Since releasing his debut album “Oh Me Oh My” in 2002, Venezuelan-American singer-songwriter and visual artist Devendra Banhart has been a celebrated force in the indie-folk scene – combining poetic and introspective lyrics with a diverse range of influences, from American folk and blues to Brazilian tropicalia and African rhythms.

Born in Texas in 1981, Banhart was raised in Venezuela before moving back to the States at 14. After dropping out of the San Francisco Art Institute in 2000, he started playing live shows around SF and LA, where he quickly gained a following for his unique voice, intricate guitar playing and eclectic songwriting. In the late aughts, he released the critically acclaimed albums “Cripple Crow” and “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.”

Hailed as a figurehead of the freak-folk movement, Banhart’s work is full of psychedelic sounds and whimsical lyrics that evoke the freewheeling hippie movement. Aside from his music, he’s also a successful visual artist who often incorporates drawings and paintings into his album artwork, and a poet whose debut collection, Weeping Gang Bliss Void Yab-Yum, was published in 2019.

Sharing his desert island reading list with New York bookstore One Grand, Banhart recommended an assortment of poetry collections, philosophical tomes and spiritual teachings. From Pema Chödrön to Ram Dass, explore his reading list below.

Devendra Banhart’s Reading List

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön (also rec’d by Elizabeth GilbertGlennon Doyle, Jennette McCurdy, Laurie AndersonMarianne Faithfull & Matt Haig)

“This is one of those books I like to stock up on, have a few copies ready to give a friend, it’s just so helpful. Wisdom and compassion right there in each page. My current copy is heavily bookmarked and just feels like those ‘in case of emergency break glass’ boxes.” -DV

Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut

“I remember reading this twice, it’s been a minute and I’m due for a third reading, I don’t think any other book has made me laugh out loud more.” -DB

Momo by Michael Ende

“It’s that rare feat, a tremendous philosophical insight presented in a way that anyone, at any age can grasp! Wow. Of all my childhood books, The Giving Tree and Hope for the Flowers really did change my early world, but after reading Momo in my thirties, I thought, ‘Ahhhhhh this is the one book I wish I had read as a kid! Then re-read at every subsequent chapter of my life.’ Yes, this sounds cliche but I truly think this is essential reading for—here goes—children of all ages!” -DB

Grist for the Mill by Ram Dass

“Author of the timeless classic, Be Here Now (and hey, even if you’re not into all this spiritual stuff just get it for the art!!), this is a beautiful book that I don’t really know how to describe expect as a wonderful companion.” -DB

The Guru Drinks Bourbon? by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

“An incredibly funny, accessible, and supremely wise guide to help one find a spiritual teacher!” -DB

Turtle Island by Gary Snyder

“This collection of poetry and prose is a little like going for a long hike out into the redwoods and coming upon a beautiful library, well lit, and cozy and there’s no one but you and all these amazing books that you are welcome to read as long as you treat everything with the respect it deserves. Wouldn’t that be an amazing experience?” -DB

Blazing Splendor by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

“The autobiography of a spiritual master, priceless.” -DB

Devotions by Mary Oliver (also rec’d by Amy Tan & Glennon Doyle)

“I read a few pages from this Mary Oliver selected compendium of poems spanning more than five decades every single day — often in the morning. It’s what I imagine a bird feels when they hop into a really beautiful birdbath with really clean water in it.” -DB

In Love with the World by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

“Without telling anyone, Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche steals away in the middle of the night from his own monastery and lives as a wandering yogi for four years…. Unbelievably useful, humbling, thrilling, inspiring, and fascinating!” -DB

This Planet is Doomed by Sun Ra

“Visionary, transcendent, wise, and grossly under-appreciated poetry from one of the most important artists of all time!” -DB

(via One Grand Books)

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