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Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life

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Part epic reading guide and part biography of a music legend, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a collection of mini-essays exploring David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books in the context of the artist’s life and work. Imagine a beloved friend sharing their favorite books with you—the ones that shaped them, made them who they are, and inspired them to achieve their dreams. Now imagine Part epic reading guide and part biography of a music legend, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a collection of mini-essays exploring David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books in the context of the artist’s life and work. Imagine a beloved friend sharing their favorite books with you—the ones that shaped them, made them who they are, and inspired them to achieve their dreams. Now imagine that friend is David Bowie. Three years before he died, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning artist David Bowie shared a list of the hundred books that changed his life—a wide-ranging and eclectic selection that spans beloved classics like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and George Orwell’s 1984, to more esoteric gems like Fran Lebowitz’s Metropolitan Life and Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, and even cult comic strips like Beano and Raw. Bowie’s Bookshelf celebrates each of Bowie’s favorite books with a dedicated mini-essay, exploring each work within the context of Bowie’s life and its role in shaping one of the most versatile, avant-garde, and cutting-edge musicians of the twentieth century. A fresh approach to celebrating the enduring legacy of David Bowie, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a resounding tribute to the power art has to change our lives for the better.


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Part epic reading guide and part biography of a music legend, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a collection of mini-essays exploring David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books in the context of the artist’s life and work. Imagine a beloved friend sharing their favorite books with you—the ones that shaped them, made them who they are, and inspired them to achieve their dreams. Now imagine Part epic reading guide and part biography of a music legend, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a collection of mini-essays exploring David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books in the context of the artist’s life and work. Imagine a beloved friend sharing their favorite books with you—the ones that shaped them, made them who they are, and inspired them to achieve their dreams. Now imagine that friend is David Bowie. Three years before he died, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning artist David Bowie shared a list of the hundred books that changed his life—a wide-ranging and eclectic selection that spans beloved classics like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and George Orwell’s 1984, to more esoteric gems like Fran Lebowitz’s Metropolitan Life and Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, and even cult comic strips like Beano and Raw. Bowie’s Bookshelf celebrates each of Bowie’s favorite books with a dedicated mini-essay, exploring each work within the context of Bowie’s life and its role in shaping one of the most versatile, avant-garde, and cutting-edge musicians of the twentieth century. A fresh approach to celebrating the enduring legacy of David Bowie, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a resounding tribute to the power art has to change our lives for the better.

30 review for Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell is a 2019 Gallery Books publication. Because reading is, among much else, an escape—into other people, other perspectives, other consciousnesses. It takes you out of yourself, only to put you back there infinitely enriched. This is such a cool little book! I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and was smitten with it the instant I laid eyes on it. Book people tend to like other book people, and Bowie should get a nod of approval from voracious r Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell is a 2019 Gallery Books publication. Because reading is, among much else, an escape—into other people, other perspectives, other consciousnesses. It takes you out of yourself, only to put you back there infinitely enriched. This is such a cool little book! I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and was smitten with it the instant I laid eyes on it. Book people tend to like other book people, and Bowie should get a nod of approval from voracious readers, even if you are more of a casual fan, because -as his son, Duncan, has pointed out, he was a ‘beast of a reader’. In 2013, David drew up a list of a hundred books that had influenced him the most. I had never seen or read his list before now. Naturally, I was very curious to see what books might have influenced someone as diverse as David Bowie. However, I was a little worried that I might not know any of the books on the list. I had imagined David Bowie’s taste in reading material would differ vastly from my own simple taste. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how many books on the list that I recognized. That doesn’t mean I’ve read them, just that I’d at least heard of them. In truth, I’ve only read three books on his list. But I plan to add more than a handful of them to MY list. Naturally, Bowie was well read and had a wide range of interests. The list itself is very telling. What John O’Connell has done here, is to write a brief composition about each book, speculating on how or why it may have made an impression on Bowie. One would have to know Bowie pretty well, I’d think, to assume such a task, but the author did an admirable job, in my opinion. Since I’ve only read three of the books, I can’t really speak to how close to the mark O’Connell’s theories were, but it was fun to read his hypothesis, even if a few of them were a bit odd. Sometimes, the influence is very clear, though, and I had a few “a ha” moments while reading these essays. There were some interesting tidbits about Bowie sprinkled throughout as well- including how he traveled by train, never in airplanes, and carried with him an entire trunk full of books, neatly arranged. The author also gives readers a suggested Bowie tune to listen to while reading each specific title on the list. I thought this book was unique and original, and is one that Bowie fans will relish, and book lovers will cherish. The book is insightful and informative, maybe a little nostalgic and poignant, but also really fun too!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I've never been the type of person into hero worship, not if a group, singer nor movie star. There have been groups I've loved, singers I've enjoyed but I wasn't one who screamed and yelled myself horse in an audience. Bowie wasn't a favorite but I liked some of his music, some I didn't. I am guilty if being surprised of what an avid reader he was, couldn't pass up the opportunity to find out what he read. So interesting. The books are listed one by one, with a description of what the book entail I've never been the type of person into hero worship, not if a group, singer nor movie star. There have been groups I've loved, singers I've enjoyed but I wasn't one who screamed and yelled myself horse in an audience. Bowie wasn't a favorite but I liked some of his music, some I didn't. I am guilty if being surprised of what an avid reader he was, couldn't pass up the opportunity to find out what he read. So interesting. The books are listed one by one, with a description of what the book entails, what it meant to Bowie and why. Where was he in his life at the point that the book spoke to him. Some of the books are strange ones, some I've heard of and read, some comics and cartoons that those in the UK had heard of, I did not. He loved to read about art, critical evaluations of literature, hard hitting fiction, and so many others. Varied interests depending where he was in his life. This was such an intriguing read. It has been said that it was possible to get a feel for a person based on the books they've read. If that is so, Bowie was a talented, well read, multifaceted but a flawed one with many issues he had to overcome. I found this absolutely astonishing. "Bowie hates aircraft so he mostly travels across the States by train, carrying his mobile biblioteque in special trunks which open out with all his books neatly displayed on shelves. In New Mexico the volumes dealt mainly with the occult, his current enthusiasm." This portable library stored fifteen hundred titles, enough to make Clark's later observation to a journalist that Bowie "really read alot" while making The Man Who fell to earth seem like s but of an understatement." A list of his books are included. ARC from Edelweiss.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I was a big Bowie fan back in the early seventies, a time when I was in my teens and he was releasing what to me remain his most iconic albums: Hunky Dory & Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He was fresh, his voice just a little off and his lyrics somewhat strange but always conveying a story. I wasn’t quite so enamoured with the albums that followed but in 1983 he released Let’s Dance in which a re-invented Bowie produced a collection of tracks that everyone I knew loved and played to d I was a big Bowie fan back in the early seventies, a time when I was in my teens and he was releasing what to me remain his most iconic albums: Hunky Dory & Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He was fresh, his voice just a little off and his lyrics somewhat strange but always conveying a story. I wasn’t quite so enamoured with the albums that followed but in 1983 he released Let’s Dance in which a re-invented Bowie produced a collection of tracks that everyone I knew loved and played to death. And he would, of course, continue to re-invent himself, as he always had – often when I wasn’t watching. But what of the man? I knew surprisingly little of him really, and I certainly hadn’t perceived him to be a voracious reader. I suppose his lyrics had to come from somewhere; something had to be feeding his mind, planting seeds for the many varied stories he told in his songs. Bowie is described an an autodidact, who struggled with formal education but spent a lifetime self-educating. So it turns out he was a huge reader, reading constantly including sometimes from a library of circa 1500 books he often carted around with him when he travelled. This book provides a list of the one hundred books he considered most important and influential (note – these are not necessarily the books he most enjoyed). There’s a real mix here. I recognised quite a few but there are only two books (plus one magazine and one comic) that I can actually claim to have read. There are about half a dozen books I’ve sometimes planned to read but haven’t gotten around to yet (by authors such Hitchens, Martin Amis, DeLillo and Capote), quite a few I really don’t fancy and a fair few more I’d never heard of. There’s a good sprinkling of science fiction, a little philosophy, some poetry and much of the rest is an eclectic mix of the avant-garde and the obscure. Getting on for a third of the books were written before he was born. The author tries to explain in what way each book was significant for Bowie, what he took from it or how his discovery of the text tied in to a particular song he wrote (for example the phrase homo superior in ‘Oh! You Pretty Thing’ was scavenged from Olaf Stapledon’s science fiction novel Odd John). There’s also a thread of autobiographical commentary running through the piece, so we learn quite a bit about Bowie’s development as a person and as an artist as we make our way through the list of books. In fact, I found one if the most interesting elements to be how the books seemed to help shape the man and that the changes wrought duly steered him towards an ever more off-centre collection of books. I didn’t find myself wishing to rush out and grab many titles listed here but I did find it a fascinating study of this chameleon of a man. My sincere thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc & NetGalley for supplying an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    This book ended way too soon. I could have read it if it had been three times as long

  5. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    These are not David Bowie's favourite books, thrynarenthe ones that had a material difference on him. Bowie was such a talented and creative person whom liked to surround himself with new information. This is a list of 100 books that influenced him and there is essays on why he thought they did. This is a well researched and written book. This is a boo that fa s 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 (UK & These are not David Bowie's favourite books, thrynarenthe ones that had a material difference on him. Bowie was such a talented and creative person whom liked to surround himself with new information. This is a list of 100 books that influenced him and there is essays on why he thought they did. This is a well researched and written book. This is a boo that fa s 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 (UK & ANZ) and the author John O'Connell for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen R

    I had no idea David Bowie was such a voracious reader. The vast spectrum of literature he embraced, his compulsion with books and how they inspired, influenced and impacted his life are meticulously documented by the author. I am an avid reader but so many books referenced within that I had never heard of. Enjoyable biographic bits and backstory peppered into the mix. Thanks to Gallery Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. 2016 was a horrible year. It started with the death of Bowie and ended with the death of Carrie Fisher. And let’s not talk about the election okay? If one knew anything about David Bowie, other than his music and Iman, one knew that he loved to read. There was a list of 100 books that influenced Bowie that was released before his death in conjunction with a show of his costumes at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). After his death, his Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. 2016 was a horrible year. It started with the death of Bowie and ended with the death of Carrie Fisher. And let’s not talk about the election okay? If one knew anything about David Bowie, other than his music and Iman, one knew that he loved to read. There was a list of 100 books that influenced Bowie that was released before his death in conjunction with a show of his costumes at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). After his death, his son, Duncan Jones, founded the David Bowie Book Club, a podcast series that is working its way though the list. O’Connell’s book provides a brief overview of each work on the list, but, perhaps more importantly, the influence it might have had on Bowie as well as pairing the book with one or more of his songs as well as further reading. One question this book raises is if the complete 100 book list is easy enough to find online, why read this book? Part of it is because of the essays that accompanies each work. The essay not only serves as an introduction to the various books but also details about when Bowie most likely read the book for the first time, biographical information about the author and Bowie, and details about what songs refer to the book. There are also references to Iggy Pop. Some of the books on this list were introduced to Bowie by his half brother Terry. This includes the influence of the Beats as well as writers that he felt an affinity for – such as Fitzgerald and Carter. It also includes writers who wrote about him such as Camille Paglia or authors that he met or wanted to meet. Some writers, like Carter and Fitzgerald are not a surprise, but Bowie also read heavily into history – not only Howard Zinn but also a door stopper about the Russian Revolution. There are some writers or books that are somewhat surprising - such as The Leopard or Day of the Locust (tbh, I’m surprised that anyone likes Day of the Locust). Beano and Homer even make the list, and there is a good number of Harlem Renaissance Works on it and less famous works as well. I want to read A Grave for a Dolphin now, and I had never heard of it before. There are stories about recommendations that he made to friends and backing musicians, such as the Street by Ann Petry. O’Connell’s writing is engaging, and the book is an easy one to dip in and out of. The hardest part is dealing with the grief of Bowie’s death. (OH, and not wanting to strangle O’Connell when he writes that Bowie read the most of any person on Earth type hyperbole because I know some people he should meet.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Kimley and I are going to discuss this book on an upcoming episode of Book Musik.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    This is an interesting idea which is done well. John O’Connell has taken the list which Bowie made of the 100 books which had most influenced him (but not necessarily his favourite books, as O’Connell firmly points out) and has given a brief description of each book, something of its history and a suggestion of how it came to influence David Bowie. In general, O’Connell does this very well. There is a lengthy introduction in which he describes Bowie’s almost addictive reading habit and relates th This is an interesting idea which is done well. John O’Connell has taken the list which Bowie made of the 100 books which had most influenced him (but not necessarily his favourite books, as O’Connell firmly points out) and has given a brief description of each book, something of its history and a suggestion of how it came to influence David Bowie. In general, O’Connell does this very well. There is a lengthy introduction in which he describes Bowie’s almost addictive reading habit and relates this to the man and his extraordinary art. He generally (but not quite always, I think) manages to avoid pretentiousness and gives us a good idea of the influence of reading on Bowie himself. I liked this little passage: “This isn’t the story of David Bowie’s life… But it is a look at the tools he used to navigate his life, not to mention a shot in the arm for the unfashionable theory, one that I’ve always liked, that reading makes you a better person.” That gives an idea of the aims of the book and O’Connell’s style, both of which I liked. The list is extremely eclectic, from Camus to Viz and The Beano and from art and philosophy to thrillers. O’Connell takes each book in the list and relates it to Bowie’s career and personal life. This is a tricky task, necessarily a little speculative in places, and he manages to do it credibly and engagingly. It’s one to dip into rather than read at a sitting, but a couple of sections at a time are rewarding and have suggested several things I may want to read myself. I did baulk slightly at the end of each section where there is a “Read while listening to...” with suggestions of Bowie tracks. I wouldn’t dream of listening to Bowie while reading anything – it would be an insult to both Bowie and the book. Perhaps “After reading, listen to...” would have been better. This is followed by an Amazon-style “If you liked this, then try...” suggestion which I have to say I found rather patronising. Minor quibbles aside, this is an interesting, readable book which I can recommend. (My thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Crystal King

    When Bowie first shared his list of 100 favorite books, I immediately started to work my way through them. It even inspired me to create and maintain my own list of 100 favorite books. So, of course when I saw this title, I knew I had to read it. O'Connell thoughtfully dives into the history of Bowie in relation to the choices he made with the books, giving backstory and insight into how they may have shaped certain aspects of his life, or his art. As a Bowie fan I loved reading this unique take When Bowie first shared his list of 100 favorite books, I immediately started to work my way through them. It even inspired me to create and maintain my own list of 100 favorite books. So, of course when I saw this title, I knew I had to read it. O'Connell thoughtfully dives into the history of Bowie in relation to the choices he made with the books, giving backstory and insight into how they may have shaped certain aspects of his life, or his art. As a Bowie fan I loved reading this unique take on his life, but as a reader, I loved reading about the books themselves and am using this to better prioritize my own reading choices. I think I will read many of those books even more thoughtfully as a result of O'Connell's information. A must-read if you love Bowie, and a wonderful read if you just love books and want a glimpse into how words can change one's life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    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 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    An exegesis of that list Bowie made of the hundred books which influenced him the most, and one which at its best has some lovely and insightful turns of phrase, really bringing out their interconnections. Of Berlin Alexanderplatz's protagonist, say: "Biberkopf is Shakespeare's unaccommodated man, out on an existential limb – the kind of man Bowie flirted with becoming on the heaviest of his heavy nights out. But he could never quite get there. There was always someone around to step in and pull An exegesis of that list Bowie made of the hundred books which influenced him the most, and one which at its best has some lovely and insightful turns of phrase, really bringing out their interconnections. Of Berlin Alexanderplatz's protagonist, say: "Biberkopf is Shakespeare's unaccommodated man, out on an existential limb – the kind of man Bowie flirted with becoming on the heaviest of his heavy nights out. But he could never quite get there. There was always someone around to step in and pull him out of the mire." And for the books I don't know at all, the potted introductions to the likes of A Grave For A Dolphin and Infants Of The Spring are very informative. Elsewhere, it's less sure-footed, sometimes just stating the bleeding obvious (eg on A Clockwork Orange), and elsewhere verging on outright wrong. For instance, it traces the notion of 'homo superior' back to Odd John, which is fine, and then talks about it being everywhere as a notion in the sixties that there was a hidden elect who oversaw human development and diffused knowledge, which is also fine. But then quotes Lovecraft in a list of examples, which...well, you can twist that around and see how it works, but if you don't already know Lovecraft's stuff, that passage could give you a very odd idea of it. Or when addressing Day Of The Locust, which is contrasted with West's mate Fitzgerald, who we're told only addressed Hollywood's upper echelons in The Last Tycoon, not the bottom-feeders who interested West. Well, true as far as it goes, but by failing to note the existence of the Pat Hobby stories, also deeply misleading. As for the notion that Burgess' Earthly Powers is a book which physically has to be read on Kindle...well, I never knew the old stereotype of Bowie fans as limp-wristed was intended so literally. Basically, you will learn something from this, but fundamentally it's a loo book. Although considered as such, not a bad one. Even within that category, mind, I could probably have done without the occasional cartoons. (Netgalley ARC)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    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 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Barron

    4.5 stars. I've actually got a different edition, white cover, paperback, published by Bloomsbury, titled Bowie's Books. I loved this unique romp through Bowie's literary influences, and the links made to his creative output. John O'Connell is such a great writer, and his short essays really bought Bowie's books alive. Review to follow in Otago Daily Times.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Not necessarily the best book, but had some interesting information about books that Bowie felt influenced him in some way. Felt more like a book you skim than one you sit and absorb, skimmed was all I did. One thing I did like was after each passage a song recommendation and another book if you enjoy that one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    I am a book lover, so when I find out that a celebrity or other person I admire also loves books I am further smitten. So this book that is part list, part book recommend, part biography was one I was very excited to read. The best part was that after each little section about a book there was a recommendation for another book you might like and a song to listen to. And then at the top of many of the sections there were little bits of illustration that was wonderful. This is a lot of fun. The part I am a book lover, so when I find out that a celebrity or other person I admire also loves books I am further smitten. So this book that is part list, part book recommend, part biography was one I was very excited to read. The best part was that after each little section about a book there was a recommendation for another book you might like and a song to listen to. And then at the top of many of the sections there were little bits of illustration that was wonderful. This is a lot of fun. The part that I wasn't as enamored with was that some of the books seemed to be chosen by the author who was speculating that Bowie would have loved them. I didn't really care about those entries and would have preferred the book to be shorter with fewer entries if he could have stuck to only books Bowie actually cared about.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Thomas

    Not a Bowie fan, (I don't listen to much music to consider myself much of it) but I do love reading about people's favorite books and their reading habits. I don't find most people interesting readers but I was pleasantly surprised. Bowie had an eclectic list filled with everything from explorations of the occult to British mid century writers I have never heard of (but sound good enough to try). It was interesting to see such a broad exploration of titles and how they shaped his work and world Not a Bowie fan, (I don't listen to much music to consider myself much of it) but I do love reading about people's favorite books and their reading habits. I don't find most people interesting readers but I was pleasantly surprised. Bowie had an eclectic list filled with everything from explorations of the occult to British mid century writers I have never heard of (but sound good enough to try). It was interesting to see such a broad exploration of titles and how they shaped his work and world view. Only drawback is he is such a fascinating reader who has such broad interests I would love to see his whole shelves. I do suggest that anyone who is interested in reading any of these titles be aware that at times the author gives you a complete plot summary! And yes most of these books are old but many aren't especially well known.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    I finished this a long time ago and never updated but this is what I remember: ~ it’s just a list of books, nothing very insightful offered by the author other than a short blurb of what he assumed Bowie was feeling while reading + what he thought of the book. ~ the books Bowie read (starting off with the usual suspects [cuckoos nest, on the road, etc], interspersed with lots of comics, philosophy, and sociological texts) all correlated with the albums and songs he put out. ~ some books I had neve I finished this a long time ago and never updated but this is what I remember: ~ it’s just a list of books, nothing very insightful offered by the author other than a short blurb of what he assumed Bowie was feeling while reading + what he thought of the book. ~ the books Bowie read (starting off with the usual suspects [cuckoos nest, on the road, etc], interspersed with lots of comics, philosophy, and sociological texts) all correlated with the albums and songs he put out. ~ some books I had never heard of and seemed interesting, at least insofar as how they motivated Bowie’s art. I wrote them down somewhere but that doesn’t help any of us. ~ helpful if you’re looking for a booklist to go off of, works better as a coffee table book or something you’d find in a dentists office that gives you a sudden unwarranted lapse of faith in your dentists level of competency.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Philippa

    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 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Toni_B_Librarian

    John O'Connell's "Bowie's Bookshelf" is a look at the books who made the man who made the music, David Bowie. Bowie, a brilliant autodidact and avid reader, once created a list of the one hundred books he found most influential, and here O'Connell provides that list, along with a summary of each book and an analysis of how it might have shaped Bowie's persona and music. The author also provides a suggested David Bowie song to play in light of each book, and he also suggests another book or two r John O'Connell's "Bowie's Bookshelf" is a look at the books who made the man who made the music, David Bowie. Bowie, a brilliant autodidact and avid reader, once created a list of the one hundred books he found most influential, and here O'Connell provides that list, along with a summary of each book and an analysis of how it might have shaped Bowie's persona and music. The author also provides a suggested David Bowie song to play in light of each book, and he also suggests another book or two readers might seek out if they enjoy Bowie's selection. Each of Bowie's books gets approximately three pages of treatment, serving as a mini-chapter for each. The books on Bowie's list run the gamut from classics familiar to most educated readers--at least in synopsis--to more obscure titles. My hunch is that readers of O'Connell's book, who are presumably folks who like books and are of an age to be Bowie fans, likely have a familiarity with the rough outlines of works like The Iliad or The Great Gatsby, but they might be less likely to have thought much about how threads plucked from these works might have been woven into the tapestry of Bowie's work. Of course, a lot of O'Connell's ideas about this are speculative, with Bowie no longer here to confirm or deny O'Connell's assertions. The book includes its share of perhapses, could haves, and likelies; yes, it's a mental exercise, but it's usually a fun one. And as a surprise to probably no one and maybe also an understatement, Bowie was also into some freaky sh**; the descriptions of a handful of the more unfamiliar titles had me clutching my pearls a little (mostly due to mentions of animal cruelty), though I appreciated the heads-up those titles probably won't be for me. As another likely non-surprise, the authors on his list skew twentieth century, western, white, and male. That said, there are exceptions to the pattern on every one of those fronts, enough to show that while he might have been the product of a particular place and time, he strove conscientiously to transcend that. O'Connell's work ultimately serves as an effort to situate Bowie--the man, the construct, the artist--in terms of the literature he consumed, and his effort inches readers closer to understanding the enigmatic performer who adopted and shed personas like quicksilver. But at the same time, it serves as a reminder of his ineffability and of the fact that Bowie absorbed and processed his influences in ways that were profoundly unique, defying facile characterizations as much as the Starman himself did. (Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy.)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine - LifeWithAllTheBooks

    I’m a huge David Bowie fan and as such found this book so interesting. I’ve been reading it but by bit for a few months and I’ve found it a fascinating insight into an intelligent and complex man with a clear devotion to books.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)

    How did David Bowie come into my life and remain a life long love of mine? Well, four key life moments immediately stand out as milestones on my way to Bowie fandom. Bowie milestone 1. Both Mum and Dad, but particularly Dad always turned up Bowie when one of his songs came on the radio and I have very early memories of being fascinated by a bunch of vinyl albums my parents had. David Bowie was pretty and colourful, like some magical, ethereal creature on the cover. I was intrigued. Bowie milestone How did David Bowie come into my life and remain a life long love of mine? Well, four key life moments immediately stand out as milestones on my way to Bowie fandom. Bowie milestone 1. Both Mum and Dad, but particularly Dad always turned up Bowie when one of his songs came on the radio and I have very early memories of being fascinated by a bunch of vinyl albums my parents had. David Bowie was pretty and colourful, like some magical, ethereal creature on the cover. I was intrigued. Bowie milestone 2. 1983 and I was a little eight-year-old Duff. Never entirely fitting in at school, try as I might, but luckily never bullied or singled out. Anyway, it was ‘buy school shoe time’ and my Dad drew the short straw. We were given precise requirements from my mum to meet both school uniform and flat-footed needs. Basically, we were meant to head out and buy a sensible pair of Clarke’s crepe soled sandals with strong ankle support and zero street cred. I wanted to look cool, so this did not happen. Instead, due to my complete obsession with the music video Let’s Dance, I stomped my feet and used every diversion tactic possible to avoid the Clarkes crepe-soled sandals and, instead, get my self a pair of red slip-on ballet shoes so I could ‘put on my red shoes and dance the blues‘. I bloody loved those shoes and I danced and watched that music video over and over for weeks until, one morning, I innocently slipped on those shoes to find there was an earwig wriggling inside one. That was sadly the end of the shoes. BOMBSHELL LIFE REALISATION!!… is this why I ended up spending a year travelling around the outback and settling in Australia later in life? Probably not, but what a romantic thought. Bowie milestone 3. 1986 and The Labyrinth movie was released. By this time, I was on the cusp of becoming a teenage Duff and well, Bowie as the Goblin King is probably why I still to this day crush hard on charismatic, older, rock n roll dudes with long hair. Jareth was beguiling, Sarah was beautiful and oh so relatable because my little sister had just appeared in the family with her crazy fluffy hair, overall cuteness and taking up all my mums time. Most importantly, though, the soundtrack, to me, still stands as one of the best movie soundtracks EVER. Bowie milestone 4. June 2004 and David Bowie headlined the Isle Of Wight Festival. My Dad, my sister and I headed there for the weekend and experienced one of the best weekend line ups and surprisingly without rain! The Who, Manic Street Preachers, Jet, The Charlatans, Groove Armada and The Stereophonics were just a few of the big names. However, the last night headline spot went to David Bowie and he came out all in black, looking like a rock god, far younger than his 57 years and that live performance made Rebel Rebel one of my favourite rock anthems and cemented me as a Bowie fan for life. David Bowie has been such a massive part of mine and my family’s life, so when I saw the book cover for Bowie’s Books and found out that he was a ferocious reader, I wanted to find out which books had made their mark. Which books inspired him, influenced him artistically and politically, which ones did he read when the hits were rolling in and which ones did he turn to when the number ones weren’t falling in his lap anymore? What makes Bowie’s Books so special? Three years before David Bowie’s death, he listed the top 100 books which changed his life and this has become his autobiography of sorts, a window into the psyche of an artist and a legend. Author John O’Connell shares these 100 books tying them into the times Bowie most likely read these books and weaves them into short essays using clues from songs, poems, interviews and quotes from the man himself. At the end of each book essay, there is a suggested read and there’s even a curated Spotify playlist you can listen to while reading, just by scanning the QR code at the front page of the book. The illustrations are beautiful and the care, respect and detailed research John O’Connell shows throughout makes this a special book for fans of David Bowie and the ideal gift for any music fan in your life. It will become a treasured read. David Bowie still remains a beautiful enigma, but Bowie’s books gives the reader a glimpse into what made this wonderful, special human being tick. An unsurprising 5 stars for the Starman. Share your favourite Bowie track and memory in the comments!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aria

    ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- Was very excited to receive this. Anything that informed Bowie's mind I'm interested in, b/c he was just one of those singularly intriguing type of people that occasionally deigns to walk amongst us on this planet. I'll try not to repeat what others have already said about this book. It is definitely the type of thing to read a bit of, set down, & then come back to again. Short brief bits of info. about the books on the list ar ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- Was very excited to receive this. Anything that informed Bowie's mind I'm interested in, b/c he was just one of those singularly intriguing type of people that occasionally deigns to walk amongst us on this planet. I'll try not to repeat what others have already said about this book. It is definitely the type of thing to read a bit of, set down, & then come back to again. Short brief bits of info. about the books on the list are provided, which I used to suss them out as possibilities for my "want to read" list. Some books unfortunately had too little information, & there doesn't seem to be any reason for the unevenness of the content. The song suggestions at the end of each section I found slightly annoying, although I can't say exactly why. Take them or leave them, they're only a sentence each, after all. Other readers seem to to appreciate them. My only real true complaint, however, is that the author inserts himself way too much into this. It's sold as an overview of the books on the book list Bowie provided for the gallery shows that occurred not long before his death. Technically, this is not a falsehood. Certainly though, this book is not sold on the author's re-telling of his ideas about Bowie, his Bowie encounter, or things (including books) he things Bowie would have liked. I couldn't be less interested in your thoughts, guy. I certainly don't appreciate your attempts to scatter them throughout my ingestion of material re: Bowie's influential life reads. That's not cool, man. Short review: recommend for reading-types w/ an appreciation for the art that is/was Bowie.

  24. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life from John O'Connell is a wonderful book on several levels. For Bowie fans this takes Bowie's list of the 100 most influential (not necessarily favorite) books on his life and offers some contextualization with Bowie's life. There is certainly some educated guesses about exactly what each book may have meant or how it influenced his music, but for the most part the explanations make sense. Of course, without knowing from Bowie hi Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life from John O'Connell is a wonderful book on several levels. For Bowie fans this takes Bowie's list of the 100 most influential (not necessarily favorite) books on his life and offers some contextualization with Bowie's life. There is certainly some educated guesses about exactly what each book may have meant or how it influenced his music, but for the most part the explanations make sense. Of course, without knowing from Bowie himself, it is mostly conjecture. But even that is fun and enlightening. If Bowie put a work on this list it likely has some trace in his artistic output and O'Connell makes a good faith effort to tease out the possibilities. For ravenous readers or lit majors, the list is interesting in and of itself. The books are not limited in either topic or complexity. Most readers will likely have read no more than half of these books. I read quite a bit and have for almost 60 years and I have only read 32 of them. Some of these I still have no desire to read but the fact Bowie thought so highly of these has convinced me to read a number of the ones I haven't. O'Connell doesn't so much give a synopsis of each book, I doubt he has read all of them himself, but he does offer enough about each book to make the connection to Bowie's work. As such, there aren't major spoilers but there are also no in depth analyses either. Which is probably for the best. For people who fall into both categories this book offers a glimpse into what helped to make Bowie into who he was and enough background on the books to couple with your own knowledge to make, perhaps, additional connections. Everyone finds different ways into the music they like, so while O'Connell certainly offers interesting avenues into the music through these books you may well find more. Or at least ways that speak more specifically to how you understand the music. This is not, and does not pretend to be, a definitive analysis of all connections between the books and the music. It does, however, offer a great first step or two, from which we can find our own paths forward. I think there is enough here to make this a good read for not only the readers I mention above but even the casual readers who likes either literary lists and/or the interplay between different art forms and how they influence each other. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I loved the premise of O'Connell's book: taking a good look into a man's head and heart through the books he values. I find that I kind of unconsciously keep a ledger of my friends' inner-self by noting their reading choices and their reaction to books we have shared, so I was curious as to how the author would approach his subject and his "top 100." The author was clear that these were books that were important to Bowie (one way or another), but not necessarily his favorite books. I would also l I loved the premise of O'Connell's book: taking a good look into a man's head and heart through the books he values. I find that I kind of unconsciously keep a ledger of my friends' inner-self by noting their reading choices and their reaction to books we have shared, so I was curious as to how the author would approach his subject and his "top 100." The author was clear that these were books that were important to Bowie (one way or another), but not necessarily his favorite books. I would also like to see the list of favorite books. I chose to read BOWIE's BOOKSHELF not because I am a fan of Bowie's music or acting, but more out of curiosity to learn more about a man who would consciously compile and punish such a list. That in itself is thought-provoking. I enjoyed this book, but found it less thought-provoking than its premise. I think my quibble is that by covering one hundred books, the author almost surely imposed on himself the necessity of composing a "Cliff's Notes" version of the list, rather than a dozen serious essays on a selection of Bowie's books. To me, it came across as less than the subject demanded, but I still found myself engaged in it. Perhaps the best way to approach the book (for me) would be to keep it bedside (or chair side) and read one or two "chapters" at a time .

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    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 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. This review was originally posted on my blog https://rathertoofondofbooks.com

  27. 4 out of 5

    Finn Longman

    Disclaimer: I know, like, basically nothing about Bowie except that he was also from South-East London. I had a friend at uni who was obsessed with him (to whom I recommended this book), but my own knowledge is virtually non-existent. I still really enjoyed, this, though, just as someone who likes books! It was such a massively diverse collection of literature and it's going to help me put together a really interesting display for the library where I work (which is why I was reading it in the fi Disclaimer: I know, like, basically nothing about Bowie except that he was also from South-East London. I had a friend at uni who was obsessed with him (to whom I recommended this book), but my own knowledge is virtually non-existent. I still really enjoyed, this, though, just as someone who likes books! It was such a massively diverse collection of literature and it's going to help me put together a really interesting display for the library where I work (which is why I was reading it in the first place).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Although some of the links between book and Bowie's art are tenuous, this is still a great Bowie-centric read, and turned me on to several books I want to add to my to-read list. Could have been drier, but O'Connell is always entertaining, even when I suspect (I mean, c'mon do ya really think) that he didn't read all 100 books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Megsbookclub

    This is an interesting book full of books! Bowie was such a creative person and you can see that in all the ways he surrounded himself with new information. I really like anything about him.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

    In the years before Bowie died, he put together a list of the hundred books that impacted his life. The list is extremely interesting and O'Connell takes this list and applies it to different facets of the musician's life. I can't say that I will read many of these books, which range for art to large nonfiction tomes about fascism but it does provide a remarkable look at the reading life of a generational icon. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest rev In the years before Bowie died, he put together a list of the hundred books that impacted his life. The list is extremely interesting and O'Connell takes this list and applies it to different facets of the musician's life. I can't say that I will read many of these books, which range for art to large nonfiction tomes about fascism but it does provide a remarkable look at the reading life of a generational icon. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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