David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books Offer a Peek Inside the Artist’s Mind

RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images

David Bowie will always be remembered as a seminal figure in the worlds of music, fashion, and film, and as a legendary pop culture icon. But he was also a voracious reader who often read a book a day.

In 2013, as part of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s “David Bowie Is” exhibition, curators Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes compiled a list of David Bowie's 100 favorite books, which ranges from innovative works like Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz to classics like Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary to contemporary novels like Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, plus several music history titles.

Below is a complete list of Bowie’s favorite 100 books. How many have you read?

1. Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
2. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
3. Room At The Top by John Braine
4. On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
5. Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
7. City Of Night by John Rechy
8. The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
9. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
10. The Iliad by Homer
11. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
12. Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
13. Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
14. Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
15. Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
16. Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
17. David Bomberg by Richard Cork
18. Blast by Wyndham Lewis
19. Passing by Nella Larsen
20. Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
21. The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
22. In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
23. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
24. The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
25. The Stranger by Albert Camus
26. Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
27. The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
28. The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
29. Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
30. The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
31. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
32. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
33. Herzog by Saul Bellow
34. Puckoon by Spike Milligan
35. Black Boy by Richard Wright
36. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
37. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
38. Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
39. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
40. McTeague by Frank Norris
41. Money by Martin Amis
42. The Outsider by Colin Wilson
43. Strange People by Frank Edwards
44. English Journey by J.B. Priestley
45. A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
46. The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
47. 1984 by George Orwell
48. The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
49. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
50. Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music by Greil Marcus
51. Beano (comic, ’50s)
52. Raw (comic, ’80s)
53. White Noise by Don DeLillo
54. Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick
55. Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
56. Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
57. The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillett
58. Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Petr Sadecky
59. The Street by Ann Petry
60. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
61. Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
62. A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
63. The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
64. Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
65. The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
66. The Bridge by Hart Crane
67. All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
68. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
69. Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
70. The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
71. Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Sanders
72. The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
73. Nowhere To Run: The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
74. Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
75. Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
76. The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
77. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
78. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
79. Teenage by Jon Savage
80. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
81. The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
82. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
83. Viz (comic magazine, early ’80s)
84. Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)
85. Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
86. The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
87. Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
88. Le Chants de Maldordor by Comte de Lautréamont
89. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
90. Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
91. Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
92. Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual by Éliphas Lévi
93. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
94. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
95. Inferno by Dante Alighieri
96. A Grave for a Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
97. The Insult by Rupert Thomson
98. In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan
99. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924 by Orlando Figes
100. Journey Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg

[h/t Mashable]

This article first ran in 2016. It has been updated for 2019.

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10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

11 Facts About To Kill A Mockingbird

el cajon yacht club, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
el cajon yacht club, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird still resonates with readers 60 years after its publication. The coming-of-age tale about racial injustice in the South was a phenomenal success from the start, and has only become more popular with time.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird drew on Harper Lee’s childhood in Alabama.

While To Kill A Mockingbird is not autobiographical, there are similarities between the novel and Lee’s life. The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, the fictional name for Monroeville, where Lee grew up. Like the main character Scout, Lee was a tomboy who was uncomfortable with traditional femininity. She and Scout would have been the same age and her brother Edwin was four years older, just like Scout's brother Jem. She even gave the family her mother’s maiden name, Finch.

2. Harper Lee based To Kill a Mockingbird’s Dill on Truman Capote.

Lee modeled the neighbor boy Dill after Capote. As a child, Capote—the author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast At Tiffany’s—lived next door to Lee. They played together and even shared Lee’s typewriter. Both children were outside the social circles of their close-knit Southern town. As Gerald Clarke wrote in Capote: A Biography, “Nelle was too rough for most other girls, and Truman was too soft for most other boys.” Capote’s first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, has a tomboy character resembling Lee. Her name is Idabel Thompkins.

3. Harper Lee grew up in the courtroom.

Like the character Atticus, Lee’s father, AC Lee, was a lawyer. Soft-spoken and dignified, he defended two Black men accused of murder and lost the case. Lee spent much of her childhood in the Monroeville courthouse. “Her father was a lawyer, and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children," Capote said. "We went to the trials instead of going to the movies." Lee herself went to law school, but hated it and dropped out.

4. Harper Lee may have modeled To Kill a Mockingbird’s Boo Radley after a childhood neighbor.

In the book, Boo Radley is a recluse who leaves presents for the children in a tree. Lee may have modeled him after a real man, Alfred “Son” Boulware, who lived in Monroeville when the author was a child. According to Capote, “He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything [Lee] wrote about it is absolutely true.”

5. Harper Lee wrote Go Set A Watchman before To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lee wrote Go Set A Watchman in the 1950s. Set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, it contains many of the same characters and themes. An editor who read the manuscript loved a flashback about Scout’s childhood and told Lee to write a book from the child’s point of view. Lee then started To Kill A Mockingbird. Go Set A Watchman was thought to be lost until Tonja Carter, Lee’s lawyer, found it in the author’s archives in 2014.

6. Harper Lee was able to write To Kill a Mockingbird because of a gift from her friends.

After withdrawing from law school, Lee moved to New York and worked as an airline reservationist. One Christmas, her friends Joy and Michael Brown gave her a gift: enough money to write for one year. In an essay for McCall’s in 1961, Lee wrote that they told her to quit her job and write whatever she wanted, no strings attached. “Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them.”

7. To Kill A Mockingbird changed considerably during editing.

Lee’s agent sent To Kill A Mockingbird to 10 publishers and all of them turned it down. Finally, the publisher Lippincott accepted the manuscript, even though it needed a lot of work. “There were dangling threads of a plot, there was a lack of unity—a beginning, a middle, and an end—that was inherent in the beginning,” editor Tay Hohoff said. “It is an indication of how seriously we were impressed by the author that we signed a contract at that point.”

There followed “a long and hopeless period of writing the book over and over again,” Lee said. It was published in 1960.

8. Harper Lee thought To Kill A Mockingbird would fail.

In 1964, Lee said she “[N]ever expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I didn't expect the book to sell in the first place.” But the novel was an immediate success. Not only was it a best-seller, it was followed up with an Oscar-winning movie starring Gregory Peck. It also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. Today, the book sells almost a million copies a year, more than fellow 20th century classics The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye.

9. Truman Capote did not write To Kill A Mockingbird.

At some point, a rumor started that Capote wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, or at least edited it. Aside from the fact that Lee’s writing sounds nothing like Capote’s, he only saw the manuscript once. In 1959, Lee accompanied Capote to Kansas to research In Cold Blood. During that trip, she showed him a finished version of Mockingbird, which was about to go to print. Since the book was done, it would have been impossible for Capote to edit it, let alone write it.

10. It's said Truman Capote was jealous of To Kill a Mockingbird’s success.

While Capote initially seemed supportive, his friendship with Lee soured as her novel was increasingly lauded. According to Lee’s sister Alice, “Truman became very jealous because Nelle Harper got a Pulitzer and he did not. He expected In Cold Blood to bring him one, and he got involved with the drugs and heavy drinking and all. And that was it. It was not Nelle Harper dropping him. It was Truman going away from her.”

11. Harper Lee hated the spotlight.

When asked about her success in 1964, Lee called it frightening, saying her reaction was “sheer numbness. It was like being hit over the head and knocked cold.” While she never became the “Jane Austen of south Alabama” as she once hoped, she did work on a true crime novel in the 1970s. The book remains unfinished, though a 2019 book called Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee picks up the case.