Three years before he passed, David Bowie made a list of the one hundred books that had transformed his life – a list that formed something akin to an autobiography. From Madame Bovary to A Clockwork Orange, the Iliad to the Beano, these were the publications that had fuelled his creativity and shaped who he was.
What this book teaches us more than anything else is that even the most unique, legendary and groundbreaking of artists always draw their inspiration from what came before. Here is a list of literary works that have inspired some great artists of our time.
“When you are put down by the larger society and there’s a poet who compares the color of your skin to chocolate and brown sugar, you fall for it, because you need it. Paul Laurence Dunbar — who was one of the great poets of the 19th and 20th centuries — wrote about African-Americans, and he showed me the beauty of our colors and the wonder of our music.”
“I read this in drama school. It’s an analysis from a psychologist’s perspective of the meaning and power of fairy tales. One example that sticks in my mind is the metaphor of a child going into the forest. Bettelheim makes the point that the structure of this story parallels children’s experiences in life—how you can be frightened but eventually make it through to the other side. One can feel expendable—particularly in this day and age, and especially working in film—and for me, this reinforces the power of storytelling and the necessity of it.”
““I was so caught up in that book and when I got off the bus I was beside myself. The book just wrecked me. I was like twenty-four years old. All that stuff with the tiger. People have a lot of opinions about Conroy, but that book is very, very moving. I remember being incredibly upset and moved and I had to go to work in two hours. It screwed me up so bad.”
“Alderman challenges the cliché that women are more noble than men, and that a world run by women would be more gentle, with benevolent leaders and no war. In fact, women become power hungry and begin to repress men. They commit war atrocities, perform male genital mutilation, rape and maim for sport and kill to occupy land. With power dynamics reversed, the women don’t choose a righteous path – they act no better than men who have abused power throughout history. I think Alderman’s point is that people who abuse, do so because they can.”
For Megha Majumdar, Enid Blyton’s “The Famous Five”
Indian novelist Megha Majumdar cites Blyton’s infamous literary work as a mode of transportation. Growing up in India, English was a language that transported her to places she had never been. As a child, she imagined the famous five’s scones as a sort of ice cream cone. “That reality was so alien that I couldn’t fully imagine it […] I did sense that if the English language could travel to me from those seasides I had never seen, it could also undertake more intricate journeys where I lived”.
Haddon told the Guardian “technically, it’s the book of a TV series about the role of science in the development of human society. I was 11 when I first saw it, and I can still feel the thrill of watching a great door swing open on to a world of ideas.”