Patti Smith’s 40 Favorite Books

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.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in April 2015.

Related Content:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Hayao Miyazaki Picks His 50 Favorite Children’s Books

29 Lists of Recommended Books Created by Well-Known Authors, Artists & Thinkers

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Comments (5)
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  • Georgios Kopakakis says:

    Hi there,

    Is there really a book called “anything” by W.G. Sebald?



  • Vernon says:

    Thank you for this list. Would be great if the links to these books took you to an independent bookstore that sells online. Amazon doesn’t really need a boost, while indies everywhere do. I think Patti would appreciate it.

  • Kathryn says:

    Vernon, don’t you go to the library. They are around for your pleasure and need. They are free, too!

  • The Junkster says:

    One of my favorite bookshops In located in Asheville, NC and will be closing in Feb (heart break) the will most likely have most of these books (used) the name is Captains Bookshelf…good luck

  • Bob says:

    Patti Smith is a writer a poet a singer a rock star and has influenced a few generations of artists writers and rock stars. She is a determined woman who advocates for human rights and is a mother

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