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Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  44 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Part epic reading guide and part biography of a music legend, Bowie’s Bookshelf is a collection of mini-essays exploring David Bowie’s list of 100 favorite books in the context of the artist’s life and work.

Imagine a beloved friend sharing their favorite books with you—the ones that shaped them, made them who they are, and inspired them to achieve their dreams. Now imagine that friendBowie’s
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Gallery Books
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Diane S ☔
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
I've never been the type of person into hero worship, not if a group, singer nor movie star. There have been groups I've loved, singers I've enjoyed but I wasn't one who screamed and yelled myself horse in an audience. Bowie wasn't a favorite but I liked some of his music, some I didn't. I am guilty if being surprised of what an avid reader he was, couldn't pass up the opportunity to find out what he read. So interesting.

The books are listed one by one, with a description of what the
Andrew Smith
I was a big Bowie fan back in the early seventies, a time when I was in my teens and he was releasing what to me remain his most iconic albums: Hunky Dory & Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. He was fresh, his voice just a little off and his lyrics somewhat strange but always conveying a story. I wasn’t quite so enamoured with the albums that followed but in 1983 he released Let’s Dance in which a re-invented Bowie produced a collection of tracks that everyone I knew loved and played to death. And ...more
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

2016 was a horrible year. It started with the death of Bowie and ended with the death of Carrie Fisher. And let’s not talk about the election okay?

If one knew anything about David Bowie, other than his music and Iman, one knew that he loved to read. There was a list of 100 books that influenced Bowie that was released before his death in conjunction with a show of his costumes at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario
Sid Nuncius
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting idea which is done well. John O’Connell has taken the list which Bowie made of the 100 books which had most influenced him (but not necessarily his favourite books, as O’Connell firmly points out) and has given a brief description of each book, something of its history and a suggestion of how it came to influence David Bowie.

In general, O’Connell does this very well. There is a lengthy introduction in which he describes Bowie’s almost addictive reading habit an
Alex Sarll
An exegesis of that list Bowie made of the hundred books which influenced him the most, and one which at its best has some lovely and insightful turns of phrase, really bringing out their interconnections. Of Berlin Alexanderplatz's protagonist, say: "Biberkopf is Shakespeare's unaccommodated man, out on an existential limb – the kind of man Bowie flirted with becoming on the heaviest of his heavy nights out. But he could never quite get there. There was always someone around to step in and pull ...more
Crystal King
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When Bowie first shared his list of 100 favorite books, I immediately started to work my way through them. It even inspired me to create and maintain my own list of 100 favorite books. So, of course when I saw this title, I knew I had to read it.

O'Connell thoughtfully dives into the history of Bowie in relation to the choices he made with the books, giving backstory and insight into how they may have shaped certain aspects of his life, or his art. As a Bowie fan I loved reading this unique take
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
In the years before Bowie died, he put together a list of the hundred books that impacted his life. The list is extremely interesting and O'Connell takes this list and applies it to different facets of the musician's life. I can't say that I will read many of these books, which range for art to large nonfiction tomes about fascism but it does provide a remarkable look at the reading life of a generational icon. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest rev ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
I received an ARC of this so thanks to Netgalley and the publisher. I couldn't not pick this up because I love books and I love Bowie. So finding out what books Bowie read and delving into his life and motivation.
Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)
How did David Bowie come into my life and remain a life long love of mine? Well, four key life moments immediately stand out as milestones on my way to Bowie fandom.

Bowie milestone 1.

Both Mum and Dad, but particularly Dad always turned up Bowie when one of his songs came on the radio and I have very early memories of being fascinated by a bunch of vinyl albums my parents had. David Bowie was pretty and colourful, like some magical, ethereal creature on the cover. I was in
J Earl
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life from John O'Connell is a wonderful book on several levels.

For Bowie fans this takes Bowie's list of the 100 most influential (not necessarily favorite) books on his life and offers some contextualization with Bowie's life. There is certainly some educated guesses about exactly what each book may have meant or how it influenced his music, but for the most part the explanations make sense. Of course, without knowing f
Ophelia Sings
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bowie made me. As in, he made the person I am today. A huge claim, possibly melodramatic; but others who were similarly Made By Bowie will get it. I was born the year Ziggy Stardust was released, so I was playing catch up, but that scarcely mattered. I devoured everything Bowie did when I was too young to really understand it, as my friends teenybopped to Wham and Duran Duran. As I grew, Bowie informed the music I listened to (his influences became mine, just as others influenced by him became m ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This a very simple idea, very cleverly executed and I loved it. If you rate David Bowie, or if you love reading about books, or even better both, then this is the book for you. John O'Connell has taken the list of the 100 most influential books released shortly after Bowie's death and weaved them into the story of his life. He ties the books to when it was likely Bowie was reading them, who may have recommended them, how they may have influenced Bowie's writing and the author also explains the b ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
In 2013 there was an exhibition of David Bowie's life which included the list, which he wrote, of the 100 books which influenced his life. John O'Connell has taken this list and added commentary on each of the books in turn to make a very readable book in it's own right.

What an extraordinary project and what a fascinating list. The books vary from fictional accounts, generally from highly esteemed authors to non fictional books, often relating to art or music. Sometimes the author co
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Bowie was not only one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century but also a fine actor, painter and art collector. Perhaps less well known was his love of books and that when on tour he would ensure that he would be accompanied by a travelling bookcase. Here John O'Connell narrates and examines the list that Bowie made three years before his death listing the one hundred most influential books that he read as opposed to the most enjoyable.

It is indeed an eclectic collection th
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bowie's Bookshelf
by John O'Connell
due 11-19-2019
4.5 / 5.0
#netgalley #bowiesbookshelf

A fantastic homage to David Bowie, a legend who inspired so many in so many ways, is so many unique ways. As well as to readers and book lovers.
Bowie was a voracious reader, and his reading tastes encompass every genre. Chosen from Bowies book collection of over 1500 books, these 100 novels were picked to share how they influenced his personal life, his career and
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved the premise of O'Connell's book: taking a good look into a man's head and heart through the books he values. I find that I kind of unconsciously keep a ledger of my friends' inner-self by noting their reading choices and their reaction to books we have shared, so I was curious as to how the author would approach his subject and his "top 100."

The author was clear that these were books that were important to Bowie (one way or another), but not necessarily his favorite books. I
Chad Guarino
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Bowie's Bookshelf is a deep dive into David Bowie's list of one hundred books that changed his life, released three years before his death from cancer. Author John O'Connell (an avid and amazingly obvious Bowiephile) relates the history, plot, and connections to both Bowie's life and works in each of the one hundred short essays that accompany each book on the list.

O'Connell does a fabulous job of painting of a picture of the Starman throughout his career, from his crack addled mania during the
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
As O'Connell's quick to point out, you need to focus on the book's title--it's the books that changed his life, not his *favorite* books.

I suppose this list would be pretty easy to get a hold of on the internet, saving you some sweet cash to where you wouldn't have to purchase this guide/work, eh? It's surely true, but you'd be missing out on a vast amount of information; you see, O'Connell lays out the what (the list, obviously), and then we spend the book exploring the why, as in why he, an a
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Veteran music journalist John O’Connell has taken the list of 100 books David Bowie says changed his life and offered book lovers and Bowie fans closer look at both subjects.

I read voraciously, so I was a bit surprised to find very few books on Bowie’s list that I have read and quite a number I’d never heard of. For this reason, I appreciated the short synopsis of each book included in the essays. I also liked that O’Connell ends on each essay with pairing suggestions: A Bowie song t
Stephanie Martin
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book that is equal parts an insight into a music legend and some of the greatest books of all time. The links between the two are very deftly done (the song choice to accompany each essay is a very nice touch!). Even the most ardant Bowie fan or literature nerd would find something new and interesting in this book. It's well researched though, perhaps, a little bit simplistic in its literature studies at times. However, as an insight into the expanse of Bowie's life and career, it's a n ...more
If you are a fan of Bowie then this book will offer you a insight into his great love of writing and literature. It did not surprise me that he was an avid reader and that he read a great variety of genres in his life, as anyone who is of an artistic nature would surely be drawn to reading an eclectic mix of books. He did however read a great many books that would be seen as 'hard work' by many and would possibly feel like surprising choices to some people. The way the book is set out makes it a ...more
Lauren Archer
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I saw this book reviewed in Kirkus magazine and I said this could be such a gem of book. NetGalley was kind enough to make this available to me. Growing up in the 80’s one of the most iconic images I remember at the library was of David Bowie for the Read campaign. I knew he was reader, but did you know he carried a portable library of 1500 books. That is just astounding.

For my full review, please visit my blog at:

Thank you NetGalley and Gallery books for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
'Bowie's Books' is a fascinating look into David Bowie and a wide range of literature that ticks a lot of boxes. The list is varied and eclectic, covering material as diverse as The Iliad and Viz. This book delves into Bowie's life and inspirations and even covers some of the contemporary history. I could have done without the blog style, 'read this while listening to...', which lowered the tone for me. Whether you are a Bowie fan, interested in popular culture or are a book nerd, this is a grea ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for Bowie Fans. I feel it undiscovered more about David Jones the man, than David Bowie the star. I like David Bowie but I'm not a huge fan so maybe I learned more because of this. Not only about Bowie (the unmade 1984 musical, his Berlin years), I hadn't known the background of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.


Thank you so much the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy in return for an honest review.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Whew! This is quite a list of books. It explains a lot, I think, I've read some of the same books, others familiar with and may read someday, but others, nope. I am impressed by the books he's read tho'. Mind, I'm not a fan, I just liked some of his songs, but reading list? Hey, I love knowing what folks read! John O'Connell has done his research and fans will appreciate the book. Actually pretty telling!

I received a Kindle arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Prior to his death David Bowie listed 100 books which changed his life. Journalist John O’Connell has written an essay for each of these, providing an essay for each book and via a line, passage or idea linked it to one of Bowie’s songs.
This is definitely a book for his fans which can be used as a further insight into the varied and well-read reading preferences into the great man who was an admitted bookworm.
This book was provided by Netgalley for an honest review
Karen Rush
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I had no idea David Bowie was such a voracious reader. The vast spectrum of literature he embraced, his compulsion with books and how they inspired, influenced and impacted his life are meticulously documented by the author. I am an avid reader but so many books referenced within that I had never heard of. Enjoyable biographic bits and backstory peppered into the mix. Thanks to Gallery Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, ng
Are you as well-read as David Bowie? Find out as you peruse this selection of important books to Mr. Jones. Based on a curated exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the author adds descriptions and background information on the 100 chosen books. This is a great resource for Bowie fans, or for building your to-read list.

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the digital ARC.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a list of 100 books that influenced David Bowie. There are also essays from the author on why he thinks each of the books did so. Overall it was an interesting book and I liked learning what types of books Bowie read.

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
thewoollygeek (tea, cake, crochet & books)
A really interesting idea into what helped form a legend, as a fan of reading and the man this is a wonderfully inspiring read about a hero of mine. A well researched and written book, showing how these influenced him, his life and his song writing, wonderful

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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John O'Connell is a former books editor at Time Out magazine and writes regularly for the Guardian and The Times. He is the co-author of I Told You I Was Ill and The Midlife Manual.