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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  312 ratings  ·  108 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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Gallery Books
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Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell is a 2019 Gallery Books publication.

Because reading is, among much else, an escape—into other people, other perspectives, other consciousnesses. It takes you out of yourself, only to put you back there infinitely enriched.

This is such a cool little book! I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and was smitten with it the instant I laid eyes on it.

Book people tend to like other book people, and Bowie should get a nod of approval from voracious
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 book
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 ...more
Louise Wilson
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
These are not David Bowie's favourite books, thrynarenthe ones that had a material difference on him. Bowie was such a talented and creative person whom liked to surround himself with new information. This is a list of 100 books that influenced him and there is essays on why he thought they did. This is a well researched and written book. This is a boo that fa s old and new will enjoy. After all, I enjoyed it and I wasnt a fan at all.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing (UK
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.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-bought
Kimley and I are going to discuss this book on an upcoming episode of Book Musik.
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). After his death, his
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 and relates
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
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not long before his death, David Bowie, always an avid reader, made a list of the 100 books that had most influenced him. This book comprises short essays about each of these books and the reasons why they had such an impact on him, and in so doing explores various aspects of Bowie’s life and ideas. It’s an eclectic choice of books, for sure, from Camus to Dante, Martin Amis to Flaubert. At the end of each essay there’s a “you might also like this” suggestion, plus a suggestion of what to listen ...more
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
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many millions of music listeners the world over loved nothing better than to listen to the legendary musician David Bowie's instantly recognisable dulcet tones. However, many more, like myself, have been intrigued and fascinated by the music and literature which he himself was inspired. In Bowie's Books, author John O'Connell uses the list Bowie wrote in his last years, featuring 100 books, pieces of music and wider publications (e.g. Viz) that impacted him and his mindset, to set the structure ...more
Caroline Barron_Author
4.5 stars.
I've actually got a different edition, white cover, paperback, published by Bloomsbury, titled Bowie's Books.
I loved this unique romp through Bowie's literary influences, and the links made to his creative output. John O'Connell is such a great writer, and his short essays really bought Bowie's books alive.
Review to follow in Otago Daily Times.
Feb 02, 2020 added it
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

Was very excited to receive this. Anything that informed Bowie's mind I'm interested in, b/c he was just one of those singularly intriguing type of people that occasionally deigns to walk amongst us on this planet.

I'll try not to repeat what others have already said about this book. It is definitely the type of thing to read a bit of, set down, & then come back to again. Short brief bits of info. about the books on the

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
I am a book lover, so when I find out that a celebrity or other person I admire also loves books I am further smitten. So this book that is part list, part book recommend, part biography was one I was very excited to read.

The best part was that after each little section about a book there was a recommendation for another book you might like and a song to listen to. And then at the top of many of the sections there were little bits of illustration that was wonderful. This is a lot of fun.

The part
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's no surprise to hear David Bowie was a voracious reader. As a creative practitioner, I am always interested in the way artists absorb information and how they cultivate their influences and inspiration. This book offers a unique insight into Bowie's literary influences, and how what he read shaped both his life and work. A very original idea that is executed well. And it also made me wistful and nostalgic, knowing we are unlikely to see an artist of Bowie's intellect and creativity again any ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: movies-music
Not necessarily the best book, but had some interesting information about books that Bowie felt influenced him in some way. Felt more like a book you skim than one you sit and absorb, skimmed was all I did. One thing I did like was after each passage a song recommendation and another book if you enjoy that one.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
John O'Connell's "Bowie's Bookshelf" is a look at the books who made the man who made the music, David Bowie. Bowie, a brilliant autodidact and avid reader, once created a list of the one hundred books he found most influential, and here O'Connell provides that list, along with a summary of each book and an analysis of how it might have shaped Bowie's persona and music. The author also provides a suggested David Bowie song to play in light of each book, and he also suggests another book or two ...more
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 from Bowie
Finn Longman
Disclaimer: I know, like, basically nothing about Bowie except that he was also from South-East London. I had a friend at uni who was obsessed with him (to whom I recommended this book), but my own knowledge is virtually non-existent. I still really enjoyed, this, though, just as someone who likes books! It was such a massively diverse collection of literature and it's going to help me put together a really interesting display for the library where I work (which is why I was reading it in the ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book full of books! Bowie was such a creative person and you can see that in all the ways he surrounded himself with new information. I really like anything about him.
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 intrigued.

Bowie milestone
Eduarda Moræs
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I knew Bowie was an avid reader from his biographies and interviews, so when this book came out, based on a list Bowie himself was compiling, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to know what sort of books had shaped him. Although the book was quite entertaining--and brought some biographical details to light--I was slightly put off by the fact that 1/4 of the books were added by the author and "Bowie would have liked/have recognised/thave thought, etc."

Other than that, a nice read and a few
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 ...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.
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
What might have made a good magazine article is blown up into a barely researched, highly speculative book based Bowie's 2013 list of books that influenced him.
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 would also
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 ...more
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways-won
I received this book as part of a giveaway, which is perfect because I have been in love wit David Bowie since before I can remember.
This a definitely a book for those well versed in Bowie's work. Each book is represented in a short two to three page chapter in which the author explains how the book was a part of Bowie's life and how it could have influenced certain songs.
This is not a book to sit and read like a novel. Instead it is more of a guide book. Helping to map Bowie's 100 books with
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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.