It is difficult to overstate the significance of David Bowie's influence on pop culture and the importance he has held for so many as an icon of music, art, fashion and entertainment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Starman was also a man of books.
Bowie issued a list of the 100 books that had most influenced him for the 2013 Victoria & Albert Museum exhibit David Bowie Is. With Bowie's Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie's Life, journalist John O'Connell offers a freshly annotated reproduction of this list, providing thoughtful historical context and commentary about the books' impact on Bowie and his music.
O'Connell, formerly a senior editor at Time Out--for which he once interviewed Bowie--considers numerous themes. He explores Bowie's picks with regards to the singer's entangled interests in culture, counterculture, love, sex, sexuality, race, racism, sci-fi, science, death and "nerdery." Much of the "traditional" Western canon populates Bowie's list, but so do many outliers. Only two authors appear twice: Anthony Burgess and George Orwell.
O'Connell's brief essays on each book include anecdotes and trivia that will interest both casual and ardent Bowie fans, or anyone curious about ways art begets art. Almost in passing, O'Connell deems Charles White's biography of Little Richard, whom Bowie idolized, "quietly electrifying." The same can be said of Bowie's Bookshelf: it's a quietly electrifying collection, a tribute handled with reverence and respect, celebrating the guiding stars that books can be. --Katie Weed