From Philip Larkin to Sylvia Plath: Nick Cave picks 50 of his favourite books
We take great pleasure in reading Nick Cave’s Red Hand Files. The singer and leader of The Bad Seeds has been a longtime idol of the Far Out office and we’ve enjoyed seeing fellow fans reach out and connect with the singer on all manner of subjects.
The fan-led forum has seen Cave continue his role as the maturing rocker you dreamed of and found a formerly menacing figure now wise, warm and happy to field questions on everything from grief to picking his favourite records and films. One such entry has seen Nick Cave select his 50 favourite books or at least a selection of them.
The latest effort from Cave sees him responding to a question from Victoria. The Bad Seeds fan asks, referencing our recent feature on Bob Dylan’s 40 favourite books, whether he would “consider compiling a list of 40 books you love?” Cave dutifully replied not only with his list, and a few more to boot but with a literary caveat.
An avid reader and one of the most criminally underrated wordsmiths in rock, Cave is no stranger to immersing himself in literature. Like any good book reader, it’s clear he could assemble a different list of his favourites every different day of the week: “Normally, to answer this question I would simply go to my bookshelves and choose forty books,” replies Cave. “However, my bookshelves are completely empty. The 5000+ books I have accumulated over the years have been shipped to the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen.”
Unfortunately, for Cave’s ease at least, the library of books that he holds so dear is a part of the truly astonishing Stranger Than Kindness exhibit which will chronicle everything about the Aussie legend. Nevertheless, even without his points of reference in front of him, Cave perseveres.
“Without my library in front of me, it is a little difficult to assemble a comprehensive list of my forty most loved books,” he writes. “The best I can do is throw together a rather formless and incoherent grab bag of titles that come to mind at this moment that, for one reason or another, I have loved over the years. I think I got carried away. I think there are fifty — in no particular order.”
The below list acts not only as a selection of Nick Cave’s most-loved books but a chance to peer through into what makes Cave tick and the opportunity to add to your summer reading list.
Nick Cave’s 50 favourite books:
American Dreams – Sapphire
Break, Blow, Burn – Camille Paglia
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden – Denis Johnson
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
A Good Man is Hard to Find – Flannery O’Connor
I and Thou – Martin Buber
Straight Life – Art Pepper
The Bible – King James Edition
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
High Windows – Philip Larkin
The Conference of Birds – Attar of Nishapur
My Promised Land – Ari Shavit
The Christ at Chartres – Denis Saurat
King Leopold’s Ghost – Adam Hochschild
America a Prophecy – Jerome Rothenberg
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page – Gerald Basil Edwards
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
Shaking the Pumpkin – Jerome Rothenberg
The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
The Collected Works of Saint Teresa of Avila
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy
Mid-American Chants – Sherwood Anderson
Collected Works of Billy the Kid – Michael Ondaatje
American Murder Ballads and Their Stories – Olive Woolley Burt