Bowie’s Books – The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life
‘Brilliant. The unwritten Bowie book that needed writing’Caitlin Moran
‘What is your idea of perfect happiness?’
‘What is the quality you most like in a man?’
‘The ability to return books.’
Bowie’s Books. Three years before he died, David Bowie made a list of the one hundred books that had transformed his life – a list that formed something akin to an autobiography. From Madame Bovary to A Clockwork Orange, the Iliad to the Beano, these were the publications that had fuelled his creativity and shaped who he was.
In Bowie’s Books, John O’Connell explores this list in the form of one hundred short essays, each offering a perspective on the man, performer and creator that is Bowie, his work as an artist and the era that he lived in.
Bowie’s Books is much more than a list of books you should read in your lifetime: it is a unique insight into one of the greatest minds of our times, and an indispensable part of the legacy that Bowie left behind.
Duffy’s Thoughts on Bowie’s Books
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
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
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!
Pre-Order now from Booktopia and ensure you get Bowie’s Books in time for Christmas.