David Byrne’s Personal Lending Library Is Now Open: 250 Books Ready to Be Checked Out

david byrne lending library

Just yes­ter­day we were mus­ing on perus­ing rock stars’ book­shelves, and today we learn it has become a real­i­ty, if you live in Lon­don. Poly­math and all-around swell per­son David Byrne opened the 22nd annu­al Melt­down Fes­ti­val this last Mon­day, and in the spir­it of London’s Poet­ry Library (which is host­ing this part of the event), the for­mer Talk­ing Heads front­man has shipped over 250 books to stock his own lend­ing library for the dura­tion of the fes­ti­val, until August 30.

In his Guardian essay explain­ing his deci­sion to let you rifle through his col­lec­tion of music books—some of which were used as research for his own How Music Works—Byrne wax­es about the library he loved in his teenage years in sub­ur­ban Bal­ti­more:

We were des­per­ate to know what was going on in the cool places, and, giv­en some sug­ges­tions and direc­tion, the library was one place where that wider excit­ing world became avail­able. In my lit­tle town, the library also had vinyl that one could check out and I dis­cov­ered avant-garde com­posers such as Xenakis and Mes­si­aen, folk music from var­i­ous parts of the world and even some pop records that weren’t get­ting much radio play in Bal­ti­more. It was tru­ly a for­ma­tive place.

A full list of the books has yet to sur­face, but a few peo­ple are tweet­ing pho­tos of titles, like Evan Eisenberg’s The Record­ing Angel: Music, Records and Cul­ture from Aris­to­tle to Zap­pa or Steve Goodman’s Son­ic War­fare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecol­o­gy of Fear. Squint­ing our eyes at the pro­mo­tion­al pho­to of Byrne sit­ting in front of the shelves, we can spot Lester Bangs’ Psy­chot­ic Reac­tions and Car­bu­ra­tor Dung, Eric Weisbard’s Lis­ten Again: A Momen­tary His­to­ry of Pop Music, Paula Court’s pho­to­book New York Noise: Art and Music from the New York Under­ground 1978–88; and Thurston Moore’s Mix Tape: The Art of Cas­sette Cul­ture. (Rec­og­nize some oth­er titles? Please add them in the com­ments.)

Byrne has set up a free-to-bor­row sys­tem with a cred­it card on file just in case you abscond with the book, although he does admit it may hap­pen and “so be it.” There’s also an added thrill:

Some of my books may have high­light­ed bits or notes scrawled in the mar­gins. I hope noth­ing embar­rass­ing.

Byrne’s pro­gram­ming for the Melt­down Fes­ti­val can be seen here. High­lights include an a cap­pel­la work­shop by Petra Haden, a show­ing of There Will Be Blood with live score by Jon­ny Green­wood and the Lon­don Con­tem­po­rary Orches­tra, the reap­pear­ance of Young Mar­ble Giants, Young Jean Lee’s band Future Wife per­form­ing We’re Gonna Die with David Byrne as spe­cial guest; and many oth­er selec­tions of “Things David Thinks You Should Hear.”

In the mean­time, here’s a pho­to from the fes­t’s open­ing of Mr. Byrne rid­ing a portable espres­so shop on wheels.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

David Byrne: How Archi­tec­ture Helped Music Evolve

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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