David Bowie: the man who loved books – Telegraph.co.uk

For a man who left Bromley
Technical High School with just one ‘O’ level (in art), David
ended up a remarkably well-read man.

Bowie, who
died aged 69 on January 10 2016
, said that “when I’m
relaxed what I do is read” and described a good week as one in
which he pored through “three or four books”.

Bowie was witty and knowing about his own acquisitiveness for books
and first editions. He paid tribute to his parents for passing on a
love of literature. One of the turning points of his life was reading
Allan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac; he said that reading On The Road at
15 was an epiphanous moment, giving him the urge to get out of Bromley. 

Bowie took 400 books with him to Mexico to the shoot of 1976 film
The Man Who To Earth. He told Mr Showbiz in 1997: “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.”

That set a pattern of taking a travelling library on tour and Bowie
said: “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.”

David Bowie
David Bowie at the Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969 reading the 1964 book Bicyclists Dismount by Mason Williams

Rex Features

During his career, Bowie talked about the books and writers he liked,
everything from Allan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, to Stephen King
(“I love Stephen King, scares the s— out of me”). He
retained an interest in British authors: Martin Amis
(“funny”); Peter Ackroyd (“there’s a great mysticism in
his work. I’ve read everything he’s ever written. That disquieting
underbelly that he sees in London, that’s how I perceive it
too.”); Julian Barnes (“I really like him, it’s another
world”) but said he had problems with Thomas Hardy. “There’s
a resonance in Thomas Hardy that I appreciate but I still find
it hard work,” said Bowie.

Bowie in pictures

One of the few times he expressed a negative opinion was about Anita
Brookner’s Hotel du Lac, telling Ikon in 1995 that the 1984 Booker
-winning novel was “something I just can’t use, it
doesn’t apply”.

Bowie’s tastes were eclectic but impressive. He was also a fan of A
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and Spike Milligan’s Puckoon.

And thanks to an exhibition of Bowie at the Running at the Art
Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, we
have a list from co-curator Geoffrey Marsh of Bowie’s 100 favourite books

David Bowie’s Top 100 books

The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz, 2007

The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007

Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007

Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002

The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997

The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996

Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995

The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994

Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993

Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical
Perspective, Arthur C. Danto, 1992

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily
Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990

David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of
Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986

Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985

Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984

Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984

Money, Martin Amis, 1984

White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984

Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984

The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980

Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980

Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980

Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980

Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91

Viz (magazine) 1979 –

The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979

Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978

In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978

Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,
Julian Jaynes, 1976

Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders, 1975

Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975

Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974

Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto
Friedrich, 1972

In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of
Culture, George Steiner, 1971

Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971

The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970

The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967

Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr., 1966

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965

City of Night, John Rechy, 1965

Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964

Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963

The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962

Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961

Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –

On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas
Harding, 1961

Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961

Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961

The Divided Self, R. D. Laing, 1960

All The Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd, 1960

Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959

The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958

On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957

The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957

Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957

A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956

The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949

The Street, Ann Petry, 1946

Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945