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

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.