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Bruce Springsteen’s Reading List: 28 Favorite Books That Shaped His Mind and Music

From Montaigne’s philosophy to Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, literary anatomy of the creative icon.

“A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in her beautiful essay on reading and writing. It is also, perhaps, a seed planted in another’s garden of consciousness. It is no coincidence that most highly creative people are voracious readers — books, after all, enable us to live multiple lives in one by giving us access to emotions and experiences impossible to compress into a single lifetime, and creativity is the combinatorial product of all the ideas and experiences floating around our minds. To peek inside a creative icon’s lifelong reading list is to glimpse his or her existential library of the mind — the range of ideas and influences and inspirations that were fused together into the work for which that person is known and beloved.

Joining the previously published reading lists of notable luminaries — including those of Leo Tolstoy, Carl Sagan, Alan Turing, Nick Cave, David Bowie, and Brian Eno — is singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, one of the most influential and celebrated musicians of the twentieth century, and the recipient of twenty Grammy Awards. In a recent New York Times interview, marking the release of his charming picture-book Outlaw Pete (public library), Springsteen shares the books that shaped his music and his mind, from poetry to philosophy to children’s books — an eclectic reading list spanning numerous genres and sensibilities, life stages and moods. (Favorite childhood book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; last book that made him laugh: Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land; last book that made him cry: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road).

  1. Moby-Dick (free download; public library | IndieBound) by Herman Melville
  2. How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (public library | IndieBound) by Sarah Bakewell
  3. Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe (public library | IndieBound) by Dennis Overbye
  4. Love in the Time of Cholera (public library| IndieBound) by Gabriel García Márquez
  5. Anna Karenina (free download; public library | IndieBound) by Leo Tolstoy
  6. Leaves of Grass (public library | IndieBound) by Walt Whitman
  7. The History of Western Philosophy (public library | IndieBound) by Bertrand Russell
  8. Examined Lives (public library | IndieBound) by Jim Miller
  9. American Pastoral (public library | IndieBound) by Philip Roth
  10. I Married a Communist (public library | IndieBound) by Philip Roth
  11. Blood Meridian (public library | IndieBound) by Cormac McCarthy
  12. The Road (public library | IndieBound) by Cormac McCarthy
  13. The Sportswriter (public library | IndieBound) by Richard Ford
  14. The Lay of the Land (public library | IndieBound) by Richard Ford
  15. Independence Day (public library | IndieBound) by Richard Ford
  16. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (public library | IndieBound) by Flannery O’Connor
  17. Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (public library | IndieBound) by Greil Marcus
  18. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (public library | IndieBound) by Peter Guralnick
  19. Chronicles (public library | IndieBound) by Bob Dylan
  20. Sonata for Jukebox (public library | IndieBound) by Geoffrey O’Brien
  21. Soul Mining: A Musical Life (public library | IndieBound) by Daniel Lanois
  22. Too Big to Fail (public library | IndieBound) by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  23. Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression (public library | IndieBound) by Dale Maharidge
  24. The Big Short (public library | IndieBound) by Michael Lewis
  25. The Brothers Karamazov (free download; public library | IndieBound) by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  26. Great Short Works (public library | IndieBound) by Leo Tolstoy
  27. The Adventures of Augie March (public library | IndieBound) by Saul Bellow
  28. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (public library | IndieBound) by L. Frank Baum

Complement Springsteen’s Outlaw Pete with a sweet illustrated adaptation of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

Published November 3, 2014




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