Bowie's Books

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

It's no surprise to hear David Bowie was a voracious reader. As a creative practitioner, I am always interested in the way artists absorb information and how they cultivate their influences and inspiration. This book offers a unique insight into Bowie's literary influences, and how what he read shaped both his life and work. A very original idea that is executed well. And it also made me wistful and nostalgic, knowing we are unlikely to see an artist of Bowie's intellect and creativity again any time soon. We were privileged to live in his time. 

A must-read for Bowie fans! 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.
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Many thanks to Bloomsbury for providing an ARC for review via Netgalley.

It might seem strange that I've chosen to read and review this book when I'm not particularly a big Bowie fan. That said, growing up in Britain during the 80's meant I was never too far from a Bowie song or film and it's testament to his artistic genius that without being a huge fan, I know a lot of his music and admire his ability to change and adapt to different styles.

This book seemed the perfect opportunity to read more about the influences behind his creativity which is always interesting to read as a musician and recording artist myself.

The author has pulled off something of a minor miracle.  It's a hugely enjoyable and thought provoking read.  Bowie left us with one hell of an impressive list, containing an huge diversity of subjects from classic literature, occult, history, satire, science fiction, art and music.  They helped me learn and understand a lot more about different parts of his career.  I found it fascinating that I have read a few and own some others and they had a similar impact on my thoughts and world view albeit in a more personal and insular way.

It's important to remember that this list of books are the 100 that influenced Bowie the most, rather than being his favourites.  Some entries such as The Beano, Viz and Private Eye might seem strange choices but when you think about it, a comic such as The Beano would have had a huge influence on its readers at a young age.  I remember discovering Viz as a 17 year old and was instantly addicted, the outrageous characters and toilet humour left a lasting impression.  The same can be said of Private Eye, such a satirical view of current affairs and public figures can be quite a revelation.

Other titles on the list are maybe more expected such as A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Inferno (Dante), The Iliad (Homer) and 1984 (George Orwell), whilst others are likely to be much less known such as Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Doblin), As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner) and Passing (Nella Larsen).

It's a massive achievement to review 100 books, outlining some of the history and linking them to different parts of Bowie's career.  Each review is concise, thorough and very well balanced and if there's a book that you really want to read but don't want to spoil the experience by reading a summary beforehand then you can always skip that particular review and save the book for your own judgement.  What's really good is that following each review there are 'read it while listening to' and 'if you like this try' suggestions that help you explore different aspects of Bowie's music and suggestions for other books that you might also like to read.

After reading the book I've subsequently re-read Kerouac's On The Road after some considerable time and dug out a couple of others that I've not read for a while.  I also now have a fairly long reading list, a lot of these have captured my imagination, especially ones about Germany, some post-modern literature and there are a number of new authors to discover. I suspect some will be difficult to find.  Now where's the nearest secondhand book shop?
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I didn't really enjoy this book. I was hoping for more insight into the relationship with the books.
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Thank you so much for the advanced copy of this title.  This is a wonderfully written, thought-provoking, and TBR list expanding title that gives a real snapshot into the mind of David Bowie.  We all know he was a voracious reader.  It's a true joy to see what titles made him.  
Our library has purchased this title and I have recommended it.
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The journalist John O’Connell has taken a list of 100 books drawn up by David Bowie himself to illustrate the books which influenced him.  These are not necessarily his favourite books but those which have helped ‘navigate’ the scope of his broad interests, some popular such as the Beano and Viz and more esoteric books on psychology and history.  As well as providing background of their importance the author adds biographical detail from Bowie’s life and also gives examples of where the influences have been expressed.  The book is well-researched and also includes a separate bibliography of additional reading.  

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury.
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This is the perfect gift for anyone who likes good literature or David Bowie as both are throughout this book. This was part biography, part literary history and it was interesting to see the kind of books that David Bowie liked and considered his favourites. I would call this a "dip in" book as you can dip in, read an entry and put it down without losing the plot or forgetting what was happening. An easy and interesting book.
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I’m a huge David Bowie fan so was very keen to read this book. It’s a really enjoyable book about the one hundred books that David Bowie considered the most influential. It’s a real mix of books and it’s fascinating to learn more about the ones I haven’t read yet (quite a few are now on my wish list now!). There is a list of all the books at the start so you get an overview of the titles. Then you get each title with a short essay about the book and what Bowie liked about it or what he took from it. At the end the author suggests a song or two that would work well with the book and I really liked that element. It made me take time to sit and think about the books and Bowie’s music and the influence that he took from what he was reading. Some of the links seems somewhat tenuous but others I knew of and it was interesting to get more understanding of them. I also have to mention how fab it was to see that the author thinks Tin Machine may get proper recognition one of these days – I’ve always thought they were under-rated and I love both of the Tin Machine albums. I definitely recommend this book to fans of David Bowie but I think readers in general who are looking to find some new books to read would also enjoy this.
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Not long before his death, David Bowie, always an avid reader, made a list of the 100 books that had most influenced him. This book comprises short essays about each of these books and the reasons why they had such an impact on him, and in so doing explores various aspects of Bowie’s life and ideas. It’s an eclectic choice of books, for sure, from Camus to Dante, Martin Amis to Flaubert. At the end of each essay there’s a “you might also like this” suggestion, plus a suggestion of what to listen to while (or preferably after) reading one of Bowie's recommended books. This is definitely not a book to plough through in one go, as that would become quite tedious, but as a book to dip in and out of I found it an original and engaging concept, well-executed and with some thoughtful insights into Bowie’s character and career. Not just for the Bowie fan, either, but for anyone interested in other people’s reading tastes.
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“I'm a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously. Every book I ever bought, I have. I can't throw it away. It's physically impossible to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I've got a library that I keep the ones I really really like. I look around my library some nights and I do these terrible things to myself--I count up the books and think, how long I might have to live and think, 'F@#%k, I can't read two-thirds of these books.' It overwhelms me with sadness."
--David Bowie, quoted in the Daily Beast in a 2002 interview with Bob Guccione, Jr.”

I read this quote and it just resounded with me. This book is the reason why I joined Netgalley. It’s the book I wanted THAT badly. Prior to the birth of our son, I was aware of Bowie, liked a few of the songs but I wasn’t a huge fan. That changed on 10th January 2016. They day Bowie died but also the day our son was born. It felt surreal hearing the news of Bowie’s death in relation to the day we were having! We had already planned for our son to have the name David as his middle name as we have so many relatives with the name but now every time people hear the date of his birthday they ask if its because he was born the day Bowie died. Since that day I’ve made more effort to find out more about Bowie and I’ve been missing out. Such an enigmatic gentleman, an amazing character. This book provided such a great insight into that mind. Discovering how books had an effect on his life and his writing was brilliant as a fairly new fan. Although I didn’t listen to the song recommendations as I was reading, I appreciated them as a link to the thought processes. I have actually sought out some of the books discussed in this tome since. O’ Connell’s talent in this book is making some of these obscure titles seem accessible. I wasn’t keen on the cartoons but that’s only a slight criticism. If you’re a fan of Bowie this is a must read.

Thanks to Netgalley, John O’ Connell and Bloomsbury UK for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Always loved Bowie and his music, this confirms what a complex and fascinating character he was. He took 100 books with him whilst travelling and trying to rid himself of his cocaine addiction, these books were stored in a special library case.
I have only read a couple of the 100 chosen, they were not his favourite books but ones he thought he should read, Many of the books were long and complex, some classics which we probably should all read.
The links with some of his lyrics are a real eye-opener, can't think of an example, but words that seem as though they are included for their rhyming quality have a much deeper meaning and all deserve to be listened to again.
Although quite difficult to read, I finished book with a sense of gratitude for Bowie's legacy and genius.
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David Bowie was a reader and he was asked to share a list of his favorite books.  This is an annotated version of this list. It looks at the books on the list as individual items, before exploring the role they played within Bowie’s life and art.  If you dip in and out, reading a section, and then putting the book down, then you will enjoy this book. But, it gets boring if you try and read straight through.
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Loved it. Was a really cool insight into Bowie's mind. Loved the song recommendations for listening to with each book. Really wonderful book for big fans or literature lovers.
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My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing U.K. for a digital edition via NetGalley of ‘Bowie’s Books’ by John O'Connell in exchange for an honest review.

The subtitle, ‘The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life’, summarised its content. In 2013 as part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition, ‘David Bowie Is’, Bowie made a list of the 100 books that he considered the most important and influential (rather than his favourites). 

Here O’Connell has written a short essay for each title including insights into Bowie’s life and work. Peppered throughout are quirky line drawings by  
Luis Paadin. There is also a code to scan on the title page “to listen to ‘Bowie’s Books’ playlist while you read”. I wasn’t able to test this as am inept at scanning codes. 

I wasn’t aware that Bowie was such an avid reader.  It is quite an eclectic list and I will admit that there were a fair few titles that I hadn’t heard of. I have added some to my wish list.

Certainly an interesting approach to a biography. It is one that I would feel would work best in hardback as a coffee table book to dip into and would make a great gift for a Bowie fan.
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Many millions of music listeners the world over loved nothing better than to listen to the legendary musician David Bowie's instantly recognisable dulcet tones. However, many more, like myself, have been intrigued and fascinated by the music and literature which he himself was inspired. In Bowie's Books, author John O'Connell uses the list Bowie wrote in his last years, featuring 100 books, pieces of music and wider publications (e.g. Viz) that impacted him and his mindset, to set the structure of the book. The list is a diverse and eclectic one and covers iconic literature right through to pop culture favourites; all of whom are related back to Bowie and his life. His love of reading has always taken a backseat to his lyrical prowess but I am so pleased it is now laid bare in this fascinating book which can be read from cover to cover or dipped in and out of wherever and whenever you like.

From the Beano to Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus to Dante's Inferno, Bowie's Books links the ideas of these publications together and back to the enigmatic showman himself. The books, music and other publications mentioned are those you engage with when you are hoping to learn more about yourself or the world around you and would hardly be described as lighthearted or incongruous with many of the books we read today; in many respects, they are classics and have very philosophical messages to them. Being both a Bowie fan and a book advocate, I feel lucky to have picked this up and know it will appeal to a wide range of people. Seeing the sources from which he drew his inspiration was amazing and a real treat. This is a phenomenal work of non-fiction and one I know I will remember for a very long time to come. Genius. Gone too soon. RIP David. Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an ARC.
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These are not David Bowie's favourite books, they are the one that had a material effect on him. Bowie was such a talented and creative person who liked to surround himself with new information. This is a list of the 100 books that influenced him and theres essays on why he thought they did. This is a well researched and written book. This is a  book that fans old and new will enjoy. After all, I enjoyed  it and i wasnt a fan at all.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) and the author John O'Connell for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I'm a huge fan of books, and whilst I wouldn't call myself a super-fan of Bowie's, I find his life fascinating. This is a really well-structured book that would make a wonderful gift for book and Bowie lovers alike.

Each book on the list goes in a good amount of detail without becoming too much, and is paired with interesting snippets and facts from Bowie's life, and how each book either inspired or influenced him.
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'Bowie's Books' is a fascinating look into David Bowie and a wide range of literature that ticks a lot of boxes. The list is varied and eclectic, covering material as diverse as The Iliad and Viz. This book delves into Bowie's life and inspirations and even covers some of the contemporary history. I could have done without the blog style, 'read this while listening to...', which lowered the tone for me. Whether you are a Bowie fan, interested in popular culture or are a book nerd, this is a great book.
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If you are a fan of Bowie then this book will offer you a insight into his great love of writing and literature.  It did not surprise me that he was an avid reader and that he read a great variety of genres in his life, as anyone who is of an artistic nature would surely be drawn to reading an eclectic mix of books.  He did however read a great many books that would be seen as 'hard work' by many and would possibly feel like surprising choices to some people.  The way the book is set out makes it an easy book to read in 'small doses', and the addition of listening suggestions whilst reading is a good idea.  
A great read for fans of Bowie who are interested in finding out what might of made the man 'tick'.
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A wonderful book to dip in and out of. It's a fascinating insight into the world of the late icon that is David Bowie. Joyful to get a glimpse of his world.
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Of all the deaths in 2016 (and let’s face it, there was a lot) it was David Bowie’s death that probably upset me the most. I loved Bowie. He was a musician who was way before my time but he was one that I sourced myself, without parental influence. So, it is of some comfort that even nearly three years after his death that fans can still learn new things about the man or feel his influence in a new different way.

With Bowie’s Books we get an insight into the literature that shaped the man he became. We are given access to his favourite books and in turn a stepping point if we enjoy the book then what you should read next. Along the way, we get stories of David Bowie’s life and it is littered with facts and anecdotes.
It really is just a joy to read.

Plus if David Bowie thought it was cool to read then who the heck are we to argue.

Bowie’s Books – The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life by John O’Connell is available now.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury (@BloomsburyBooks) please visit
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