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Special Feature: How to Read Like Bowie - David Bowie's Top 100 Books


David Bowie Is, the newest exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, is an essential destination for fans of music, fashion and pop culture.

But book lovers should pay attention too; the curators of the exhibit, who had to select a mere 300 items from Bowie's personal archive of over 70,000, felt it was important to include many books that have affected the cultural chameleon.


Curator Geoffrey Marsh describes Bowie as "a voracious reader" who is reputed to read as much as "a book a day". Marsh went on to speak about Bowie's interest in the life of the mind and its power to transcend the rigid class barriers of postwar England, the era where Bowie honed the early versions of his musical and cultural persona.

Best of all, curators Marsh and Victoria Broackes have released a list of Bowie's favourite reads. So if you've ever wanted to read like one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century (and still going strong in the 21st!), check out this list of excellent books. The list shows an amazing depth and breadth of interest, taste and genre from the icon, who has himself been the subject of more than 60 books. There was never any doubt that Bowie is a genius, but if there had been, this list should more than quiet any critics.


So grab one of these titles and settle in to read — and just think, somewhere, at some point, David Bowie (or, to be more accurate, the man behind David Bowie, David Jones) was doing the exact same thing.

And one last fun Bowie fact? The curators had to make custom mannequins for Bowie's costumes from recorded measurements, due to Bowie's 26.5 inch waist.

David Bowie Is runs at the AGO from September 25-November 27, 2013. The exhibit originated in a record-breaking run at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

David Bowie's Top 100 Must Read Books:

The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 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, 1948

The Street, Ann Petry, 1946

Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945

The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, 1944

The Outsider, Albert Camus, 1942

The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West, 1939

The Beano, (comic) 1938 –

The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell, 1937

Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood, 1935

English Journey, J.B. Priestley, 1934

Infants of the Spring, Wallace Thurman, 1932

The Bridge, Hart Crane, 1930

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh, 1930

As I lay Dying, William Faulkner, 1930

The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos, 1930

Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin, 1929

Passing, Nella Larsen, 1929

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence, 1928

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot, 1922

BLAST, ed. Wyndham Lewis, 1914-15

McTeague, Frank Norris, 1899

Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual, Eliphas Lévi, 1896

Les Chants de Maldoror, Lautréamont, 1869

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1856

Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842

Inferno, from the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, about 1308-1321

The Iliad, Homer, about 800 BC