John O’Connell – Bowie’s Bookshelf

Music Books David Bowie – Top Twenty Music Books

To coincide with his remarkable retrospective at the V&A in 2013, voracious reader David Bowie released a fascinating list of 100 books that he regarded as the “most important and influential” to him as an artist (as opposed to a catalogue of his personal favourites). Subtitled The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life, experienced writer John O’Connell has cleverly run with this list and turned it into a highly entertaining, witty and informative book.

One of Bowie’s strengths as a serious performing artist was that he always had a sharp repurposer’s eye for a good idea/concept, which means the works on his list are made all the more tangible when attempting to relate them back to his art (whether that’s directly or indirectly).

O’Connell dedicates a short, incisive essay on each book on Bowie’s list that not only links them to the great man, but also places them in a wider cultural context. The list provided evidence of Bowie’s restless intelligence and revealed him as a man equally comfortable with both high (Homer, Dante, Camus) and low (Viz, The Beano) culture, which is an absolute godsend to O’Connell, allowing him to add the required amount of light and shade.


Gary Tipp