Laurie Anderson: TOP TEN BOOKS


Courtesy of Laurie Anderson

An early exemplar of electronic music, including her 1982 single “O Superman,” Anderson has long been at the heart of New York’s avant-garde art scene. As well as composing soundtracks for people like Spalding Gray and Robert Wilson, she has created movies, documentaries, and performance pieces such as Songs and Stories from Moby Dick, a musical reimagining of the iconic American novel, and collaborated with her late husband, Lou Reed, on several recordings. Anderson’s movie, Heart of a Dog, a moving meditation on life and loss, was shortlisted for the 2016 Academy Awards.

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


Within the Context of No Context

George Trow
It’s hilarious and dangerous. Dead on analysis of what makes America so big: the size of the con. Good summer reading that gives a context to making this country great again.
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The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Dalai Lama XIV
The most visual language of any book I know. Which is odd since this is a book about the bardo — the disintegration of the self and the transformation of energy. I love the imagery and it reminds me that every minute of life is the bardo!
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Moby Dick

Herman Melville
Melville is master of the jump cut. I fell in love with this book. The words were songs, the flow embraced the way we actually think. Backtracking, looping, jumping. But here’s a tip: if you’re thinking of making a multimedia opera from your favorite book, don’t do it! I tried it and didn’t have the nerve to rough it up. I never took off the white gloves. So obviously it didn’t work out.
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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy

Laurence Sterne
It’s the ultimate shaggy dog story. Time stops. Many times. Written at the dawn of the novel, this is still so daring. And you’ll love Uncle Toby. Who doesn’t?
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Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov
Poetry disguised as prose. I check in on this one every once in a while to remind myself that poetry can also tell stories.
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Autobiography of Red

Anne Carson
The hero is so elusive. At the end you still don’t know whether Red is a person or a color. Announcements somehow contain opinion. I have never seen that done so well or so confidently. An epic poem. Plus very, very funny.
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The Well-Tempered City

Jonathan F.P. Rose
An astounding account of the future of cities within the framework of Bach and a desire to repair the world. Rose looks directly and clearly at overpopulation, history, disastrous urban planning, terrorism and utopian dreams. He pictures ways we can potentially redesign our world with imagination and compassion. Deeply inspiring.
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Peter the Great: His Life and World

Robert K. Massie
This book immediately made me want to read all his other books. It’s full of details (fabrics, weather, food) and emotions — jealousy and fear (not much love) — that make his drafty, dangerous world come to life.
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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie Dillard
Reminds me to be in the present. Paints the world as a place that’s almost excruciatingly alive. The patience she has to wait for the smallest things to happen always resets my sense of scale. Plus, it’s like being outside the whole time.
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When Things Fall Apart

Pema Chodron
Reminds me that disasters can be positive. Reminds me to accept whatever happens and to make it my friend. Grounded in disaster, it leads to the comfort and understanding that we — and only we — can bring to ourselves. Reminds me that we all have broken hearts.
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