The Bowie Effect: Discovering New Books Through a Music Legend
"Don't you love the Oxford Dictionary?" David Bowie once mused. "When I first read it, I thought it was a really, really long poem about everything."
Bowie, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was always hungry—for art, for knowledge, for music, for being "something more than human." He achieved near-mythical status over the course of his career as a musician, actor, and cultural icon. He was also a bookworm. In 2013, he shared his 100 must-read books with his fans, showcasing his unsurprisingly eclectic reading taste. Modern classics like A Clockwork Orange and The Great Gatsby made the cut, but so did more obscure tales like Infants of the Spring and A Grave for a Dolphin.
In the wake of Bowie's death, the list has gained new life, with fellow book lovers embracing it as a way to connect and to pay tribute. In fact, you can see the effect right here on Goodreads.
The above chart shows the number of users who have recently added, rated, and reviewed The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima, one of the books on Bowie's list. (This information is available for all books on Goodreads. You can find it by clicking the "Stats" link in the top right corner of any book page.) The spike of readers adding the book occurred the day after Bowie died.
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard, a lush historical fiction novel about the decline of a decadent Sicilian aristocracy, experienced a similar spike on the same day.
Unlike The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea and The Leopard, Vile Bodies is not its author's most well-known work. Evelyn Waugh's 1930 witty society tale is usually overshadowed by Brideshead Revisited and A Handful of Dust. But thanks to an endorsement from Bowie, Vile Bodies received more adds that day than any other Waugh book.
Meanwhile, some books on Bowie's list (like David Kidd's All the Emperor's Horses) had almost nonexistent shelving activity leading into January. The spike here, though small, represents a group of passionate readers who discovered something new, all because of Bowie.
Check out the full list of books—and add them to your Want to Read shelf here: David Bowie's Top 100 Must-Read Books.
(Top image credit: David Bowie's READ poster for the American Libraries)
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