Kenny Scharf: TOP TEN BOOKS

KennyScharf by Eric Minh Swensen

Kenny Scharf photographed by Eric Minh Swenson

The California-born pop-surrealist artist Kenny Scharf first made an impression upon the art scene in 1980s New York as part of the East Village interdisciplinary art scene— and as somewhat of a party boy. After graduating from SVA in New York City, some of Scharf’s early work first appeared in dance venues featuring his Day-Glo installations. Not long after, the Whitney Museum of American Art tapped Scharf for the 1985 Biennial, launching a career in respected galleries and museums around the world. If you’re lucky (and in Los Angeles) you’ll also see his work on the street, where his signature characters are sprayed onto willing cars.

Below are Kenny Scharf’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.



George Orwell
I read this book along with Animal Farm as a teenager and they made a profound impact on me and the way I view government and propaganda in general. The futuristic dystopian visions that these books portray are unfortunately eerily similar to what we’re experiencing right now with the Trump administration in all its flagrant manipulations and “alternative facts.” 
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Kafka on the Shore

Haruki Murakami
This classic is my favorite book by Murakami. This is about love, longing and regret. It’s kind of sad, but at the same time, it makes you feel alive. It’s the emotional reality of loss. 
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On the Road

Jack Kerouac
The classic Jack Kerouac On the Road is every teenager’s bible to escape the rigors and the boredom of the “straight” world, to expand their horizons, and to question authority and what it dictates is appropriate and normal societal behavior. But most of all, it represents true freedom!
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Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is really very appropriate for today in this time of “fake news.” The burning of books = the censorship of information. It’s all happening now, folks!
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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Haruki Murakami
In keeping with the dystopian theme. Murakami is always good and I am reading this right now. It’s like someone is using his fantasy to escape the dystopia of modern life. It’s like he’s accepted the way the world is, and he can’t fight it, so he delves into his inner world as way of negotiating the realities of life through his own fantasies.
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Man and His Symbols

Carl G. Jung
Although looked at by Jung as too commercial and simplified, I learned to look at the world through this book, with its symbols and its religions, in a new way. My mind opened up to the dynamic relationship between surrealism and psychology. 
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The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck
This is a classic tale of migrants set in the dust bowl of 1930s Oklahoma. Timely and urgent today, this sheds light on the humanity and hardships endured by good people, and the need for empathy for all people around the world who have loss everything, and must try to make a new life.
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The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank
This heart-wrenching, first-hand account of hiding from the Nazis during World War II shows a young girl’s courage in the face of ultimate death. It is inspiring as well as heartbreaking.
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Naked Lunch

William S. Burroughs
More required reading for would-be beatniks. Every punk rocker moving to New York in the ‘70s had this book around; it became the Bible for the east village aesthetic and free-flowing “cut-ups.” Its dystopian views fit perfectly into the punk rock esthetic of nihilism.
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Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo

Hayden Herrera
This artist biography is a must-read for artist biography lovers. Frida fills the whole book with her fierce energy, talent and tenacity. Her struggles were so severe, and yet she brought so much joy. I found her philosophies of life very inspirational.
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