From Philip Larkin to Sylvia Plath: Nick Cave’s 50 favourite books of all time
We take great pleasure in reading Nick Cave’s fan-led forum 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. Within one such entry on the files, Cave delivered a list of his favourite books of all time.
The Red Hand Files, a space for the musician to connect with his supporters, 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 dealing with loss and grief to picking his favourite records and films. One such entry has seen Nick Cave select his 50 favourite books of all time as well as providing a literary caveat to boot. The list is just as you’d expect, rich, dense and full of intrigue.
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 some advice for those searching for truth in his “incoherent” list that he was without his extensive library to choose from.
An avid reader and one of the most criminally underrated wordsmiths in rock music, Cave is no stranger to immersing himself in literature. Like any good book reader and literature lover, 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.”
The library of books that Cave holds so dear appeared as part of the truly astonishing Stranger Than Kindness exhibit, a show which chronicled everything about the Aussie legend. The list is simply booming with incredible titles from some esteemed authors and literary figures, all of which had an influence on the Bad Seeds frontman in some capacity.
“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, referencing that the collection of work remains in Denmark. “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