Patti Smith’s 40 favourite books of all time

From Beats classics and Shakespeare to modern masterpieces, here is a list of Patti Smith’s 40 favourite books.

Even from a young age, Patti Smith was enamoured by the written word.

If you’ve read her fantastic memoir Just Kids, you’d recall romantic passages where she describes hunting around second-hand book stores for valuable editions to pay for rent and food or making a pilgrimage to Paris to pay her respects to Rimbaud.

Patti Smith

“I was completely smitten by the book,” she recalls in the book’s opening chapters. “I longed to read them all, and the things I read of produced new yearnings.”

Although Patti Smith is best known as a rock ‘n’ roller, she’s always been irrevocably entwined with books and poetry. As she remembers, her life was “sidetracked” by music, and she ended up choosing a path through which she could fuse her love of Rimbaud and Baudelaire with her love for rock music.

Ever an intriguing artistic and literary figure, you might wonder what she’d name as her favourite books of all time. Well in the late 2000’s, she (according to Vertigo) gave out a list of her favourites at the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

Check it out below, but keep in mind this was a while ago (if you’ve read her second memoir, M-Train, you’d remember that she adores Murakami, who doesn’t appear on the list – maybe he was a recent discovery for 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 by William Blake
The Wild Boys by William Burroughs
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud
Wittgenstein’s Poker by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
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 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
Swann in Love by Marcel Proust
A Happy Death by Albert Camus
The First Manby 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 or anything by Jean Genet
The 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

While you’re here, check out David Bowie’s favourite books of all time.