In her 2014 memoir The Art of Asking, musician and performance artist provocateur Amanda Palmer wrote about the inextricable link between empathy, vulnerability and art:

To erase the possibility of empathy is also to erase the possibility of art. Theater, fiction, horror stories, love stories. This is what art does. Good or bad, it imagines the insides, the heart of the other, whether that heart is full of light or trapped in darkness.

Sharing a list of her ten favorite reads with New York bookstore One Grand, Palmer included stories of mindfulness, mysticism and post-punk feminism. Read on for the list, and complement with her powerful TED talk on the art of asking.


Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Seung Sahn

“This was one of those life-changing books that finally popped the light off in my little brain, when I read this at 24. These are mostly letters to students, and Seung Sahn writes in this funny, broken-invented English way that screams off the page to be understood; there is nothing clever. I gave it to all my friends. This led us to start email chains for the past few years that now sign off: ‘ALL THE TIME JUST SAY: DON’T KNOWWWWW’ (to be read in Korean accent)” -AP

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

“The first book I ever read that made me jump up and down in bed and pump my fist while reading. It was a physical reaction. I could not help it. I love this book, love this family, love this man’s writing. The film’s not bad, either. It’s a supplement.” -AP

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

“When I was 15, I was in love. At 17, I told him I’d probably sleep with another man if given the chance. He left me in that moment, on the town green, after two years of non-stop passion. He moved to Prague. Seven weeks later, a blank brown packaged arrived with a book in it. No dedication. Another life-changer. Now that I’m married to a fantasy author, I’m not sure why this book isn’t filed in fantasy. I was tricked; I don’t read fantasy. But this book has a fantastical realism that pierces to the bottom of the psyche. I’ve re-read and re-read this sucker every five years since then, and I always read a different book.” -AP

Blood and Guts in High School by Kathy Acker

“This book made me want to write, to write more honestly than I had ever written before. No other book has done quite that.” -AP

Not the End of the World by Rebecca Stowe

“Dark as fuck. And not what you think. Not quite a young adult book, but maybe. I don’t remember how this book came into my life, but I read it as a teenager and completely related to the discovery of Trauma In Suburbia.” -AP

A Collaboration with Nature by Andy Goldsworthy

“When I found this book on a friend’s table in Seattle, I fell in love. Just open it, I’ll shut up.” -AP

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

“A book about what love is. A classic, but oh man. As I age, every time I read this aloud I cry a little harder.” -AP

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

“The new feminist manifesto.” -AP

Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet

“I only read one comic when I was young. It was this. It changed everything.” -AP

Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin by Mel Gordon

“We take so much for granted, dude. Mel didn’t have to find these images and compile this book; but he did. So much of this would have been lost. I stole at least 9 of these images for band posters back when I was doing all of the concert-promoting and CD-burning (remember CDS?) for my first band, The Dresden Dolls. The aesthetic inspired.” -AP

(via One Grand Books)

Categories: Musicians

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