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

RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images

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 Charlotte Brontë
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Bronte: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock

Charlotte Brontë was born in England to an Irish father and Cornish mother on April 21, 1816. And though much of her life was marked by tragedy, she wrote novels and poems that found great success in her lifetime and are still popular nearly 200 years later. But there’s a lot more to Brontë than Jane Eyre.

1. BRONTË WAS JUST 5 YEARS OLD WHEN SHE LOST HER MOTHER.

Maria Branwell Brontë was 38 when she died in 1821 of ovarian cancer (or, it's been suggested, of a post-natal infection), leaving her husband, Patrick Brontë, and their six young children behind. In the years after Maria died, Patrick sent four of his daughters, including Charlotte, to a boarding school for the daughters of clergy members. Brontë later used her bad experiences at this school—it was a harsh, abusive environment—as inspiration for Lowood Institution in Jane Eyre. As an adult, Bronte mentioned her mother (who was also fond of writing) in a letter, saying: "I wish she had lived and that I had known her."

2. BRONTË HAD BEEN WRITING POETRY AND STORIES SINCE HER YOUTH.

Though one of her boarding school report cards described her abilities as "altogether clever for her age, but knows nothing systematically," Brontë was a voracious reader during her childhood and teen years, and she wrote stories and staged plays at home with her siblings. With her brother Branwell, especially, she wrote manuscripts, plays, and stories, drawing on literature, magazines, and the Bible for inspiration. For fun, they created magazines that contained everything a real magazine would have—from the essays, letters, and poems to the ads and notes from the editor.

3. SHE WORKED AS A TEACHER AND GOVERNESS BUT DISLIKED IT.

portrait of Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte Bronte circa 1840.
Portrait by Thompson. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In her late teens and early twenties, Brontë worked on and off as a teacher and governess. In between writing, she taught at a schoolhouse but didn't like the long hours. She also didn't love working as a governess in a family home. Once, in a letter to a friend, she wrote, "I will only ask you to imagine the miseries of a reserved wretch like me, thrown at once into the midst of a large family … having the charge given me of a set of pampered, spoilt, and turbulent children, whom I was expected constantly to amuse as well as instruct." She quickly realized she wasn't a good fit for these caretaking jobs, but she later used her early work experiences as inspiration for passages in Jane Eyre.

4. BRONTË DEALT WITH A LOT OF LITERARY REJECTION.

When she was 20 years old, Brontë sent the English Poet Laureate Robert Southey some of her best poems. He wrote back in 1837, telling her that she obviously had a good deal of talent and a gift with words but that she should give up writing. "Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not yet been called, and when you are you will be less eager for celebrity. You will not seek in imagination for excitement," Southey responded to her. The Professor, Brontë’s first novel, was rejected nine times before it was finally published after her death.

5. SHE USED THE MALE PSEUDONYM CURRER BELL.

English writers Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte.
English writers Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte circa 1834, as painted by their brother.
Painting by Patrick Branwell Bronte. Photo by Rischgitz, Getty Images.

In 1846, Brontë paid to publish a book of poetry containing poems she and her sisters Emily and Anne had written. The three sisters used male pseudonyms—Charlotte was Currer Bell, Emily was Ellis Bell, and Anne was Acton Bell. (The book sold two copies.) Brontë also used the Currer Bell pseudonym when she published Jane Eyre—her publishers didn't know Bell was really a woman until 1848, a year after the book was published!

6. JANE EYRE WAS AN INSTANT SUCCESS.

The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
The first page of the manuscript 'Jane Eyre.'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1847, British publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co published Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. From the start, the book was a success—one critic called it "the best novel of the season"—and people began to speculate about who Currer Bell was. But some reviewers were less impressed, criticizing it for being coarse in content, including one who called it "anti-Christian." Brontë was writing in the Victorian period, after all.

7. BRONTË WAS LUCKY TO AVOID TUBERCULOSIS …

Tuberculosis prematurely killed at least four of Brontë's five siblings, starting with her two oldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth (who weren't even teenagers yet), in 1825. In 1848, Brontë’s only brother, Branwell, died of chronic bronchitis, officially, though tuberculosis has also been a rumored cause, probably aggravated by alcohol and opium. Her sister Emily came down with a severe illness during Branwell's funeral and died of tuberculosis three months later. Then, five months later in May 1849, Charlotte’s final surviving sibling, Anne, also died of tuberculosis after a lengthy battle.

8. … BUT SHE DIED AT 38 YEARS OLD—WHILE PREGNANT.

In June 1854, Brontë married a clergyman named Arthur Bell Nicholls and got pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was far from smooth sailing though—she had acute bouts of nausea and vomiting, leading to her becoming severely dehydrated and malnourished. She and her unborn child died on March 31, 1855. Although we don’t know for sure what killed her, theories include hyperemesis gravidarum, based on her symptoms, or possibly typhus. Her father, Patrick Brontë, survived his wife and all six children.

9. ZEALOUS BRONTË FANS TRAVEL TO HER HOME IN ENGLAND.

Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Charlotte Brontë's writing desk in Haworth.
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

Emily and Anne Brontë wrote famous books, too—Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, respectively. The Brontë sisters's writing has inspired devoted fans from around the world to visit their home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. The Brontë Society’s Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth has a collection of early manuscripts and letters, and the museum invites bookworms to see where the Brontë family lived and wrote, and walk the Yorkshire moors that inspired many of the scenes each sister depicted.

10. SHE HELPED MAKE THE NAME 'SHIRLEY' MORE POPULAR FOR GIRLS.

Thanks to Brontë, the name Shirley is now considered more of a girl's name than a boy's one. In 1849, Brontë's second novel, Shirley, about an independent heiress named Shirley Keeldar, was released. Before then, the name Shirley was unusual, but was most commonly used for boys. (In the novel, the title character was named as such because her parents had wanted a boy.) But after 1849, the name Shirley reportedly started to become popular for women. Decades later in the 1930s, child star Shirley Temple's fame catapulted the name into more popular use.

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From A Game Of Thrones to War and Peace: These are America's 100 Favorite Books
Denis De Marney, Getty Images
Denis De Marney, Getty Images

Die-hard classic literature lovers might quibble over Fifty Shades of Grey being placed on the same list as Jane Eyre, but alas, the people have spoken. Both are among America’s 100 favorite novels, according to a national survey conducted by YouGov.

The list was compiled in support of The Great American Read, an upcoming PBS series about the joys of reading. Set to premiere on May 22, the eight-part series will introduce the "100 best-loved novels" and feature interviews with famous authors, comedians, actors, athletes, and more. A few of the featured guests will include George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Venus Williams, and James Patterson. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao author Junot Díaz, all of whom have books on the list, will also make appearances.

On the day of the series premiere, PBS will launch a round of voting to determine "America’s Best-Loved Novel." Viewers across the country will have the chance to choose their favorite book from the list of 100 and place their vote online, or through Facebook or Twitter using the #GreatReadPBS hashtag. The winner will be announced this fall.

The oldest book on the list is Don Quixote, a classic Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes (1603), while the newest is Ghost (2016), a young adult book by Jason Reynolds. The list includes authors from 15 different countries, and the books span several genres. Many of the novels are staples on high school summer reading lists, including 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scroll down for the full list of America's favorite books, arranged in alphabetical order.

1984
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Game of Thrones
A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Separate Peace
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Alchemist
Alex Cross Mysteries (series)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Americanah
And Then There Were None
Anne of Green Gables
Another Country
Atlas Shrugged
Beloved
Bless Me, Ultima
The Book Thief
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Call of the Wild
Catch-22
The Catcher in the Rye
Charlotte's Web
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Coldest Winter Ever
The Color Purple
The Count of Monte Cristo
Crime and Punishment
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Da Vinci Code
Don Quixote
Doña Barbara
Dune
Fifty Shades of Grey
Flowers in the Attic
Foundation
Frankenstein
Ghost
Gilead
The Giver
The Godfather
Gone Girl
Gone with the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
Gulliver's Travels
The Handmaid's Tale
Harry Potter (series)
Hatchet
Heart of Darkness
The Help
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hunger Games
The Hunt for Red October
The Intuitionist
Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
Jurassic Park
Left Behind
The Little Prince
Little Women
Lonesome Dove
Looking for Alaska
The Lord of the Rings (series)
The Lovely Bones
The Martian
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mind Invaders
Moby Dick
The Notebook
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Outlander
The Outsiders
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Pilgrim's Progress
The Pillars of the Earth
Pride and Prejudice
Ready Player One
Rebecca
The Shack
Siddhartha
The Sirens of Titan
The Stand
The Sun Also Rises
Swan Song
Tales of the City
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Things Fall Apart
This Present Darkness
To Kill a Mockingbird
Twilight
War and Peace
Watchers
The Wheel of Time (series)
Where the Red Fern Grows
White Teeth
Wuthering Heights

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