The Book List: David Bowie's top 100 reads – from Lady Chatterley's Lover to 1984

Every Wednesday, Alex Johnson delves into a unique collection of titles

Alex Johnson
Tuesday 13 March 2018 18:23 GMT
Life on paragraphs: it appears the rock legend appreciated a diverse range of works
Life on paragraphs: it appears the rock legend appreciated a diverse range of works

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Money by Martin Amis
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Room at the Top by John Braine
Kafka was the Rage by Anatole Broyard
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Silence: Lectures and Writing by John Cage
The Stranger by Albert Camus
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Beano is Britain’s longest-running children’s comic

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews by Malcolm Cowley (editor)

The Bridge by Hart Crane
Beyond the Brillo Box by Arthur C Danto
White Noise by Don DeLillo
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Strange People by Frank Edwards
The Waste Land by TS Eliot
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich
The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillett
Journey into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James A Hall
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
The Iliad by Homer
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Some books are more equal than others: Orwell gets two spots on the list

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
All the Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Divided Self by RD Laing
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
Passing by Nella Larson
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence

Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
Blastby Wyndham Lewis
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima
The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
McTeague by Frank Norris
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
Inside the Whale and Other Essays by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
The Street by Ann Petry
A Grave for a Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
English Journey by JB Priestley
City of Night by John Rechy
Octobriana and the Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
Tales of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
Teenage by Jon Savage

Like clockwork: the Anthony Burgess masterpiece is an unsurprising choice

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Interviews with Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
Infants of the Spring by Wallace Thurman
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
The Quest for Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Beano comic
Raw comic
Viz comic
Private Eye magazine

David Bowie was a keen reader who said he took several hundred books to Mexico for the shooting of the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth, all packed in a kind of travelling library. “I had these cabinets and they were rather like the boxes that amplifiers get packed up in,” he revealed. Co-star Buck Henry added that he noticed the limousine in which Bowie was driven around had a boot packed with books.

Two years before his death, Bowie released a list of the 100 books that provided the most creative influence for the David Bowie Is exhibition about his life and work. It is a list of books he felt were important rather than his actual 100 favourite reads. The original list also includes brief details of each of the books mentioned. For example, his copy of the Iliad is a late 1970s paperback, his Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood is a 1960s Penguin rather than the 1935 first edition, and George Steiner’s In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes towards the Redefinition of Culture is a hardback from the early 1970s.

‘A Book of Book Lists’ by Alex Johnson, £7.99, British Library Publishing

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