From Homer to Orwell: David Bowie's 100 favourite books revealed

See the full list, as well as our picks from the musician's favourite titles

From the Beano to Bulgakov, Billy Liar to The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, the 100 books which inspired David Bowie’s artistic reincarnations have been revealed.

Cick here to see Bowie's top books

The titles, ranging from Viz comic’s vulgarity to The Divided Self, R.D. Laing’s exploration into the nature of mental illness, reflect the broad range of influences Bowie has absorbed throughout his chameleon career.

The list, released to mark the Canadian opening of the David Bowie Is exhibition, now on tour after a sell-out run at the Victoria and Albert Museum, also hints at the somewhat pretentious, aspiring 60s singer, who brandished a copy of Camus’s The Stranger on the Underground for effect.

The “Bowie’s 100 books” list was sent to the exhibition curators by the singer’s archivist, who keeps watch over a treasure chest of 75,000 costumes, sheet music, books and other memorabilia.

The exhibition’s audio guide features an interview with Bowie in which he says that, if he hadn’t become a musician, he “would have written novels,” referring to his songs as “little stories set to music.”

There are three Orwell titles in the top 100: Inside the Whale and Other Essays, The Road to Wigan Pier, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, which inspired a song of the same name on Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Bowie was denied the rights to stage a musical adaptation of Orwell’s dystopian vision.

Martin Amis, Peter Ackroyd, Tom Stoppard and Ian McEwan feature along with a 1950s annual of The Beano.

Academic studies of art and popular music sit alongside classic 20th century novels. The most recently published entry, The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby, in which the author surveys an anti-rationalist landscape extending from pop culture to a pseudo-intellectual universe of “junk thought”.

Geoffrey Marsh, the V&A exhibition co-curator, described Bowie as a “a voracious reader” who consumes a book a day.

Mr Marsh said Bowie’s “magpie” approach to his art had always been influenced by books. “He’s fascinated with ideas and fascinated that there’s so much stuff out there that most people don’t get access to,” the curator told Canadian magazine, Quill and Quire.

He added: “There’s a great bit in the exhibition that describes when he used to travel around on the Underground as a teenager, he would always go and buy a book, something with a pretentious title on it. He’d carry it in his pocket so he’d look really cool – this was during the period of French existentialism. After a while, he actually started reading them.”

Mr Marsh, director of the V&A’s department of theatre and performance, said: “In the archive, there are massive numbers of books that he’s kept. Supposedly, when he went to the desert to make The Man Who Fell to Earth, he took a trunk of books with him.

“The idea that he sits down and reads every book cover to cover, I don’t think that’s what he does. I think he’s more interested in ideas – and what he’s really interested in is how he can rework those ideas. He is the ultimate postmodernist, sampling stuff even before postmodernism arrived. I don’t think it’s a direct connection to him. It’s much more complicated.”

The exhibition will run at the Art Gallery of Ontario for two months before travelling to Chicago, Brazil, the Netherlands and France. Bowie, who has kept public appearances to a minimum since the surprise release of his album, The Next Day, has been invited to visit the Ontario gallery.

Bowie’s 100 books

Interviews with Francis Bacon – David Sylvester – early 80s - Paperback

Billy Liar – Keith Waterhouse – early 60s - Paperback

Room at the Top – John Braine – early 60s - Paperback

On Having No Head – Douglass Harding – mid-60s - Paperback

Kafka Was The Rage – Anatole Broyard – 1995 - Hardcover

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess – mid-60’s - Paperback

City of Night – John Rechy – mid 60’s - Hardback

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz – 2007 - Hardback

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert – 1980’s - Paperback

Iliad – Homer – late-70’s - Paperback

As I lay Dying – William Faulkner – early- 80’s - Paperback

Tadanori Yokoo – Tadanori Yokoo -  1973 - Paperback

Berlin Alexanderplatz – Alfred Döblin – late 70’s - ?

Inside the Whale and Other Essays – George Orwell – early 60’s - Paperback

Mr. Norris Changes Trains – Christopher Isherwood – late 60’s - Penguin

Halls Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art – James A. Hall – 1975 - Hardback

David Bomberg – Richard Cork – mid-90’s - Hardback

Blast – Wyndham Lewis – 2009 - Paperback

Passing – Nella Larson – 1983 - Hardback

Beyond the Brillo Box – Arthur C. Danto – early 90’s - Hardback

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind – Julian Jaynes – late-70’s - Hardback

In Bluebeard’s Castle – George Steiner – early 70’s - hardback

Hawksmoor – Peter Ackroyd – 1987 - Hardback

The Divided Self – R. D. Laing – 1964 – Paperback

The Stranger – Albert Camus – mid-60’s - Paperback

Infants of the Spring – Wallace Thurman – 1992 - Paperback

The Quest For Christa T – Christa Wolf – 1979 - Hardback

The Songlines – Bruce Chatwin – 1987 - Hardback

Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter – 1984 - Hardback

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov – early 90’s - Hardback

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark – late 60’s - Paperback

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov – late 60’s - Hardcover

Herzog – Saul Bellow – early 80’s - Hardback

Puckoon – Spike Milligan – 1973 - Paperback

Black Boy – Richard Wright – early 80’s - Hardback

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald – early 70’s - Paperback

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea – Yukio Mishima – 1972 – Paperback?

Darkness at Noon – Arthur Koestler – early 90’s - Paperback

The Waste Land – T.S. Elliot – mid-70’s - Paperback

McTeague – Frank Norris – 2000 - Hardback

Money – Martin Amis – 1984 - Hardback

The Outsider – Colin Wilson – 1964/5 - Hardcover

Strange people – Frank Edwards – early 60’s - Paperback

English Journey – J.B. Priestley – 2011 - Hardback

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole – early 2000’s - Paperback

The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West – mid-80’s - Hardback

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell – mid-60’s - Paperback

The Life and Times of Little Richard – Charles White – 1985 - Hardback

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock – Nik Cohn – 70’s - ?

Mystery Train – Greil Marcus – 1976 - Hardback

Beano – Comic – 50’s

Raw – Graphic Comic – 80’s

White Noise – Don DeLillo – 1985 - Hardback

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom – Peter Guralnick – late 80’s - Hardback

Silence: lectures and writing – John Cage – 1975 - Hardback

Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews – Edited by Malcolm Cowley – mid-60’s - Hardback

The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll – Charlie Gillete – 1972 - Hardback

Octobriana and the Russian Underground – Peter Sadecky – 1973 - Hardback

The Street – Ann Petry – early 80’s - Hardback

Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon – 1995 - Hardback

Last Exit to Brooklyn – Hubert Selby,  Jnr – late- 60’s - Paperback

A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn – early 2000’s - Paperback

The Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby – 2008 - Hardback

Metropolitan Life – Fran Lebowitz – 1978 - Hardback

The Coast of Utopia – Tom Stoppard – 2003 - Hardback

The Bridge – Hart Crane – mid-2000’s - Paperback

All The Emperor’s Horses – David Kidd – Late ‘70’s – Hardback

Fingersmith – Sarah Waters – mid-2000’s - Hardback

Earthly Powers – Anthony Burgess – early 80’s - Hardback

The 42nd Parallel – John Dos Passos – 2006 - Paperback

Tales of Beatnik Glory – Ed Saunders -  1975 – Hardback

The Bird Artist – Howard Norman – 1995 – Hardback

Nowhere To Run: – The Story of Soul Music – 2006 – Hardback

Before the Deluge – Otto Friedrich – 1976 – Hardback

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson – Camille Paglia – 1990 – Hardback

The American Way of Death – Jessica Mitford – 1970 - Paperback

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote – late 60’s - Paperback

Lady Chatterly’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence – 1961 -  Penguin Paperback

Teenage – Jon Savage – 2007 – Hardback

Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh – early 60’s - Paperback

The Hidden Persuaders – Vance Packard – around 1962/3 – Paperback

The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin – early 70’s - Paperback

Viz – comic – early 80’s

Private Eye – Satire Magazine – 60’s through 80’s

Selected Poems – Frank O’Hara – 1974 – Paperback

The Trial of Henry Kissinger – Christopher Hitchens – early 2000’s – Paperbook

Flaubert’s Parrrot – Julian Barnes – 1985 - Hardback

Maldodor – Comte de Lautréamont – late 70’s – Penguin Paperback

On The Road – Jack Kerouac – 1960 – American Paperback

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders – Lawrence Weschler – 1995 – Paperback

Zanoni – Edward Bulwer-Lytton – 1975 – Hardback

Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual – Eliphas Lévi – 1975 – Paperback

The Gnostic Gospels – Elaine Pagels – 1980 – Hardback

The Leopard – Giusseppe Di Lampedusa – 2001 - Hardback

Inferno – Dante Alighieri – 1985 - Paperback

A Grave for a Dolphin – Alberto Denti di Pirajno – mid 70’s – Hardback

The Insult – Rupert Thomson - 1996 – Hardback

In Between the Sheets – Ian McEwan - 1978 – Hardback

A People’s Tragedy – Orlando Figes – 2000 - Hardback

Journey into the Whirlwind – Eugenia Ginzburg – 2002 - Paperback

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