The Book List: The titles in ex-Talking Head David Byrne's private library

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

Alex Johnson
Tuesday 24 July 2018 17:23 BST
In 2015 the musician shipped 250 books from his New York home to open a lending library
In 2015 the musician shipped 250 books from his New York home to open a lending library (EPA)

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Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship by Idelber Avelar and Christopher Dunn
Botsford Collection of Folk Songs Volumes 1 and 2 by Florence Hudson Botsford
Bourbon Street Black: The New Orleans Black Jazzman by Jack V Buerkle and Danny Barker
Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music that Seduced the World by Ruy Castro
Brutality Garden: Tropicalla and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture by Christopher Dunn
But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer
Black Rhythms of Peru: Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific by Heidi Carolyn Feidman
Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie
Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music by Jas Obrecht
Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music by Deborah Pacini Hernandez
Beats of the Heart: Popular Music of the World by Jeremy Marre and Hannah Charlton
The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis
Bandalism: The Rock Group Survival Guide by Julian Ridgway
Black Music of Two Worlds by John Storm Roberts
Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise by David Rothenberg

When musician David Byrne curated the 2015 Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre in London, he also included a surprise attraction – the chance to borrow books from his personal library of music books.

“I love a library,” he wrote in The Guardian newspaper, explaining that while he was growing up, the local library was virtually the only place where he could find out about the exciting things going on in the wider world.

The eclectic stock of 250 books shipped over from New York covered many musical subjects and continents, though Byrne admitted he had not read every one and that poetry was not a major part of his reading.

The list above is just the ones beginning with B, though the whole library list has been put online by Maria Popova at her engaging Brain Pickings site via eagle-eyed reader Ben Hart.

Potential readers had to apply to obtain a special David Byrne Library card, but he was phlegmatic about people pinching one or two titles. Not all owners of private libraries have been so lucky.

Noted book kleptomaniac Apellicon of Teos had his entire collection stolen by the Roman general Sulla in 84 BC, while Elizabethan polymath John Dee found that when he returned from travelling around Europe in the 1580s, his brother-in-law Nicholas Fromond had, as he put it himself, “unduely sold it presently upon my departure, or caused it to be carried away”.

The Royal College of Physicians library holds more than 100 volumes stolen from Dee, including his copy of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

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

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