David Bowie’s 100 Must-Read Books

David Bowie’s 100 Must-Read Books

When rock star David Bowie went on tour he often traveled with a mobile library of around 1,500 books. Known as a voracious reader, it’s reported that he often devoured a book every day.

In a 2002 interview for the The Daily Beast with Bob Guccione, Jr., Bowie reflected on his love of physical books:

“I’m a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously.

Every book I ever bought, I have. I can’t throw it away. It’s physically impossible to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I’ve got a library that I keep the ones I really really like.

I look around my library some nights and I do these terrible things to myself—I count up the books and think, how long I might have to live and think, ‘F@#%k, I can’t read two-thirds of these books.’ It overwhelms me with sadness.”

Below is a personal reading list that David shared with his followers on Facebook in 2013. It curates the books (and sometimes comics and magazines) that he considered essential to his intellectual development.

Personally, I’ve only read about 15 of the suggested titles, so it’s time to sit down and get cracking. From Homer to Hitchens, Nabokov to Gnosticism, I hope this list provides the inspiration to explore a few as well.

Here are David Bowie’s top 100 must-read books—in reverse chronological order:

  1.  The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 2007
  3. The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007
  4. Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007
  5. Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002
  6. The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001
  7. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997
  8. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997
  9. The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996
  10. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995
  11. The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994
  12. Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993
  13. Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C. Danto, 1992
  14. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990
  15. David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988
  16. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986
  17. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986
  18. Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985
  19. Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984
  20. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984
  21. Money, Martin Amis, 1984
  22. White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984
  23. Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984
  24. The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984
  25. A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980
  26. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
  27. Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980
  28. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980
  29. Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980
  30. Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91
  31. Viz (magazine) 1979–present
  32. The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979
  33. Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978
  34. In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978
  35. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977
  36. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976
  37. Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders, 1975
  38. Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975
  39. Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974
  40. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich, 1972
  41. In Bluebeard’s Castle : Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner, 1971
  42. Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971
  43. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970
  44. The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968
  45. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968
  46. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967
  47. Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967
  48. Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr. , 1966
  49. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965
  50. City of Night, John Rechy, 1965
  51. Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964
  52. Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963
  53. The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963
  54. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963
  55. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963
  56. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962
  57. Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962
  58. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
  59. Private Eye (magazine) 1961–present
  60. On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding, 1961
  61. Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961
  62. Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961
  63. The Divided Self, R. D. Laing, 1960
  64. All The Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd, 1960
  65. Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959
  66. The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958
  67. On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
  68. The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957
  69. Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957
  70. A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956
  71. The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956
  72. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  73. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1948
  74. The Street, Ann Petry, 1946
  75. Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945
  76. The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, 1944
  77. The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942
  78. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West, 1939
  79. The Beano, (comic) 1938 –
  80. The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell, 1937
  81. Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood, 1935
  82. English Journey, J.B. Priestley, 1934
  83. Infants of the Spring, Wallace Thurman, 1932
  84. The Bridge, Hart Crane, 1930
  85. Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh, 1930
  86. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner, 1930
  87. The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos, 1930
  88. Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin, 1929
  89. Passing, Nella Larsen, 1929
  90. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence, 1928
  91. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
  92. The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot, 1922
  93. BLAST, ed. Wyndham Lewis, 1914-15
  94. McTeague, Frank Norris, 1899
  95. Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual, Eliphas Lévi, 1896
  96. Les Chants de Maldoror, Lautréamont, 1869
  97. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1856
  98. Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842
  99. Inferno, from the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, about 1308-1321
  100. The Iliad, Homer, about 800 BC


David Bowie, 1947-2016

David Bowie in 1995, reading a book about the painter Francis Bacon
© 2013 David Bowie

Photo by Rex Features

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