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David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books Offer a Peek Inside the Artist’s Mind

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David Bowie will always be remembered as a seminal figure in the worlds of music, fashion, and film, and as a legendary pop culture icon. But he was also a voracious reader who often read a book a day.

In 2013, as part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s “David Bowie Is” exhibition, curators Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes compiled a list of David Bowie's 100 favorite books, which ranges from innovative works like Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz to classics like Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary to contemporary novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, plus several music history titles.

Below is a complete list of Bowie’s favorite 100 books. How many have you read?

Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

Room At The Top by John Braine

On Having No Head by Douglass Harding

Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

City Of Night by John Rechy

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Iliad by Homer

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo

Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell

Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall

David Bomberg by Richard Cork

Blast by Wyndham Lewis

Passing by Nella Larsen

Beyond The Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective by Arthur C. Danto

The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

The Divided SelfAn Existential Study in Sanity and Madness by R. D. Laing

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman

The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter

The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Puckoon by Spike Milligan

Black Boy by Richard Wright

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima

Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler

The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

McTeague by Frank Norris

Money by Martin Amis

The Outsider by Colin Wilson

Strange People by Frank Edwards

English Journey by J.B. Priestley

A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West

1984 by George Orwell

The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn

Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music by Greil Marcus

Beano (comic, ’50s)

Raw (comic, ’80s)

White Noise by Don DeLillo

Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick

Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage

Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley

The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillett

Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Petr Sadecky

The Street by Ann Petry

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.

A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn

The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby

Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz

The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard

The Bridge by Hart Crane

All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos

Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Sanders

The Bird Artist by Howard Norman

Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey

Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich

Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia

The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

Teenage by Jon Savage

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Viz (comic magazine, early ’80s)

Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)

Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara

The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens

Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

Le Chants de Maldordor by Comte de Lautréamont

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Transcendental Magic: Its Doctine and Ritual by Éliphas Lévi

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Inferno by Dante Alighieri

A Grave for a Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno

The Insult by Rupert Thomson

In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924 by Orlando Figes

Journey Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

[h/t Mashable]

 

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10 Facts About Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
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October 16 is World Dictionary Day, which each year celebrates the birthday of the American lexicographer Noah Webster, who was born in Connecticut in 1758. Last year, Mental Floss marked the occasion with a list of facts about Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—the enormous two-volume dictionary, published in 1828 when Webster was 70 years old, that established many of the differences that still divide American and British English to this day. But while Webster was America’s foremost lexicographer, on the other side of the Atlantic, Great Britain had Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Johnson—whose 308th birthday was marked with a Google Doodle in September—published the equally groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, three years before Webster was even born. Its influence was arguably just as great as that of Webster’s, and it remained the foremost dictionary of British English until the early 1900s when the very first installments of the Oxford English Dictionary began to appear.

So to mark this year’s Dictionary Day, here are 10 facts about Johnson’s monumental dictionary.

1. IT WASN’T THE FIRST DICTIONARY.

With more than 40,000 entries, Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was certainly the largest dictionary in the history of the English language at the time but, despite popular opinion, it wasn’t the first. Early vocabularies and glossaries were being compiled as far back as the Old English period, when lists of words and their equivalents in languages like Latin and French first began to be used by scribes and translators. These were followed by educational word lists and then early bilingual dictionaries that began to emerge in the 16th century, which all paved the way for what is now considered the very first English dictionary: Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—in 1604.

2. SAMUEL JOHNSON BORROWED FROM THE DICTIONARIES THAT CAME BEFORE HIS.

In compiling his dictionary, Johnson drew on Nathan Bailey’s Dictionarium Britanicum, which had been published in 1730. (Ironically, a sequel to Bailey’s dictionary, A New Universal Etymological English Dictionary, was published in the same year as Johnson’s, and borrowed heavily from his work; its author, Joseph Nicoll Scott, even gave Johnson some credit for its publication.)

But just as Johnson had borrowed from Bailey and Scott had borrowed from Johnson, Bailey, too had borrowed from an earlier work—namely John Kersey’s Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum (1708)—which was based in part on a technical vocabulary, John Harris’s Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. Lexicographic plagiarism was nothing new.

3. THE DICTIONARY WASN’T THE ONLY THING JOHNSON WROTE.

Although he’s best remembered as a lexicographer today, Johnson was actually something of a literary multitasker. As a journalist, he wrote for an early periodical called The Gentlemen’s Magazine. As a biographer, he wrote the Life of Mr Richard Savage (1744), a memoir of a friend and fellow writer who had died the previous year. Johnson also wrote numerous poems (London, published anonymously in 1738, was his first major published work), a novel (Rasselas, 1759), a stage play (Irene, 1749), and countless essays and critiques. He also co-edited an edition of Shakespeare’s plays. And in between all of that, he even found time to investigate a supposed haunted house in central London.

4. IT WAS THE FIRST DICTIONARY TO USE QUOTATIONS.

Johnson’s dictionary defined some 42,773 words, each of which was given a uniquely scholarly definition, complete with a suggested etymology and an armory of literary quotations—no fewer than 114,000 of them, in fact.

Johnson lifted quotations from books dating back to the 16th century for the citations in his dictionary, and relied heavily on the works of authors he admired and who were popular at the time—Shakespeare, John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Edmund Spenser included. In doing so, he established a lexicographic trend that still survives in dictionaries to this day.

5. IT TOOK MORE THAN EIGHT YEARS TO WRITE.

Defining 42,000 words and finding 114,000 quotes to help you do so takes time: Working from his home off Fleet Street in central London, Johnson and six assistants worked solidly for over eight years to bring his dictionary to print. (Webster, on the other hand, worked all but single-handedly, and used the 22 years it took him to compile his American Dictionary to learn 26 different languages.)

6. JOHNSON WAS WELL PAID FOR HIS TROUBLES.

Johnson was commissioned to write his dictionary by a group of London publishers, who paid him a princely 1,500 guineas—equivalent to roughly $300,000 (£225,000) today.

7. HE LEFT OUT A LOT OF WORDS.

The dictionary’s 42,000-word vocabulary might sound impressive, but it’s believed that the English language probably had as many as five times that many words around the time the dictionary was published in 1755. A lot of that shortfall was simply due to oversight: Johnson included the word irritable in four of his definitions, for instance, but didn’t list it as a headword in his own dictionary. He also failed to include a great many words found in the works of the authors he so admired, and in several of the source dictionaries he utilized, and in some cases he even failed to include the root forms of words whose derivatives were listed elsewhere in the dictionary. Athlete, for instance, didn’t make the final cut, whereas athletic did.

Johnson’s imposition of his own tastes and interests on his dictionary didn't help matters either. His dislike of French, for example, led to familiar words like unique, champagne, and bourgeois being omitted, while those he did include were given a thorough dressing down: ruse is defined as “a French word neither elegant nor necessary,” while finesse is dismissed as “an unnecessary word that is creeping into the language."

8. HE LEFT OUT THE LETTER X.

    At the foot of page 2308 of Johnson’s Dictionary is a note merely reading, “X is a letter which, though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language."

    9. HIS DEFINITIONS WEREN’T ALWAYS SO SCHOLARLY.

      As well as imposing his own taste on his dictionary, Johnson also famously employed his own sense of humor on his work. Among the most memorable of all his definitions is his explanation of oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” But he also defined monsieur as “a term of reproach for a Frenchman,” excise as “a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid,” and luggage as “anything of more weight than value.” As an example of how to use the word dull, he explained that “to make dictionaries is dull work.”

      10. HE POKED LOTS OF FUN AT HIS OWN OCCUPATION.

      Listed on page 1195 of his dictionary, Johnson’s definition of lexicographer was “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.”

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      Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

      "This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

      A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

      There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

      The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
      Courtesy Chronicle Books

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