Best known as the founder, lead vocalist, and guitarist of alternative rock band Wilco, Jeff Tweedy launched his musical career in the late ’80s, playing bass for the alt-country group Uncle Tupelo. The band released four albums before splitting in ’94, after which Tweedy formed Wilco with several of its members. Wilco’s debut “A.M.,” along with its follow-up “Being There,” quickly established the band as a leading force in alternative country and Americana music.

Over the years, Wilco’s sound evolved to encompass a wider range of genres, including rock, folk, and experimental music, with Tweedy’s songwriting becoming increasingly personal and introspective. To date, the band has released over a dozen albums to critical acclaim, from “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” to “A Ghost Is Born” and “The Whole Love.”

In addition to his work with Wilco, Tweedy’s also released several solo albums, including “Sukierae,” a collaboration with his son Spencer, and “Love Is the King,” which was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Known for his distinctive voice, melodic songwriting, and introspective lyrics – which often deal with themes of love, loss, and self-doubt – Tweedy’s contributions to music have been recognized with two Grammys and the Woody Guthrie Prize.

In 2018, Tweedy released his memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc, a poignant portrait of the musician’s come-up in Chicago, personal relationships, mental health struggles, and experiences with addiction. He’s written two other books since, including 2020’s How to Write One Songan intimate look at his creative process – and 2023’s World Within a Song – a breakdown of the most influential music of his life.

Sharing six of his all-time favorite books with The Week, Tweedy spoke on the timely resonance of George Saunders, the liberating creativity of Lynda Barry, and why people should read Don Quixote to understand rock’n’roll. Explore his reading list below, and check out the recommendations of other famous musicians here.

Jeff Tweedy’s Reading List

Hunger by Knut Hamsun

“When I first encountered this novel, I felt I’d discovered a missing link between the old and modern world — like discovering that your grandparents smoked opium and intentionally listened to the Victrola at the wrong speed. I remember feeling relieved that my particular brand of alienation had some lineage.” -JT

Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

“This book alternates between the fragmented musings of a woman who believes she is alone on Earth and the shards of literary and mythological memory that keep her company. Markson is an inspiration. He has a rare ability to write experimental fiction without sacrificing sentiment.” -JT

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders

“I have no idea how my friend George Saunders gets language to do the things he gets it to do, mixing internal and external dialogue while achieving a depth and accuracy I’ve never encountered in anyone else’s writing. He makes even jargon sound soulful. Like the Robert Coover book below, this novella has an uncomfortably timely resonance.” -JT

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (also rec’d by Bill Maher, David Copperfield & Marcus Garvey)

“I’ve sometimes told people that if they want to understand what ‘rock and roll’ means to me, they should read Don Quixote. Which is an unbelievably obnoxious thing to say and also something I stand by. Without Sancho Panza believing in or at least humoring his ‘liege,’ the magic evaporates. It feels incredible to suspend disbelief and subscribe to the world-changing spell cast by a rock song. What’s wrong with that? Lots, probably. But life would suck without it.” -JT

The Public Burning by Robert Coover

“This is nightmarish historical fiction about the early atomic age — the execution of the Rosenbergs, specifically — and it features some of the bleakest humor. I wish reality didn’t feel as if it were catching up with Coover’s grotesque vision.” -JT

What It Is by Lynda Barry (also rec’d by Austin Kleon)

“If you want to write or draw or just liberate yourself to make stuff without a judgmental a–hole of an observing ego, this book — organized like a grade-school workbook — is a great place to start. I keep it handy as a reminder that creativity often requires little more than staying out of one’s own way.” -JT

(via The Week)

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Categories: Musicians