Bowie's Bookshelf

The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life


About The Book

Named one of Entertainment Weekly’s 12 biggest music memoirs this fall. “An artful and wildly enthralling path for Bowie fans in particular and book lovers in general.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” ―David Bowie

Three years before David Bowie died, he shared a list of 100 books that changed his life. His choices span fiction and nonfiction, literary and irreverent, and include timeless classics alongside eyebrow-raising obscurities.

In 100 short essays, music journalist John O’Connell studies each book on Bowie’s list and contextualizes it in the artist’s life and work. How did the power imbued in a single suit of armor in The Iliad impact a man who loved costumes, shifting identity, and the siren song of the alter-ego? How did The Gnostic Gospels inform Bowie’s own hazy personal cosmology? How did the poems of T.S. Eliot and Frank O’Hara, the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess, the comics of The Beano and The Viz, and the groundbreaking politics of James Baldwin influence Bowie’s lyrics, his sound, his artistic outlook? How did the 100 books on this list influence one of the most influential artists of a generation?

Heartfelt, analytical, and totally original, Bowie’s Bookshelf is one part epic reading guide and one part biography of a music legend.

About The Author

John O’Connell is a former Senior Editor at Time Out and music columnist for The Face. He is now freelance writing mainly for The Times and The Guardian. He interviewed David Bowie in New York in 2002. He lives in south London.


Why We Love It

“A new way of looking at the music legend…In 100 mini-essays, music journalist John O’Connell explores each book on Bowie’s list—how did these books influence Bowie’s lyrics, his sound, his artistic outlook? How did they shape his life? Perfect for any creative or curious person who believes that art can change your life.” —Rebecca S., Assistant Editor, on Bowie’s Bookshelf

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (November 12, 2019)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982112547

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Raves and Reviews

“Former Time Out editor O’Connell does an outstanding job … An artful and wildly enthralling path for Bowie fans in particular and book lovers in general.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“You can only truly know a pop star through his bookshelf. John O'Connell's brilliant, gossipy book gives you a whole new secret David Bowie: the reader. This is the unwritten Bowie book that needed writing.”
—Caitlin Moran, bestselling author of How to Be a Woman

“Okay, so not technically a memoir. But O’Connell works off and analyzes material that Bowie himself provided late in his life: the 100 books that changed his life.”
Entertainment Weekly“Biggest Music Memoirs Being Published this Fall” round-up

“O’Connell’s diligently documented book on the literary influences on David Bowie is a fantastic voyage… His introduction is informative and crucial in framing Bowie’s library; it’s also very entertaining… An exciting book.”

“O'Connell, a veteran music journalist, gamely delivers brief essays on each title, with context on what influence Bowie might have drawn from them… There are a few surprising anecdotes—e.g., Alberto Denti di Pirajno's obscure 1956 memoir, A Grave for a Dolphin directly inspired Bowie's classic song 'Heroes'… O'Connell's approach does underscore the range and playfulness in Bowie's reading, from hefty tomes on the Russian Revolution to laddish comic books like The Beano … Enlightening.”

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