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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