Remembering David Bowie and His Love for Literature

After the announcement of Bowie passing on January 11th, the legendary rock musician is being remembered for his iconic fashion, fun and existential lyrics, as a voice for outsiders, and a myriad of influential and groundbreaking accomplishments.  And like so many of us, he was an avid-reader. In the Vanity Fair’s Prout Questionnaire with Bowie in the late 90’s, the musician gave a wonderful answer to a tough question:

Vanity Fair: “What is your idea of perfect Happiness?”

Bowie: “Reading”

Bowie was a known lover of literature. He even appeared in this 1987 “READ” poster created by the American Library Accociation to promote libraries:

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In honor of the late great, people are revisiting his 100 favorite books. The list is wonderfully diverse and inclusive, ranging from American classics like Richard Wright’s memoir Black Boy, to Don Delillo’s creepy postmodern White Noise. There are, of course, a number of rock and soul books that make the list, including The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll by Charlie Gillett, but some books may surprise you. Take a look at Bowie’s list of books; perhaps you have some favorites in common. Here are 75 in reverse chronological order:

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby (2008)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007)

The Coast of Utopia (trilogy) by Tom Stoppard (2007)

Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945 by Jon Savage (2007)

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002)

The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens (2001)

Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler (1997)

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924 by Orlando Figes (1997)

The Insult by Rupert Thomson (1996)

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon (1995)

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman (1994)

Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir by Anatole Broyard (1993)

Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective by Arthur C Danto (1992)

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia (1990)

David Bomberg by Richard Cork (1988)

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick (1986)

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (1986)

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd (1985)

Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey (1984)

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (1984)

Money by Martin Amis (1984)

White Noise by Don DeLillo (1984)

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes (1984)

The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White (1984)

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (1980)

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

Interviews with Francis Bacon by David Sylvester (1980)

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1980)

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess (1980)

Raw by a “graphix magazine” (1980-91)

Viz by magazine (1979 –)

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (1979)

Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz (1978)

In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan (1978)

Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed Malcolm Cowley (1977)

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes (1976)

Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders (1975)

Mystery Train, Greil Marcus (1975)

Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara (1974)

Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich (1972)

In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner (1971)

Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky (1971)

The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillett(1970)

The Quest for Christa T, Christa Wolf (1968)

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn (1968)

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)

Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg (1967)

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr (1966)

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1965)

City of Night, John Rechy (1965)

Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)

Puckoon, Spike Milligan (1963)

The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford (1963)

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea, Yukio Mishima (1963)

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (1963)

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)

Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell (1962)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (1961)

Private Eye, magazine (1961 –)

On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding (1961)

Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage (1961)

Strange People, Frank Edwards (1961)

The Divided Self, RD Laing (1960)

All the Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd (1960)

Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse (1959)

The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)

On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)

The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard (1957)

Room at the Top, John Braine (1957)

A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno (1956)

The Outsider, Colin Wilson (1956)

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)

The Street, Ann Petry (1946)

Black Boy, Richard Wright (1945)

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