David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Image by Avro, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

“David Bowie Is,” the exten­sive ret­ro­spec­tive exhib­it of the artist and his fab­u­lous cos­tumes, hit Toron­to last Fri­day (see our post from ear­li­er today), and as many peo­ple have report­ed, in addi­tion to those costumes—and pho­tos, instru­ments, set designs, lyric sheets, etc.—the show includes a list of Bowie’s favorite books. Described as a “vora­cious read­er” by cura­tor Geof­frey Marsh, Bowie’s top 100 book list spans decades, from Richard Wright’s raw 1945 mem­oir Black Boy to Susan Jacoby’s 2008 analy­sis of U.S. anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism in The Age of Amer­i­can Unrea­son.

Bowie’s always had a com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship with the U.S., but his list shows a lot of love to Amer­i­can writ­ers, from the afore­men­tioned to Tru­man Capote, Hubert Sel­by, Jr., Saul Bel­low, Junot Diaz, Jack Ker­ouac and many more. He’s also very fond of fel­low Brits George Orwell, Ian McE­wan, and Julian Barnes and loves Mishi­ma and Bul­gakov.  You can read the full list below or over at Open Book Toron­to, who urges you to “grab one of these titles and set­tle in to read — and just think, some­where, at some point, David Bowie (or, to be more accu­rate, the man behind David Bowie, David Jones) was doing the exact same thing.” If that sort of thing inspires you to pick up a good book, go for it. You could also peruse the list, then puz­zle over the lit­er­ate Bowie’s lyrics to “I Can’t Read.” You can also explore a new relat­ed book–Bowie’s Book­shelf: The Hun­dred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life.

  1. Inter­views With Fran­cis Bacon by David Sylvester
  2. Bil­ly Liar by Kei­th Water­house
  3. Room At The Top by John Braine
  4. On Hav­ing No Head by Dou­glass Hard­ing
  5. Kaf­ka Was The Rage by Ana­tole Bro­yard
  6. A Clock­work Orange by Antho­ny Burgess
  7. City Of Night by John Rechy
  8. The Brief Won­drous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  9. Madame Bovary by Gus­tave Flaubert
  10. Ili­ad by Homer
  11. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkn­er
  12. Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
  13. Berlin Alexan­der­platz by Alfred Döblin
  14. Inside The Whale And Oth­er Essays by George Orwell
  15. Mr. Nor­ris Changes Trains by Christo­pher Ish­er­wood
  16. Halls Dic­tio­nary Of Sub­jects And Sym­bols In Art by James A. Hall
  17. David Bomberg by Richard Cork
  18. Blast by Wyn­d­ham Lewis
  19. Pass­ing by Nel­la Lar­son
  20. Beyond The Bril­lo Box by Arthur C. Dan­to
  21. The Ori­gin Of Con­scious­ness In The Break­down Of The Bicam­er­al Mind by Julian Jaynes
  22. In Bluebeard’s Cas­tle by George Stein­er
  23. Hawksmoor by Peter Ack­royd
  24. The Divid­ed Self by R. D. Laing
  25. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  26. Infants Of The Spring by Wal­lace Thur­man
  27. The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
  28. The Song­lines by Bruce Chatwin
  29. Nights At The Cir­cus by Angela Carter
  30. The Mas­ter And Mar­gari­ta by Mikhail Bul­gakov
  31. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  32. Loli­ta by Vladimir Nabokov
  33. Her­zog by Saul Bel­low
  34. Puck­oon by Spike Mil­li­gan
  35. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  36. The Great Gats­by by F. Scott Fitzger­ald
  37. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishi­ma
  38. Dark­ness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
  39. The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
  40. McTeague by Frank Nor­ris
  41. Mon­ey by Mar­tin Amis
  42. The Out­sider by Col­in Wil­son
  43. Strange Peo­ple by Frank Edwards
  44. Eng­lish Jour­ney by J.B. Priest­ley
  45. A Con­fed­er­a­cy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  46. The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
  47. 1984 by George Orwell
  48. The Life And Times Of Lit­tle Richard by Charles White
  49. Awop­bopaloobop Alop­bam­boom: The Gold­en Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
  50. Mys­tery Train by Greil Mar­cus
  51. Beano (com­ic, ’50s)
  52. Raw (com­ic, ’80s)
  53. White Noise by Don DeLil­lo
  54. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The South­ern Dream Of Free­dom by Peter Gural­nick
  55. Silence: Lec­tures And Writ­ing by John Cage
  56. Writ­ers At Work: The Paris Review Inter­views edit­ed by Mal­colm Cow­ley
  57. The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Char­lie Gillette
  58. Octo­bri­ana And The Russ­ian Under­ground by Peter Sadecky
  59. The Street by Ann Petry
  60. Won­der Boys by Michael Chabon
  61. Last Exit To Brook­lyn By Hubert Sel­by, Jr.
  62. A People’s His­to­ry Of The Unit­ed States by Howard Zinn
  63. The Age Of Amer­i­can Unrea­son by Susan Jaco­by
  64. Met­ro­pol­i­tan Life by Fran Lebowitz
  65. The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stop­pard
  66. The Bridge by Hart Crane
  67. All The Emperor’s Hors­es by David Kidd
  68. Fin­ger­smith by Sarah Waters
  69. Earth­ly Pow­ers by Antho­ny Burgess
  70. The 42nd Par­al­lel by John Dos Pas­sos
  71. Tales Of Beat­nik Glo­ry by Ed Saun­ders
  72. The Bird Artist by Howard Nor­man
  73. Nowhere To Run The Sto­ry Of Soul Music by Ger­ri Hir­shey
  74. Before The Del­uge by Otto Friedrich
  75. Sex­u­al Per­son­ae: Art And Deca­dence From Nefer­ti­ti To Emi­ly Dick­in­son by Camille Paglia
  76. The Amer­i­can Way Of Death by Jes­si­ca Mit­ford
  77. In Cold Blood by Tru­man Capote
  78. Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  79. Teenage by Jon Sav­age
  80. Vile Bod­ies by Eve­lyn Waugh
  81. The Hid­den Per­suaders by Vance Packard
  82. The Fire Next Time by James Bald­win
  83. Viz (com­ic, ear­ly ’80s)
  84. Pri­vate Eye (satir­i­cal mag­a­zine, ’60s – ’80s)
  85. Select­ed Poems by Frank O’Hara
  86. The Tri­al Of Hen­ry Kissinger by Christo­pher Hitchens
  87. Flaubert’s Par­rot by Julian Barnes
  88. Mal­doror by Comte de Lautréa­mont
  89. On The Road by Jack Ker­ouac
  90. Mr. Wilson’s Cab­i­net of Won­der by Lawrence Weschler
  91. Zanoni by Edward Bul­w­er-Lyt­ton
  92. Tran­scen­den­tal Mag­ic, Its Doc­trine and Rit­u­al by Eliphas Lévi
  93. The Gnos­tic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  94. The Leop­ard by Giuseppe Di Lampe­dusa
  95. Infer­no by Dante Alighieri
  96. A Grave For A Dol­phin by Alber­to Den­ti di Pira­jno
  97. The Insult by Rupert Thom­son
  98. In Between The Sheets by Ian McE­wan
  99. A People’s Tragedy by Orlan­do Figes
  100. Jour­ney Into The Whirl­wind by Euge­nia Ginzburg

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuild­ing Civ­i­liza­tion & 59 Books For Build­ing Your Intel­lec­tu­al World

Bowie’s Book­shelf: A New Essay Col­lec­tion on The 100 Books That Changed David Bowie’s Life

David Bowie Releas­es Vin­tage Videos of His Great­est Hits from the 1970s and 1980s

David Bowie Recalls the Strange Expe­ri­ence of Invent­ing the Char­ac­ter Zig­gy Star­dust (1977)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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