the david bowie book club

BowieReads

So. David Bowie died.

I’m still having trouble with that concept. I do believe deep down I was convinced he was somehow above such tawdry human habits.

Ever since January 11th, I’ve been planning some tribute of my own here on anniesiskwrites.

Guys, it’s … it’s just not happening. Not yet, at any rate. No matter how many times I rearrange all my best words, the sum total is always inadequate to the task, and certainly not nearly as artful as the man deserves deserved. (God damn it.)

So instead, I am here to propose a form of group grief therapy.

The David Bowie Memorial Book Club.

In the next section,  you’ll find the full list of Bowie’s 100 favorite books, published first in an abridged version on a few news sites, then in complete form on Bowie’s official site here.

I’m working to source each of the titles online, though some are apparently out of print and you might have to dig for them, and some are ridiculously expensive and way beyond my means. I’ll keep working on adding the links throughout the process. (UPDATE: all available links have been added, except for periodicals and comics.)

What I propose is simple: let’s read some of Bowie’s favorite books. Let’s then come back here and chat about it. I’ll start off the discussion with a short blog post, and then we can discuss that book, including what might have appealed to Bowie himself.

What made these books his favorites? We know he read a lot, so 100 books is probably just a small fraction of the total.

Understand this isn’t another “Bowie Reading Challenge” – there seem to be a few of those up on various corners of the web, and if you want to read them all and in short order, that’s probably the kind of social support you’re looking for. That just feels a little off to me, and not what I really think I need at the moment.

I don’t even know that I’ll read most of the books on this list – let alone all (though I have already read about six or so, at first glance).

What I envision is something slower, more deliberate, more thoughtful.

I think this might be helpful for me, at any rate, and I’d love to have you join me, if you like.

I’m going to start with The Age of American Unreason, which I moved to the top of the list as a result of that selection, for the simple reason that I already have that on my Kindle but haven’t cracked into it yet.

So if you’d like to play along at home, get your hands on a copy, read, and come back in a week or so. If you’d like to be notified when I put the summary/discussion kick-start post up on the blog, hang tight – I’ll put up a form to sign up for an email list later this week and update this post with a link to it. Look for that on Friday.

the books on the list

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby

Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

Room at the Top by John Braine

On Having No Head by Douglass Harding

Kafka Was the Rage by Anatole Broyard

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

City of Night by John Rechy

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Iliad by Homer

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

Inside the Whale and Other Essays by George Orwell

Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Halls Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art by James A. Hall

David Bomberg by Richard Cork

Blast by Wyndham Lewis

Passing by Nella Larson

Beyond the Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

The Divided Self by R. D. Laing

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Infants of the Spring by Wallace Thurman

The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Puckoon by Spike Milligan

Black Boy by Richard Wright

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot

McTeague by Frank Norris

Money by Martin Amis

The Outsider by Colin Wilson

Strange People by Frank Edwards

English Journey by J.B. Priestley

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

1984 by George Orwell

The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn

Mystery Train by Greil Marcus

Beano (comic, ’50s)

Raw (comic, ’80s)

White Noise by Don DeLillo

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

Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage

Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley

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

Octobriana and the Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky

The Street by Ann Petry

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz

The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard

The Bridge by Hart Crane

All the Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos

Tales of Beatnik Glory by Ed Sanders

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey

Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich

Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence From Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford (NB: link is to an updated version)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Teenage by Jon Savage

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Viz (comic, early ’80s)

Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)

Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara

The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler

Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa

Inferno by Dante Alighieri

A Grave for a Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno (NB: unavailable at this time)

The Insult by Rupert Thomson

In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan

A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes

Journey Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg