Michael Stipe Recommends 10 Books for Anyone Marooned on a Desert Island

stipe books

Image by David Shankbone

Michael Stipe’s tenure as front­man and lyri­cist for R.E.M. cer­tain­ly revealed a lit­er­ate mind. A for­mer art major at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Geor­gia and cur­rent art teacher at NYU, his best lyrics scan well as poet­ry.  One can imag­ine being invit­ed over for a din­ner par­ty to Mr. Stipe’s place, and, glass of wine in hand, absolute­ly hav­ing to nose through his book­shelf. What does the writer of “Nightswim­ming” read? With the his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences that course through those ear­ly albums, would he have socio-polit­i­cal books about Amer­i­ca? Would he pull a book off the shelf and say, here, “You have to read this. It will change your life”?

Won­der no more, because Stipe was recent­ly asked to write down his Top Ten list of books to take to a desert island. The list was pub­lished in The New York Times. Find a skele­tal ver­sion here:

Some of these are classics—for exam­ple Ker­ouac’s On the Road, which Stipe calls “my band’s template”—and the one poet on the list, Rim­baud, is very much an ear­ly influ­ence on his writ­ing. Dhal­gren was also a favorite of David Bowie’s, who based a lot of Dia­mond Dogs on the nov­el. The Copeland and Did­ion choic­es stand out, most­ly by being less obvi­ous selec­tions from their bib­li­ogra­phies. And as he says that he’s cur­rent­ly read­ing the Pat­ti Smith book (now being turned into a series on Show­time), we can’t take the selec­tion too seri­ous­ly. Maybe he just wants to take it to the desert island to fin­ish it.

Stipe has includ­ed a few sen­tences on each book to explain his choic­es. Find them here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

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

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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  • Patrick778 says:

    François Sagan, real­ly? And no Shake­speare? But these are quib­bles. The most impor­tant book that’s miss­ing is: “How to Sur­vive While Marooned on a Desert Island”!

  • D.S. says:

    No sur­prise that Mr. Stipe is extreme­ly lit­er­ate, just lis­ten to his lyrics. He is a musi­cal genius who along with his band mates cre­at­ed an entire­ly new genre of music that will always stand the test of time. I will par­don Mr. Stipe for not putting “The Catch­er In The Rye” in his top ten. Oh, and when is Mike going to take time away from teach­ing at N.Y.U. to record a solo album of music. It would be a shame if he just stopped mak­ing music, some­one of this cal­iber of tal­ent. Wait­ing, and hop­ing.

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