Books

10.03.13

Why David Bowie’s Top 100 Books List Had Only 75 Books

A list of Ziggy Stardust’s 100 favorite books was released last week, but readers were wondering to themselves: is it just me, or are there only 75 books on the list? It’s not just you, and we have the complete list here.

When a list of David Bowie’s “Top 100 Must Read Books” was released last week, many people were stunned that the prolific musician could find time to be such a prodigious reader. Outlets like The Guardian, The London Evening Standard, and Time reported Bowie’s eclectic and, frankly, rather excellent taste, and the A.V. Club announced that “David Bowie has once again shown that he's not only far richer, sexier, and more fabulous than you, but probably smarter.”

But glance at the list, and you might observe that Bowie only considers the modern classics to be must-reads: the lists go from the present day back to only 1945, with Richard Wright’s Black Boy. Where are the oldies and goodies, Ziggy Stardust?

Well, a simple arithmetic count of the “top 100” reveals that there were only 75 books!

This calls for a bit of an explanation. The list was announced to coincide with the successful David Bowie Is exhibit moving from the V&A Museum in London to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The show displays more than 300 items from Bowie’s personal archive of clothing, photographs, set designs, and stage costumes. Speaking to Open Book Toronto before the opening, Geoffrey Marsh, the exhibit’s co-curator, mentioned that Bowie was a “voracious reader” who’s known to read as much as a book a day. He released a list of Bowie’s top 100 books to Open Book Toronto, arranged in chronological order from the most recent to the oldest classics. But the site likely missed the last 25 titles when it posted the list, and other publications simply reposted the supposed “100” without counting first. It seems that Open Book Toronto has now included the entire entry. The complete list, posted on Bowie’s official Facebook page, is below, and includes previously-omitted tomes like The Iliad and Dante’s Inferno, as well as novels by Flaubert, D.H. Lawrence, and Evelyn Waugh. (Art Garfunkel, of Simon and Garfunkel fame, has done Bowie one better, and posted every book he’s read since 1968—all 1,181 of them.)

  1. The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 2007
  3. The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007
  4. Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007
  5. Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002
  6. The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001
  7. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997
  8. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997
  9. The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996
  10. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995
  11. The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994
  12. Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993
  13. Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C. Danto, 1992
  14. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990
  15. David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988
  16. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986
  17. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986
  18. Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985
  19. Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984
  20. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984
  21. Money, Martin Amis, 1984
  22. White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984
  23. Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984
  24. The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984
  25. A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980
  26. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
  27. Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980
  28. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980
  29. Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980
  30. Raw (a “graphix magazine”) 1980–91
  31. Viz (magazine) 1979-
  32. The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979
  33. Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978
  34. In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978
  35. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977
  36. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976
  37. Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders, 1975
  38. Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975
  39. Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974
  40. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich, 1972
  41. In Bluebeard’s Castle : Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner, 1971
  42. Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971
  43. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970
  44. The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968
  45. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968
  46. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967
  47. Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967
  48. Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr., 1966
  49. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965
  50. City of Night, John Rechy, 1965
  51. Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964
  52. Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963
  53. The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963
  54. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963
  55. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963
  56. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962
  57. Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962
  58. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
  59. Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –
  60. On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding, 1961
  61. Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961
  62. Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961
  63. The Divided Self, R.D. Laing, 1960
  64. All the Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd,1960
  65. Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959
  66. The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958
  67. On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
  68. The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957
  69. Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957
  70. A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956
  71. The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956
  72. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  73. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949
  74. The Street, Ann Petry, 1946
  75. Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945
  76. The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, 1944
  77. The Outsider, Albert Camus, 1942
  78. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West, 1939
  79. The Beano, (comic) 1938 –
  80. The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell, 1937
  81. Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood, 1935
  82. English Journey, J.B. Priestley, 1934
  83. Infants of the Spring, Wallace Thurman, 1932
  84. The Bridge, Hart Crane, 1930
  85. Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh, 1930
  86. As I lay Dying, William Faulkner, 1930
  87. The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos, 1930
  88. Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin, 1929
  89. Passing, Nella Larsen, 1929
  90. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence, 1928
  91. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
  92. The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot, 1922
  93. BLAST, ed. Wyndham Lewis, 1914–15
  94. McTeague, Frank Norris, 1899
  95. Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual, Eliphas Lévi, 1896
  96. Les Chants de Maldoror, Lautréamont, 1869
  97. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, 1856
  98. Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842
  99. Inferno, from the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, about 1308–21
  100. The Iliad, Homer, about 800 B.C.