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A list of David Bowie's 100 favourite books of all time

It may come as little surprise that David Bowie, one of the most creative, influential and experimental musical icons of all time, had a particularly strong love of literature and was more often than not trundling behind him a huge catalogue of books while on tour. The singer was known for always having his head in a book whenever he could, often using literature to inform his songwriting and his overall artistic output.

Despite proudly revealing that he left school with just one ‘O’ level qualification, David Bowie went on to amass an armoury of impressive books during his lifetime, and it’s a collection that shows off The Starman perfectly as an artist. Not only was he a somewhat precocious child, but he also managed to integrate his learning into something artistic without the aid of societal qualifications, just using his aptitude for knowledge. Bowie had a library, unlike any other.

Bowie, who died aged 69 in 2016, previously said of literature and the needs for books: “When I’m relaxed, what I do is read” and detailed that his desire to read would sometimes lead to him devouring “three or four books” inside a week, an insatiable appetite for art, ran through Bowie’s blood. He wasn’t bound by a particular theme, genre or writer either and, much like in his own career, opened himself up to all possibilities and performances.

In one interview, with Vanity Fair, Bowie was once asked: “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” in a bid to get under the hood of the creative body that is the Thin White Duke. With a serious face, Bowie simply responded: “Reading,” and left the interviewer a little agog. This sparkling rock star preferred not to be chasing girls or strutting across catwalks, devouring booze and drugs like they wouldn’t be around for much longer, Bowie now preferred snuggling up with a good book.

His love for literature continued to grow and, back in 1976, a time when he flew to Mexico to film the movie The Man Who To Earth, Bowie knew he needed to keep his creative influences beside him. Armed with a plan, the singer shipped a gigantic 400 books across to the set: “I was dead scared of leaving them in New York, because I was knocking around with some dodgy people and I didn’t want them nicking any of my books,” he explained in a 1997 interview. Judging by the fact he considers Iggy Pop not to be a ‘dodgy’ character, we dread to think who he was hanging around with at the time.

The decision to carry a monster collection of books to Mexico had a permanent impact on his life and, with the use of portable cabinets, decided to continue the pattern every time he hit the road on tour: “I had these cabinets — it was a travelling library — and they were rather like the boxes that amplifiers get packed up in… because of that period, I have an extraordinarily good collection of books,” he once said. It’s the stuff of dreams for any bibliophile and marks Bowie out as one.

An exhibition exploring the life of Bowie, entitled David Bowie Is, arrived in Toronto and explored the costumes, photos, instruments, set designs, lyric sheets behind his long and illustrious career. It remains one of the most encompassing exhibitions on the Starman we’ve ever come across.

Curator of the show, Geoffrey Marsh, also unveiled Bowie’s Top 100 favourite books and described him as a “voracious reader”. With the likes of George Orwell, Ian McEwan, Jack Kerouac and many more the exhibition detailed Bowie’s unsurprising eclectic taste.

See the full list below.

David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books:

  1. Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
  2. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
  3. Room At The Top by John Braine
  4. On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
  5. Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
  6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  7. Of Night by John Rechy
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  9. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  10. Iliad by Homer
  11. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  12. Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
  13. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
  14. Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
  15. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
  16. Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
  17. David Bomberg by Richard Cork
  18. Blast by Wyndham Lewis
  19. Passing by Nella Larson
  20. Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
  21. The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
  22. In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
  23. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
  24. The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
  25. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  26. Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
  27. The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
  28. The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
  29. Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
  30. The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  31. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  32. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  33. Herzog by Saul Bellow
  34. Puckoon by Spike Milligan
  35. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  36. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  37. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
  38. Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
  39. The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
  40. McTeague by Frank Norris
  41. Money by Martin Amis
  42. The Outsider by Colin Wilson
  43. Strange People by Frank Edwards
  44. English Journey by J.B. Priestley
  45. A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  46. The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
  47. 1984 by George Orwell
  48. The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
  49. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
  50. Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
  51. Beano (comic, )
  52. Raw (comic, ’80s)
  53. White Noise by Don DeLillo
  54. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
  55. Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
  56. Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
  57. The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillette
  58. Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
  59. The Street by Ann Petry
  60. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  61. Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
  62. A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
  63. The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
  64. Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
  65. The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
  66. The Bridge by Hart Crane
  67. All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
  68. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  69. Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
  70. The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
  71. Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
  72. The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
  73. Nowhere To Run The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
  74. Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
  75. Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
  76. The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
  77. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  78. Lady Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  79. Teenage by Jon Savage
  80. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
  81. The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
  82. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  83. Viz (comic, ’80s)
  84. Private Eye (satirical magazine, – ’80s)
  85. Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
  86. The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
  87. Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
  88. Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont
  89. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  90. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
  91. Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  92. Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
  93. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  94. The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa
  95. Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  96. A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
  97. The Insult by Rupert Thomson
  98. In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
  99. A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
  100. Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg