The David Bowie Book Club Gets Launched by His Son: Read One of Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books Every Month

Cast as the star of 1976’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, David Bowie trav­eled to New Mex­i­co for the shoot, meet­ing with direc­tor Nico­las Roeg soon upon arrival. “I took with me hun­dreds and hun­dreds of books,” Bowie said to The Face mag­a­zine a few years lat­er. “And I had these cab­i­nets” — a mod­ern­ized Jacobean trav­el­ing library — “and they were rather like the box­es that ampli­fiers get packed up in, and I was going through all these books and they were pour­ing out all over the floor — there were just moun­tains of books. And Nick was sit­ting there watch­ing me and he said, ‘Your great prob­lem, David, is that you don’t read enough.’ ”

Due to Bowie’s hyper-seri­ous state of mind in those days, he went on to recall, “it did­n’t occur to me at the time that it was a joke.” Though he changed his ways of think­ing and even dropped the trav­el­ing library, Bowie seems to have main­tained his for­mi­da­ble read­ing habits for the rest of his life. (In 1987, he even posed for one of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion’s “READ” posters.) A few years ago we fea­tured his Top 100 Book List, whose vari­ety encom­pass­es every­thing from The Out­sider to Sex­u­al Per­son­ae to A Con­fed­er­a­cy of Dunces.

“My dad was a beast of a read­er,” Bowie’s son Dun­can Jones, an avid Twit­ter user, tweet­ed last week. “One of his true loves was Peter Ackroyd’s sojourns into the his­to­ry of Britain & its cities. I’ve been feel­ing a build­ing sense of duty to go on the same lit­er­ary marathon in trib­ute to dad.” And so Jones’ infor­mal David Bowie book club begins with Ack­roy­d’s 1985 post­mod­ern nov­el Hawksmoor, which tells the par­al­lel sto­ries of an ear­ly 18th-cen­tu­ry Lon­don archi­tect and a late 20th-cen­tu­ry Lon­don detec­tive and which Joyce Car­ol Oates called “a wit­ty and macabre work of the imag­i­na­tion, intri­cate­ly plot­ted, obses­sive in its much-reit­er­at­ed con­cerns with mankind’s fall­en nature.”

Jones calls the book “an amuse cerveau before we get into the heavy stuff,” the “heavy stuff” pre­sum­ably includ­ing oth­er such Bowie picks as White NoiseA Clock­work Orange and Last Exit to Brook­lyn. If you’d like to par­tic­i­pate in the Jones-led dis­cus­sion of Hawksmoor on his Twit­ter page, you’ve got until the first of Feb­ru­ary to get it read. If you feel like you don’t read enough, con­sid­er this the Bowiest pos­si­ble way to ful­fill a new year’s res­o­lu­tion to do more of it.

Note: Sep­a­rate­ly you can also check out The Bowie Book Club Pod­cast where two friends spend a month read­ing a book on Bowie’s list. Find those episodes here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

David Bowie Urges Kids to READ in a 1987 Poster Spon­sored by the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion

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

Dis­cov­er the Jacobean Trav­el­ing Library: The 17th Cen­tu­ry Pre­cur­sor to the Kin­dle

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Ted says:

    Good to know that two of my favorite blokes (Bowie and my Dad, both RIP) had Hawksmoor as one of their favorite books! Those who like Alan Moore’s From Hell might be inter­est­ed in this over­lap­ping time sto­ry.

  • sarah says:

    Get this on goodreads, i don’t use twit­ter, not going to join just to do it

  • Nicole Dauxois says:

    I’ll try to find Hawksmoor this week and read it to join the group… I’ll have to be quick… Thank you for the ini­tia­tive 😘

  • Vanessa says:

    David Bowie is and has been my favourite favourite since I was a young a devot­ed fan I would like to receive as much as pos­si­ble about him. Many thanks

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