Half a century after Jimi Hendrix looked to science fiction to tell universal truths through music, Electric Lady Janelle Monáe finds inspiration in the same: “Science fiction is just an exciting and new way of telling universal stories and it allows the reader to come to the conclusion and draw parallels between the present and the future. I don’t think we enjoy when people remind us, today, this is what’s going on in the world. You know, sometimes we’re so used to hearing that this is what’s happening right now that we become numb to it. So when you take it out of this world, [people] will come to the conclusions themselves. I think it’s important: whatever way you can get the audience’s attention to listen to your message, a strong message at that, then by any means. I think science fiction does that.”

Citing The Twilight Zone and Brave New World as formative influences, Monáe states:  “I really enjoy the story and all of Brave New World. It was pretty scary. I grew up with my grandmother watching a lot of Twilight Zone and I’ve just always been drawn to the horror in those stories. And you think about, in Brave New World, the society where these people were living…I guess the whole entire story about the society was pretty freaky. And so I wanted to create a society based off this society as an android. I wanted my story to have someone who doesn’t fit in and realized that they had a lot of superpowers, that they were the chosen one…And this person I wanted to be a uniter, someone who could cause that society to start to think for themselves and start to make an uprising for their community. So I’m drawn to those stories where people may all seem alike and you have that one person who ignites to start the fight.”

From Octavia Butler to Creativity Inc., read on for the sci-fi stories and other tomes Monáe’s named as favorites, and complement with the reading lists of Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Annie Clark.



The Complete Stories by Isaac Asimov

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Built to Last by Jim Collins

“In the very beginning, I used Jim Collins’ book Built to Last to figure out my core values. And then I gave those core values to everyone I worked with: Atlantic Records, CoverGirl, etc., and as I embarked on new creative projects or business partnerships, I weighed my core values and the proposed opportunity and I decided accordingly.” -JM

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (also rec’d by John Lennon & Susan Sontag)

“I love him. That was a huge inspiration to me and my writing process.” -JM

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo

The Big Moo by Seth Godin

Monáe handed out copies of Seth Godin’s essay collection at her first meeting with the marketing team of her label, Atlantic Records.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (also rec’d by Gabrielle Union & Rose McGowan)

“It brought forth the revolutionary in me. I think that Malcolm X represented a lot of authentic militarism during a time of integration and segregation in the 50s and 60s. So he just gave me a new perspective on how he felt about integration and human rights – not just African-American rights.” -JM

Confessions of a Political Hitman by Stephen Marks

Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjöo

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

“One of the last books that we read as a company was Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. We have some incredible people working with Wondaland Records, and we knew that if we were going to be releasing five artists, including myself, we’d need to figure out a way to make sure we were on schedule. We wanted to find the quickest ways to get quality results we were all happy with. It solves problem on how we write music and how we run the company. It’s the way people use it in the tech industry, inspired by the tech world. It justifies the way we run Wondaland Records.” -JM

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Amy Wallace & Edwin Catmull

(via Adweek, Billboard, The GuardianThe New York TimesNME, Pitchfork, & Vice)

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