43 Literary Recommendations From Patti Smith
With a list of predominantly English and French-language writers, the godmother of punk is a highly informed reader.
Patti Smith possesses that strange form of intelligence in which, rather than the emotional and the intellectual eclipsing each other, they mutually enlighten each other. In this sense it could be argued that what Patti Smith did for punk, Charles Baudelaire did for poetry. However, Smith’s literary model is “Jo,” the headstrong artist of the family in L.M. Alcott’s Little Women, as her literary tastes are closer to adventures and explorers who get their own way than those of the poètes maudits.
Through her own books (such as her memoir Just Kids), Patti Smith has set out some preferences and authentic literary obsessions, with poets such as Arthur Rimbaud, and more recently two writers from South America, César Aira and Roberto Bolaño. Smith described Bolaño’s novel 2666 as the first masterpiece of the 21st century.
Reading lists (like this one from Borges) or what an artist has to say about themselves as a reader (like Virginia Woolf) are a curiosity and a channel of communication between their work and that which inspires their creation.
Here are some more literary recommendations from the great Patti Smith:
- The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov
- Journey to the East, by Hermann Hesse
- The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse
- Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
- Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
- “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville
- Songs of Innocence and Experience, by William Blake
- The Wild Boys, by William Burroughs
- “Howl”, by Allen Ginsberg
- “A Season in Hell”, by Arthur Rimbaud
- Wittgenstein’s Poker, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
- Villete, by Charlotte Brönte
- The Process, by Brion Gysin
- Cain’s Book, by Alexander Trocchi
- Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare
- The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde
- The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles
- “Against Interpretation”, by Susan Sontag
- The Oblivion Seekers (translated into English by Paul Bowles), by Isabelle Everhardt
- The Women of Cairo, by Gérard de Nerval
- Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry
- Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol
- The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa
- The Death of Virgil, by Hermann Broch
- Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, by J.D. Salinger
- Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
- The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- A Night of Serious Drinking, by René Daumal
- In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, by Marcel Proust
- A Happy Death, by Albert Camus
- The First Man, by Albert Camus
- The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
- Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac
- Anything by H.P. Lovecraft
- Anything by W.G. Sebald
- The Thief’s Journal, by Jean Genet
- Arcades Project, or anything by Walter Benjamin
- “Poet in New York”, by Federico García Lorca
- The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, by Heinrich Böll
- The Palm-Wine Drinkard, by Amos Tutuola
- Ice, or anything by Anna Kavan
- The Divine Proportion, by H.E. Huntley
- Nadja, by André Breton
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