Patti Smith’s List of Favorite Books: From Rimbaud to Susan Sontag

Image of Patti Smith performing in Rio de Janeiro by Daigo Oliva

As a little girl, Patti Smith found liberation in words — first through the bedtime prayers she made up herself, and later in books. “I was completely smitten by the book,” she writes in her memoir, Just Kids.  “I longed to read them all, and the things I read of produced new yearnings.”

Smith found a role model in Jo, the tomboy writer in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. “She gave me the courage of a new goal,” writes Smith, “and soon I was crafting little stories and spinning long yarns for my brother and sister.” As a teenager she discovered the French Symbolist poets Charles Baudelaire and especially Arthur Rimbaud, who inspired her and helped shape her own artistic persona as a poet and punk rocker.

Despite her fame as a rock ‘n’ roll musician, Smith has always described herself as essentially a bookish person. It was around the time of Smith’s appearance at the 2008 Melbourne International Arts Festival, according to Vertigo, that Smith released this list of her favorite books. Not surprisingly, it’s an eclectic and fascinating group of books:

Smith’s reading recommendations have no doubt evolved since the list was given. Earlier this year a writer for Elle asked what books she would suggest. “I could recommend a million,” Smith responded. “I would just say read anything by [Roberto] Bolaño. Re-read all the great classics. Read The Scarlet Letter, read Moby Dick, read [Haruki] Murakami. But Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is the first masterpiece of the 21st century.”

You can find a number of the texts listed above in our collection, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

via Vertigo

Related Content:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Patti Smith’s Cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Strips the Song Down to its Heart

Watch Patti Smith Read from Virginia Woolf, and Hear the Only Surviving Recording of Woolf’s Voice

Patti Smith Reads Her Final Words to Robert Mapplethorpe

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Comments (6)
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  • Jutta voss says:

    High! This bookliste is wonderful

  • Thomas O Lake says:

    ‘Patti Smith’s Cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Strips the Song Down to its Heart.’

    I do not even have to visit this link to concur.

    Patti had the audacity to take a song that defined a generation and was an instant classic and turned it into another classic that was a reflection of that same time, like two bookends that compliment each other.

    A banjo! OMG! What a glorious cover.

    I would love to hear this in concert. Come to Fort Worth, Patti.

    Thom Lake

  • Billy says:

    I really thought she would list Stephenie Meyer. Patti’s recent stuff seems so derivative of all of Steph’s output.

  • testbildtester says:

    Der Horizont weit geöffnet…Böll!

  • Daniel Rosen says:

    We have some of the same favorites. Or best loved. I discovered “Raise High the Roofbeams” when I was 18 or 19 and thought it was about the coolest things I had ever read. This was fifty or more years ago. I’ve read some cooler things since, but I still read some of it now and then. But I wonder, what about Phillip Roth? There must be something that keeps him off of your list. I’d love to know what. He is the twentieth century author that has moved and prompted me the most.

  • k. says:

    right down to waterford from flint w/buicks. i’d pay some folders to see truman capote wail on hemingway(about four pounds) and maybe film it. “try the hamburderers. they’re pretty good”~~donnie drumgums

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