and Author of The Burlesque Handbook loves:

55. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
57. Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood.
58. 100 Collected Poems by e.e. cummings.
59. Loose Women by Sandra Cisneros.

Contessa Create, Theatrical Performer, Aerialist, Plant Whisperer and Queen of Comedy recommends:

60. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins.
61. Cannibal Kiss by Daniel Odier.

Aubrey Franchell, our traveling partner for Revolver, friend and editor recommends:

62. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
63. Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.
64. Reflections of Loko Miwa by Lilas Desquiron.
65. Night by Elie Wiesel.

Alise Marie, lovely co-conspirator, Vegan Vixen and sultry chef recommends:

66. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin (Adult)
67. Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire
68. The Immoralist by André Gide

Friends of mine who have written kick ass books and who I highly recommend are:

69. The Burlesque Handbook by Jo Weldon.
70. Parades, Parties, and Protests: Creative Resistance Culture by Sarah Sparkles.
71. The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn.
72. The Year of Yes by Maria Dahvana Headley.
73. A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton by Holly George-Warren.
74. Sacred Seduction by Kitty Cavalier.
75. Blood and Pudding by Katelan Foisy.
76. Week in Hell: Art Book by Molly Crabapple.
77. The Esbat Sequence by Tara Lindsey.
78. Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon.
79. Handbook for Hot Witches: Dame Darcy’s Illustrated Guide to Magic, Love, and Creativity by Dame Darcy.
80. Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny. (Pre-Order this awesomeness)


My friend, Laurie Penny, put this up today with the hashtag #selfieswithbooks.
I challenge you to put one up on instagram, facebook or twitter with the hashtag so I can see it!

AND speaking of writing,
if you wanna read a new article of mine out in glossy and GORGEOUS print,
check out the Summer 2014 edition of Faerie Magazine.
One of the most beautifully done magazines I’ve ever seen and I’m honored to be in it.
AND get 15% OFF ANYTHING on the Faerie Magazine site, just by putting in code: dangerdiary.
Share with your friends and help support a kickass indie magazine.

Have you written a book? Please share in comments!
What are your favorites?
Find a bunch of awesome suggestions from my Facebook Friends, too!

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The Coolest, Wildest, Weirdest Things To Do In NYC: A Guide for the Freaks

i love new york veronica varlow
I have a full on hot, wild love affair with NYC.

For two years when I first arrived here, I was a tour guide on a double-decker bus,
cruising down the streets in the open air
introducing tourists to my lover.

Here’s some of my favorite must-do, must-see picks of Gotham City:

♥  Make a wish on the Empire State Building and “blow” it out at 2am.

Seeking a beautiful and romantic view of the city lights and the moonlight?
The Empire State Building is open until 2am at the moment!
Head over to this epic Art Deco building at midnight and beat the crowds.
Two years ago on my birthday, I started making my wishes and “blowing out” the lights when they flicker and go out every night at 2am.

new york city skyline

The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building from my Bedroom Window in Brooklyn.

♥  Visit the Slipper Room (NYC’s oldest Burlesque and Vaudeville House) and take a picture of yourself in the gutter out front (It’s tradition.  I say so.)

The Slipper Room is my burlesque home and where I first saw burlesque and got my start.
It’s home to magicians, aerialists, burlesque performers, comedians, musicians, and fire performers.
Go be enchanted.
veronica varlow gutter photo

♥  Dine in a secret 1870s style Parisian train car on a rooftop.

Talk about romantic! Le Train Bleu on top of Bloomingdales is one of the best kept secrets in NYC.
Address: 1000 3rd Avenue, NY, NY – enter Bloomingdales and go to 6th floor.
le train bleu

♥  Dance among the club kids and you will never want to go home again.

Kayvon Zand and his partner, Anna Evans are the King and Queen of NYC nightlife. Their parties include Dorian Gray, Sex Fifth Avenue and others. Dance in a world of hot imagination.
Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 11.54.55 PM

♥ Ride the World Famous Coney Island Cyclone!

Coney Island is an enchanted place – go take in all the sights: ride the Cyclone, go to the world famous Coney Island Freak Show, make out on the Wonder Wheel and GO SEE Lola Star! <3
Lola Star

♥  Have a picnic in Central Park and wander around the sights.

Central Park Must-Sees are:
Alice in Wonderland Statue
Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon “Imagine” Mosaic
Shakespeare Garden
Conservatory Garden (where Burke and I got engaged!)
burke heffner veronica varlow

♥ Rock out at Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke

Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke is a NYC staple. Now held at Fontana’s, you get to scream to your punk rock favorites as a live band plays behind you.
Pretty bad ass.

♥ Duck down a dark alley and into a real Prohibition Era bar.

The Back Room serves up beverages in tea cups (just in case the joint gets raided). Once a real Speakeasy 85 years ago, this place delivers that old world charm of New York City.
Look for the “Toy Company” sign. Go down alley. You’ll see the secret door.
Once inside, peek behind the bookshelf to another secret room.
amanda palmer neil gaiman veronica varlow burke heffner

♥ Visit one of the most impressive collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world at the Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum houses World-Class Egyptian treasures – not to be missed. Go early to avoid crowds and wander the artifacts in silence.

♥ Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and go grab a slice of pizza at Grimaldi’s.

Do this at Sunset or Sunrise for fantastic views and a gorgeous skyline.  Also, nighttime walks for the city lights are gorgeous.
You can wave to the Statue of Liberty from the bridge!
girl gang

♥ Screw Broadway. Go see incredible immersive theater and be a part of the action.

Check out Sleep No More and Queen of the Night.
I can’t tell you anything else,
but just trust me on this one – you’ve never seen anything like this before.

♥ Check out these secret underground party lists for the best things to do whether you are a visitor or a local!

These three lists are your new best friends in New York City.
You’re welcome.
Nonsense NYC
Gemini and Scorpio
The Skint

jeff stark

What’s your favorite things to do in this enchanted city?
Tell me in the comments.
Looking forward to seeing you on a wild New York City adventure!

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Dare To Do Something New: 21 Ways to Make Yourself Uncomfortable

When Jeff Stark asked me to do it,
I felt a little nervous and even more uncomfortable.
I said yes.
And last Saturday night, I played my own original song on guitar and sang for a gathering of 40 artists.
For the first time.

Let’s think about this.
When you look back on your life…think of the most important things you’ve done,
the pivotal choices you’ve made,
the events that helped you grow the most
and helped define who you are
will almost always be times when you tried something new,
dared to do something you weren’t good at, or didn’t fully understand.

Those moments are wildly uncomfortable for me.
My heart is beating a million miles a minute
and I want to run.
But I stay.
Because that’s what happens when a person grows, learns and really fucking lives this life.

Moments away from going on stage - me and my wild burlesque family.

Moments away from going on stage – me and my wild burlesque family.

I dare you to play with me.
Pick one of the things below or add your own in the comments, you can also accept others’ challenges in the comments.
Take a photo, video or write about your experience by next Thursday…
Report back in the comments.
Hashtag it to me on twitter as #dangerdiarydare
and I’ll do something daring, too.


Here are my uncomfortable things no one should miss out on….

  1. Start A Blog and Write Your Uncensored, Honest Views.
  2. Take Yourself Out To Dinner Alone.
  3. Stand Up For Something You Believe In Even When You Might Risk Disapproval.
  4. Go and See Live Music in a Genre You Don’t Normally Listen To.
  5. Introduce Yourself To Someone You Would Like To Know But Have Felt Too Intimated By.
  6. Learn a New Language.
  7. Travel To The Country Where They Speak That Language and Try It With Locals.
  8. Dress Opposite For Your Comfort Level.
  9. Write a Heartfelt Poem and Share It With Someone.
  10. Volunteer To Help Someone Who Is Very Different From You.
  11. Give a Compliment to a Complete Stranger.
  12. Go on a Polar Bear Swim (Jump In a Cold Lake).
  13. Make a “Free Hugs” Sign, Go Out In a Public Place With Your Friends and GO FOR IT.
  14. Order a Strange New Dish at a Restaurant.
  15. Explore an Abandoned Building or Area That’s Unfamiliar To You.
  16. Go on a Road Trip Without A Destination.
  17. Get Naked In Front of an Audience (whether that’s Burlesque or Telling a Personal Story or Sharing Personal Art that You Created).
  18. Learn a New Skill (Take a Dance Class, Learn a New Musical Instrument).
  19. Initiate a Conversation With Someone Far Younger or Much Older Than You.
  20. Figure Out Something You Really Want to Do That You Feel Timid About Doing.
  21. What are Some Things That You Have Heard Your Friends or Acquaintances Talk About and You Think – I’d Never Have The Guts To Do That….But It Would Be Awesome.

Share with friends. Let’s do this together.

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10 Wild Tips to Make This Your Best Summer Ever (You Won’t See These Anywhere Else…)

Picture 19
I hated math.
I had a notebook filled with algebra equations and messy scrawled calculations.
On the last day of school in 8th grade, I got off the school bus, threw that f*@ker into the air behind me and ran.
I didn’t look back.

The school year had rules, schedules, and guidelines.
But the Summer was mine.
Picture 20

In New York City, Summer is in full swing. I’ve got 10 easy tips on how to make it your best yet:

1.  Get Thee to The Tilt-O-Whirl.  It’s not Summer unless there is some rickedy falling apart carnival out there waiting for you to find it.  Cotton Candy!  Flashing lights!  Rides!  Throwing up on your friends after they drag you onto the Cliff Hanger!  Who wouldn’t want this?

Jeff Stark and me after riding the Cliff Hanger

One my my favorite photos of boy BFF, Jeff Stark and me at a random carnival.

2. Decorate Your Bare Summer Skin.
I adore tattoos, but if you can’t handle the commitment, henna is a gorgeous way to express yourself. Henna is a plant based ink, that has been used in cultures throughout the world to adorn skin and color hair. If it’s good enough for Cleopatra, it’s good enough for me.


Me and Melissa get matching henna tattoos on tour in Australia.

3. Stay Up All Night And Watch The Sun Come Up. There’s something about those early morning hours when the colors start to flood the sky and the night silence is broken by birdsong. I’ve had two of those nights in the past week alone…and there is a certain feel of triumph in seeing the dark turn into dawn. Relish those moments, welcome in the Summer day and pass out for early morning dreaming.

Niney and me looking over the East River and Manhattan.

Niney and me watch the sun rise over the East River and Manhattan.

4. Free Your Inner Mermaid. Find a body of water and jump in it. Swing from a rope into a lake. Go on a moonlight swim in the ocean. Whether you live by a stream, an ocean, a river or a lake, let the water free your spirit. Bonus points if you decorate yourself in blue glitter fabulousness, go to the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade and then go for a group plunge into the ocean at the end. Sarah Sparkles shows you how it’s done:
Picture 17

5. Be a Rock Star of the Volunteer World. Put the needle in. There’s a blood shortage in New York City right now, and I’m proud to be a regular blood donor. If giving blood isn’t your thing, there’s so many ways that we can help out our communities and our world. Pick out a cause that is dear to your heart and get to work. Volunteering is sexy.

Keeping my spirits up to infuse my blood with happiness for someone else to use.

Keeping my spirits up to infuse my blood with happiness for someone else to use.

6. Heed the Call of the Road.
My favorite line from the movie, Blues Brothers is: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses… Hit it.” I’m in love with Kerouac. I’m in love with Bonnie and Clyde. I know all the words to the Muppets “Moving Right Along”. I have lived half of the last six years of my life on a tour bus. The road and I are long-time lovers.

Burke Heffner stands on top of a vintage truck on the road.

Burke Heffner stands on top of a vintage truck on the road.

7. Rock It Out at an Outdoor Summer Concert or Play. I love seeing and supporting live shows. If it’s a Summer outdoor concert or festival, I am there. I have danced with abandon in the pouring rain at outdoor festivals, I’ve swayed under paper parasols to protect me from the sun, I’ve shimmied under a wild moon as a band roared on. This is a photo of Me, Sparkles and Dicie rocking it out at the front of a Jane’s Addiction show outdoors. We got a chance to meet revolutionary rock star, Perry Farrell that night and he dubbed us “The 3 Muses of Brooklyn”. INDEED.

8. Do Something You’ve Never Done Before. Summer is about new discovery. It’s about growth and unlimited possibility. Take the leap and commit to doing one thing you’ve never done before by this Summer’s end. I was terrified for my first ukulele concert, but I did it and I’m already learning new songs and planning the next one. Hell yes, new discovery! Technically, the below picture was from my very private second show. It was spontaneous and it was held in a sketchy tunnel in Central Park while it rained. What else do you want?

9. Find Your Spiders Across The Stars.  Wild nights of dancing fill my heart until it bursts.  Use the gorgeous long days and nights of Summer to find your tribe and do what you do best….live it to the fullest! Anything I write here will not be enough to honor the fierce imagination and the passion of my friends….so I will just quote Kerouac: “…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” In awe.

With Alexander Taureau and Dylan Monroe at The Dorian Gray Party at the DL.  Photo by Ostin Torre. With Alexander Taureau, Veronica Varlow and Dylan Monroe at The DL.

With Alexander Taureau and Dylan Monroe at The Dorian Gray Party at the DL. Photo by Ostin Torre.

10. Roll Down a Hill. Seriously. Do it. You’ll love it. Get grass stains on your clothes. Who cares? That’s what they invented laundry detergent for. If you need instructions on how to make that happen…this is worth watching a second time.

Niney, Chihuahua of the Sunshine, approves of this post.Niney knows.

Now share this post with your friends and make a Summer plan, add your Summer ideas to the comments and then shut your computer and go dominate this day.
Don’t make Niney mad.