Lee Newell, Brother: Morrissey in Conversation.
“It's all his interviews from the first album to 2006. The way he conducts himself influences me. Before I do an interview I’ll read a couple of his to warm my brain up. But then I think, ‘Fucking hell, how did he do that?’”
Charlie Fink, Noah & The Whale: White Fang by Jack London.
“I was obsessed with him when I was a kid. I think it’s a very defining moment for a reader when you first encounter tragedy in fiction. I think it was the first time I ever heard or read a sad story. But at the same time, it was also such a beautiful story, and so well told.”
Anna Calvi: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
“It’s set in the Congo in 1959. It’s just really poetic, and beautifully written. I first read it when I was 18, and I’ve read it twice.”
Alex Trimble, Two Door Cinema Club: On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
“I’ve always read a lot, but I seemed to be going through books and nothing was happening. I read On The Road three years ago when we were just starting to travel and that was the first moment I’d read a book that was really connecting with my life."
Rachel Zeffira, Cat’s Eyes: Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides.
“It took me ages to get round to reading it because it’s very thick, but when I did it blew me away. It’s a book that has a range of emotions and manages to make history interesting, which is kind of difficult for me. I’ve never felt more compassion for a character in a book than I did with that one.”
Regina Spektor: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
“The first time I read it I was 13 – now I read it about every five years. It’s such a complete world. I love the combination of how real and surreal it is at the same time – and how it spans history and time. It’s poetic. And very sympathetic.”
Jamie Smith, The XX: Anything by Descartes and Sartre.
“I studied philosophy in sixth form and read a bunch of things by René Descartes and Jean-Paul Sartre, and I guess they opened my mind, which is what they’re supposed to do.”
Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
“It was written so long ago and a lot of stuff became true – like cameras everywhere. He was basically describing the future and he didn’t even know it. It wakes you up because you’re doing a lot of the same things he’s describing in the book: the way you get up every day, you go to work. It’s really creepy.”
Dave Maclean, Django Django: Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken.
“I was obsessed with the mysterious as a child – UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts – anything weird or spooky. The book is a controversial idea to say the least: that aliens came down from a secret planet in our solar system and started messing around with the genetics of pre-human monkey-folk and building pyramids.”
Janelle Monae: The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.
“It brought forth the revolutionary in me. I think that Malcolm X represented a lot of authentic militarism during a time of integration and segregation in the 50s and 60s. So he just gave me a new perspective on how he felt about integration and human rights – not just African-American rights.”
Elijah Wood: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
“It’s an amazing book but as a music fan, and as a guy, it feels so tailored to me and anyone like me. It’s about a guy who’s searching for relationships and understanding himself. It’s about music and passion for music, and there’s all sorts of wonderful references throughout. It seems like a book so perfectly suited to me as a person.”
Caroline Polachek, Chairlift: A Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans.
“The story of a guy who gives up on society and confines himself in an extravagant estate. He lures a ventriloquist home so can fuck her while she simulates Latin being spoken by two giant stone sphinxes. Also he encrusts a tortoise with so many jewels that the poor thing can’t walk anymore and dies.”
Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem: The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis.
“I’ve never read The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, but his later works are about whether God is real. I always re-read this. It’s about these two demons, and they’re talking about these people on Earth that they’re trying to get to go to hell. It has a really good insight into human cruelty.”
Charles Watson, Snow Club: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver.
“It’s basically lots of short stories that don’t seem to finish or have any really positive message. If you read about his life, he was going through a very dark time – it’s a very honest book and it shows you a different side to writing.”
Graham Coxon, Blur: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.
“I wasn’t really a big reader until Damon gave me a couple of books, probably around 15 or 16. He got me into DH Lawerence – every teenage boy should be into DH Lawrence. I think Steppenwolf did it for me, it got me into Hermann Hesse too. It really freaked me out, good and proper.”
Freddie Cowan, The Vaccines: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick.
“What a great book this is. I’m hugely into Elvis, and what I love so much about this is that it demystifies the myth around him.”
Frankie Francis, Heartstrings: Women by Charles Bukowski.
“Michael bought this for me last year and I’d never read a book like it before. Since then I’ve discovered stuff like John Fante, Knut Hamsun… I read a lot more now I’ve discovered this style of writing.”
Harry McVeigh, White Lies: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.
“It’s very dark but almost funny at some moments. It’s about someone who is wrongly accused of a school shooting and sort of ends up being put away for it and being on Death Row. At moments it’s really funny, and at moments it’s really quite hard to read.”
Tom Cohen, SCUM: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.
“I read it when I was 14 on holiday with my family in the south of France. I just remember it was the first thing that I read that sounded as disillusioned as I felt at the time. Everyone else had been either quite grand or classical, and this was the first of the modern American writer genre that I’d read.”
Jesse Hughes, Eagles of Death Metal: The Bible.
“Through it I saw the absolute universal truth of all things: there ain’t no such thing as magic talking monkeys, there’s definitely a God, and it still feels good to have sex with your neighbour’s wife if she’s hot.”
Mark Foster, Foster The People: Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski.
“The way that he communicates is really good for any sort of lyricist to read. He’s so good at being really vulnerable and exposing things about himself that no-one else would ever talk about. But he does it in a way that’s so human and so comical, that I feel like it’s really inspiring for any other writer.”
Blaine Harrison, Mystery Jets: In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.
“He’s the same guy who wrote Where The Wild Things Are. In it, a child spends most of his time floating about in a bottle of milk, naked… and I think that’s why it’s still on all those ‘most controversial kids’ books’ lists.”
Jonathan Pierce, The Drums: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris.
“Growing up in a very religious, almost cultish place, this book really sorted things out for me. The first song on the album, ‘Book Of Revelation’, speaks of the revelation I had after reading this book. I knew in the back of my head that believing in Jesus was nonsense, and the song bluntly speaks about that.”
Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys: The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler.
“It came out in 1964. He said things that hadn’t been said in print [the book investigates human imagination and creativity in the arts and sciences – Literature Ed]. I don’t like to read now – I don’t read nothing’! Why not? My eyes are crummy, so I can’t read that comfortably."
Mark Hoppus, Blink-182: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.
“Red Dragon by Thomas Harris was written a long, long time ago [it was published in 1981]. But it’s the original of the CSI series and it made me want to join the FBI and put on some gloves and catch killers.”
Sean Lennon: Ada by Vladimir Nabokov.
“I’m not sure if a book can actually change a person. I’m not even sure if people truly ever change. But I like this book very much. It’s about a drawn-out incestuous love affair between brother and sister. It’s one of the most well-constructed pieces of art I’ve ever encountered. I also love The Picture of Dorian Gray for the same reason.”
Anand Wilder, Yeasayer: Slaugherhouse Fiveby Kurt Vonnegut.
“Vonnegut always had this caustic, sarcastic wit that I felt was missing from a lot of the books that were assigned to me at school. It’s hilarious, and wonderfully imaginative, and really withering about the human race.”
Ronnie Vannucci, The Killers: Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.
“It’s about how to have difficult conversations, in business and so on. It’s sitting on our bass player’s amp right now. Our guitarist Taylor Milne gave it to me – it was required reading for his employer.”