From Keith Richards to Leo Tolstoy: Bruce Springsteen’s list 20 of his favourite books
The Boss, otherwise known as the empirical legend Bruce Springsteen, may well be the salt of the earth but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t and still isn’t a bit of a bookworm. Judging by the below list, the acclaimed singer has read his way across the literary world. So we’re taking a look back at a list of his most treasured books and picking out 20 of his favourites for your essential reading list.
In an interview with The New York Times, Springsteen was asked to compile the list through a series of intriguing questions which always had a piece of literature as the answer. The conversation remains a wonderful insight into the creative mind of one of America’s greatest songwriters, Bruce Springsteen and not only offers an opportunity to see how literary themes can develop in pop music but, if you’re a budding songwriter yourself, perhaps these books are the key to Springsteen’s talent?
Taking a look through the list of Springsteen’s favourite books of all time, there is most certainly a delicate balance being drawn. Some selected titles come from questions which are your usual affair, such as “You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?”, to which the Boss answers “Philip Roth, Keith Richards, Tolstoy — and one extra, Bob Dylan. A lot of life experience there, and the babbling in different tongues would be wonderful.”
While other questions are a little more probing and require Springsteen to dig a little deeper, asking him for the book that “made him”. Springsteen answers, “One would be difficult, but the short stories of Flannery O’Connor landed hard on me.” The singer continues, “You could feel within them the unknowability of God, the intangible mysteries of life that confounded her characters, and which I find by my side every day.”
The questions continue to light the way for us as fans to try and understand the Boss’ inner workings and the mind that created so many of our favourite tracks. They go on, “What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?”, Bruce replies “Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land.“, as well as, “The last book that made you cry?” with the ‘Born To Run’ singer answering, “Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.” There are also mentions of legendary Russian novelists Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Anton Chekov to show that Springsteen liked to challenge himself with his books.
It is from these answers that the good people of Open Culture pulled together this list of the 20 mentioned books in the interview. It’s a reading list that shows off that while The Boss has always been a blue-collar rocker, he knows a good read when he sees one.
Bruce Springsteen’s 20 favourite books:
American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and Sabbath’s Theater, by Philip Roth
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
Chronicles, by Bob Dylan
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, by Peter Guralnick
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
Life, by Keith Richards
Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, by Dennis Overbye
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, by Greil Marcus
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Soul Mining: A Musical Life, by Daniel Lanois
The Complete Short Stories, by Flannery O’Connor
The History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell
The Novels of Jim Thompson
The Sportswriter, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land, by Richard Ford