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Music

St. Vincent named her 34 favourite books of all time

@SamWKemp

Given that she took her name from the hospital in which Dylan Thomas finally shuffled off this mortal coil, it comes as no surprise to learn that St. Vincent is something of a bibliophile. Time and time again, the singer has described her songwriting in literary terms, going so far as to point out that one of her greatest creative motivators has always been to “make music like people write plays”. This desire has seen her draw from writers as much as fellow musicians, while she has also been known to treat her craft with the studious determination of a novelist sitting down at their typewriter.

It’s possible she adopted this disciplined regimen as a way of coping with the self-destructive uncertainty that creativity tends to induce: “I had brief glimpses of emotional catharsis while writing,” she says in her Masterclass series. “I remember reading something Philip Roth wrote about how he writes every single day, but it’s almost as if he has amnesia every morning – he has almost zero confidence that anything will come but he just sits down and plugs away,” she adds.

“And at the end of the day, it feels like a miracle: ‘How did I do that?’ I had a similar experience where it was just about putting in the hours and being present. I’d listen to things that felt really good in the moment and realise they were clouded by enthusiasm or caffeine. And things that I was struggling to get out ended up being really compelling. It’s an emotional roller coaster; there’s exhilaration and there’s shame.”

St. Vincent’s love of literature has also seen her interviewed on KLRX Radio’s Unbound Book Club podcast on four separate occasions, during which she discusses some of her favourite titles. Below, you can find a 34-book list that covers some of the essential reads from her personal library. It is a wonderfully eclectic mix, featuring famed novelists, such as Marcel Proust (Swann’s Way), (The Mysterious Stranger), and Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises), as well as titles by countercultural writers like Joan Didion (The Year Of Magical Thinking, Slouching Towards Bethlehem) and Philosophers such as Bertrand Russell (Classic Works).

You can check out the full reading list of St. Vincent’s favourite books below.

St. Vincent’s favourite books:

  • White Girls by Hilton Als
  • Malcolm X At Oxford Union: Radical Politics In A Global Era by Saladin Ambar
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes
  • Mythologies by Roland Barthes
  • The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Night of the Gun by David Carr
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • The White Album by Joan Didion
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The Magus by John Fowles
  • The Journals of Spalding Gray by Spalding Gray
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti
  • Animal Love by Werner Herzog
  • The Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo by Werner Herzog
  • Air Guitar by David Hickey
  • Submission by Michel Houellebecq
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil
  • Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain
  • Bark by Lorrie Moore
  • Birds Of America by Lorrie Moore
  • I Am the New Black by Tracy Morgan
  • The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson
  • Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  • Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan
  • Classic Works by Bertrand Russell
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • The Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas
  • The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
  • When Marina Abramovic Dies by James Westcott
  • The Collected Plays by Tennessee Williams
  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, And The Prison Of Belief by Lawrence Wright

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