Let’s Dance: the David Bowie Book Club List!

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.”
— David Bowie

When David Bowie arrived on the set of  his 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth, he arrived with a trailer full of books. Nicholas Roeg joked with him about it, saying, “The problem with you David is you don’t read enough.” Throughout his life Bowie was an avid reader, and many of his songs and albums have literary references. Diamond Dogs originally started life as a musical version of George Orwell’s 1984, while he famously used William Burroughs’ cut out techniques on several of his most famous songs.

In 2013, Bowie posted his 100 favourite books on his public Facebook page. You can view the full list here, or check out some examples below. Enjoy!

Overdrive cover David Bowie, by Dylan Jones (eBook) (print)
“Drawn from a series of conversations between David Bowie and Dylan Jones across three decades, together with over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators–some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie–this oral history is an intimate portrait of a remarkable rise to stardom and one of the most fascinating lives of our time.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

 

Overdrive cover The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov (ebook)
“Afterwards, when it was frankly too late, descriptions were issued of the man: expensive grey suit, grey beret, one green eye and the other black. Only the Master, a man devoted to truth, and Margarita, the woman he loves, can resist the devil’s onslaught. Brilliant and blackly comic, The Master and Margarita was repressed by Stalin’s authorities and only published after the author’s death.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

 

Overdrive cover A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess (eAudiobook)
“A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of Anthony Burgess’s novel which became a controversial film in the 1970s. In a nightmare world of the near future, packs of teenagers run wild, beyond the control of their families or the police. Alex is a gang-leader, addicted to drug-fuelled assault, torture and rape.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

 

Overdrive cover 1984, by George Orwell (ebook) (print)
“It is 1984. The world is in a state of perpetual war and Big Brother sees and controls all. Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party and propaganda-writer at the Ministry of Truth, is keeping a journal he should not be keeping and falling in love with Julia, a woman he should not be seeing. Outwardly compliant, Winston dreams of rebellion against the oppressive Big Brother, risking everything to recover his lost sense of individuality and control of his own future.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark (ebook)
“Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher unlike any other; a romantic, with progressive, sometimes shocking ideas and aspirations for the girls in her charge. At the Marcia Blaine Academy she takes a select group of girls under her wing. But as the girls enter their teenage years and they become increasingly drawn in by Miss Brodie’s personal life, her ambitions for them take a startling and dark turn with devastating consequences.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

 

Overdrive cover On the Road, by Jack Kerouac (Audiobook)
On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady. As ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Dean Moriarty,’ the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

 

Overdrive cover The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (ebook)
“Everybody who is anybody is seen at Jay Gatsby’s glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby–young, handsome, fabulously rich–always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon (ebook)
“Grady Tripp is an over-sexed, pot-bellied, pot-smoking, ageing wunderkind of a novelist now teaching creative writing at a Pittsburgh college while working on his 2,000-page masterpiece, ‘Wonder Boys’. When his rumbustious editor and friend, Terry Crabtree, arrives in town, a chaotic weekend follows–involving a tuba, a dead dog, Marilyn Monroe’s jacket and a squashed boa constrictor. A novel of elegant imagination, bold humour and undeniable warmth.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Overdrive cover Nights At the Circus, by Angela Carter (eBook)
“Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe’s capitals, part swan…or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She is also part woman, part swan…” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

New Books on Popular Music

New books on popular music offer fascinating memoirs including Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun records, and Sylvia Patterson, who has interviewed rock stars over the past three decades. Also check out the intriguing studies of jazz in 30-second Jazz.

Syndetics book coverIn love with these times : my life with Flying Nun Records / Roger Shepherd.
“A personal memoir by the founder of the Flying Nun record label based originally in Christchurch, describing the development of the label and the artists and bands associated with it.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverPorcelain : a memoir / Moby.
“In 1989, while hoping to make it as a DJ in New York, Moby squatted in an abandoned factory in Connecticut. In 1991, he had a surprise hit record, Go, in the U.K. Moby lovingly recreates a dystopian Manhattan dominated by AIDS, drugs, and gang violence and vividly describes the rave scene with its glow sticks, Vicks VapoRub, and smiley faces, not to mention the Ecstasy, ketamine, and heroin. The nineties conclude with Moby, a bald, has-been musician, dating strippers, missing his mother’s funeral, and having sex on a dance floor surrounded by drag queens dressed as Stevie Nicks. This engrossing memoir is an often unflattering, self-loathing peek at the period before Moby’s breakthrough album, Play, launched him into superstardom.” (adapted from Booklist)

Syndetics book coverI’m not with the band : a writer’s life lost in music / Sylvia Patterson.
“This is a three-decade survivor’s tale …a scenic search for elusive human happiness through music, magazines, silly jokes, stupid shoes, useless blokes, hopeless homes, booze, drugs, love, loss, A&E, death, disillusion and hope – while trying to make Prince laugh, startle Beyonce, cheer Eminem up, annoy Madonna, drink with Shaun Ryder and finish off Westlife forever (with varying degrees of success). From the 80s to the present day, I’m Not with the Band is a funny, barmy, utterly gripping chronicle of the last thirty years in music and beyond. It is also the story of one woman’s wayward search for love, peace and a wonderful life. And whether, or not, she found them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPaul McCartney : the biography / Philip Norman.
“The first biography written with McCartney’s approval and with access to family members and friends closest to him. Covers Paul McCartney’s life from his boyhood and the death of his mother – the formation of the Beatles – the creative relationship between Paul and John Lennon resulting in so many of their hit songs – the Band’s success and the resulting fame – the breakup of the Beatles and it’s impact on Paul and his relationship with the other three Beatles – Linda and the formation of Wings – his life with Linda and his family – Linda’s death – through to his romance with Heather Mills and their well publicised divorce.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Cavern club : rise of the Beatles and Merseybeat / Spencer Leigh ; foreword by Paul McCartney.
“The Cavern saw the birth of the Beatles and Merseybeat, and more. Respected author, music journalist and Merseybeat historian Spencer Leigh tells the Cavern’s history by talking to the owners, hundreds of musicians who played at the club, the backroom staff and fans. Spenser paints a vivid picture of the Cavern from its days as a jazz club through the Beatles years to the present.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverYour favorite band is killing me : what pop music rivalries reveal about the meaning of life / Steven Hyden.
“For those who have argued late into the night with their friends about why one band is better than another, this title will grab them from the minute music critic Hyden starts with Oasis vs. Blur. He covers 19 rivalries going all the way back to the obvious Beatles/Rolling Stones, but the majority of the chapters examine bands that have been prominent during the past quarter century. The author uses the rivalries as a jumping-off point to talk about not only the musicians, but also the meaning of the conflicts, skillfully applying the arguments to a discussion of his own experience. This is a wide-ranging, hilarious, and smart look at both expected and surprising matches mixed with autobiography.” (adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book cover30-second jazz : the 50 crucial concepts, styles and performers, each explained in half a minute / editor, Dave Gelly ; contibutors, Charles Alexander, Kevin LeGendre, Chirs Parker, Brian Priestly, Tony Russell ; illustrator, Steve Rawlings.
“Jazz can be difficult for the novice, but 30-Second Jazz proves the ideal companion for the newcomer to the subject, taking readers from the African-American roots of jazz all the way to today’s global mix of musicians and styles. Along the way, it looks at the shape, style and instruments of jazz, at key personalities and recordings in the jazz canon – and at what might be expected next from this most diverse and lively of musical forms.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHow to listen to jazz / Ted Gioia.
“Pianist, author (The History of Jazz; The Jazz Standards), music columnist (The Daily Beast), and educator (formerly music, Stanford Univ.) Gioia has written a concise guide to jazz appreciation. Unlike some books of this type, the focus of this work is on relatively easy-to-discern distinctions between the jazz styles and leading performers. The author provides minimal biographical information on the musicians, preferring to concentrate on the music than on the personal details of his subjects’ lives. The result is a fresh, clearly written, and infinitely usable book that should put the jazz novice on track.” (adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverKill ’em and leave : searching for James Brown and the American soul / James McBride.
“McBride, mainly known for his bestselling 1995 memoir, The Color of Water, returns to nonfiction with an investigation into the life, times, and death of James Brown, the “hardest-working man in show business.” Though the soul singer’s musical legacy is ingrained in the collective American unconscious, many details about Brown’s personal life and the lives he touched along the way remain obscure. McBride reveals them while seeking to correct misconceptions perpetuated by the recent film Get On Up. The power of McBride’s subject matter shines through in this solid work of journalism.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverNever a dull moment : 1971, the year that rock exploded / David Hepworth.
“David Hepworth, an ardent music fan and well regarded critic, was twenty-one in ’71, the same age as many of the legendary artists who arrived on the scene. Taking us on a tour of the major moments, the events and songs of this remarkable year, he shows how musicians came together to form the perfect storm of rock and roll greatness, starting a musical era that would last longer than anyone predicted. Those who joined bands to escape things that lasted found themselves in a new age, its colossal start being part of the genre’s staying power.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGetcha rocks off : sex & excess, bust-ups & binges, life & death on the rock ‘n’ roll road / Mick Wall.
“Hanging out with rock stars, trying to steal their chicks, or throwing up over their guitars after launching into the hospitality a little too enthusiastically, Mick Wall spent much of the 1980s sprawled in limos and five-star hotels with the biggest rock bands in the world, including Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Motorhead and more. It is the kind of book you need to put on your leather jacket to read, open that bottle of Jack and reach for the Charlie. And let the good times roll …” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sun & the moon & the Rolling Stones / Rich Cohen.
“For Cohen, a cocreator of the HBO series Vinyl, contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, and author (Tough Jews; The Fish That Ate the Whale), the Rolling Stones have been a profound influence. The author worshipped the band in his youth, met and wrote about them as a journalist, and formed relationships with group members many fans would covet. Here Cohen interweaves his personal experiences with a history of the Stones. This group biography offers glimpses into the band’s development-playing in small blues clubs, breaking big in England and the rest of the world, etc.” (adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverLife on tour with Bowie : a genius remembered / Sean Mayes.
“”When David sat down later, he tucked one leg up under him and I noticed that the sole of his shoe was as clean as the day he’d bought it. OK, maybe the shoes were new, but it struck me that he hardly ever sets foot in the street. It’s all hotel, limousines, sterilized airports – the life I was about to lead. I shivered, feeling poised at the top of a rollercoaster about to sweep across the world.” In 1978, Sean Mayes toured the world with David Bowie. Travelling first class and performing each night with one of the world’s greatest rock stars at the height of his fame was an amazing experience – fortunately, Sean had the foresight to document it. Here, for the first time in complete book form, Sean’s tour diary is presented.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe age of Bowie : how David Bowie made a world of difference / Paul Morley.
“Respected arts commentator and author Paul Morley, an artistic adviser to the curators of the highly successful retrospective exhibition ‘David Bowie is’ for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, constructs a definitive story of Bowie that explores how he worked, played, aged, structured his ideas, influenced others, invented the future, and entered history as someone who could and would never be forgotten. Morley captures the greatest moments from across Bowie’s life and career and offers a startling biographical critique of David Bowie’s legacy.” (adapted from dust jacket)