David Bowie was one of my cultural heroes. He changed the worlds of music, performance, art and fashion. He came out as gay in an interview in 1972, back when no one famous came out (although later in life he said he was bisexual). He left a huge legacy. One of the my favorite things he did was to post a list of his top 100 books on Facebook in October 2013.
I’ve been looking over his list in the last couple of days. The list is as eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction. Among the novels are essays about art, religion, and race. He had a sharp mind that seemed to have many interests.
My friend Lisa asked me if I wanted to take on reading books from the list. I have already read some: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Madame Bovary, As I Lay Dying, The Stranger, Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Darkness at Noon, The Wasteland, The Day of the Locusts, A Confederacy of Dunces, White Noise, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Vile Bodies, and On the Road. There were some of these books, like A Confederacy of Dunces and White Noise, I wouldn’t mind rereading but I have no interest going back to As I Lay Dying or On the Road. There were novels I never read that I have always wanted to like City of the Night, Hawksmoor, or A Clockwork Orange. Still, as much as I love art, I don’t want to read essays on it. It takes some of the enjoyment out for me.
What I loved about the list that it introduced me to books I had never heard of like Passing by Nella Larson. It’s about a light skinned African -American woman that can “pass” for white. It seems obvious that the book played on themes of identity that Bowie worked on through his career. That’s what great about reading lists, they might connect you to other books you might want to read.
In the end, I decided that I didn’t want to read the entire list. I don’t know if I want to read a book about Henry Kissinger or Interviews with Francis Bacon. Still, I want to encourage people to read what you can from the list. I’ll just pay tribute to the man by playing his albums.
Please let me know if you do take on the list. Goodbye for now, Major Tom.