Michael Stipe: TOP TEN BOOKS

Michael Stipe’s Favorite Books

Michael Stipe photographed by Kris Krug via Wikimedia Commons

Few rock stars achieve the extraordinary stature of Michael Stipe, the artist and former frontman of R.E.M., the art rock band from Athens, Georgia, that managed to find global fame without sacrificing the alt-rock instincts that suffused their music. Or, as Spin writer Charles Aaron put it, within the punk-inspired scene of the day, “R.E.M. was first to show us you can be big and still be cool.”

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


Complete Works

Arthur Rimbaud
Because of Patti Smith I read Rimbaud’s entire works at the age of 16. The whole time I was thinking his name was pronounced Rim-bawd. I actually can’t say at the time that I understood much of the finer points, but it was a wild read.
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On the Road

Jack Kerouac
This book became my band’s template. To explore the country and do it all — having a great big time — on our terms, and no one else’s. Hooray! Followed by “The First Third” by Neal Cassady. The muse speaks, writes, smokes, drinks, seduces.
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Samuel R. Delaney
Where I learned in eighth grade, I think, that in the future you could have unbridled sci-fi sex with every man and woman within reach, without guilt, fear or weirdness, and have great end-of-times adventures. Just like my dreams! Fantastically futuristic!
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Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut
Introduced me to irony and self-deprecating humor. I can’t say I learned the lesson well, but…a B- for effort.
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All Families Are Psychotic

Douglas Coupland
He is one of our great futurist lights and this is all the proof I need to make such a claim.
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Vladimir Nabokov
His humor and grasp of humanity and language thrill.
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Play It As It Lays

Joan Didion
Which weirdly, through a Jack Pierson photograph and a gift from Douglas Coupland, became maybe the genesis of, and one of the three horns of my ongoing obsession with sculptural replicas and obsolete forms.
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Four Plays by Aristophanes

translated by William Arrowsmith
I love the bawdiness and audacity of both writer and translator.
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Bonjour Tristesse

Françoise Sagan
She was so young; it’s so very French in its desperate and elegant melancholy.
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Just Kids

Patti Smith
Because I’m reading it as I write this, and it’s amazing.
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