“Nietzsche killed Jim Morrison,” John Densmore, drummer of the Doors, wrote in his 1990 autobiography Riders on the Storm. Before the rock poet’s infamous death in Paris at the age of 27, Morrison was known as much for his unpredictable onstage antics as his devotion to literature and hero mythology. The band’s name was taken from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, itself a reference to a William Blake poem, and Morrison infused much of his lyrics with references to Nietzschean philosophy and other readings.

Morrison’s teenage bedroom was walled with books, and he’d make a game of turning his back, having a friend pick something at random and reciting a line or two. Of the hundreds in his collection, Morrison could name the author and title before they finished a paragraph. A high school friend remembers Morrison as a bit of an outcast who took deeply to his readings: “He had tons of books over there in his basement room and I’d go over there and look at them and I didn’t have a clue as to what most of that stuff meant. Morrison devoured that stuff when he was a teenager and he was in another world and you have to wonder how that affected him. The whole point is that he was so far advanced in terms of literature he took in and he really seemed to become what he read sometimes.”

And an English teacher recalls his more eccentric literary choices: “Everything he read was so completely offbeat. I had another teacher who was going to the Library of Congress to check to see if the books Jim was reporting on actually existed or he was making it up. English books on sixteenth and seventeenth-century demonology…Other kids were reading authors represented in our anthology, and Jim was reading Burton’s studies on Arab sexuality.”

Threaded through any Morrison biography is a far-reaching reading list of Romantic poetry, nihilistic philosophy, Shamanic mysticism, Beat classics and tales of tragic heroism. Find a selection of Jim Morrison’s book collection below, and complement with his 1968 improvised piano ode to Nietzsche.

The Theater and Its Double by Antonin Artaud

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Complete Poetry & Prose by William Blake

Life Against Death by Norman O. Brown

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (also rec’d by Anthony BourdainBob Dylan)

Nova Express by William S. Burroughs

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Fall by Albert Camus

The Plague by Albert Camus

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti

Go by John Clellon Holmes

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (also rec’d by Patti Smith)

Gasoline by Gregory Corso

Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell (also rec’d by Tom Wolfe)

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Howl  by Allen Ginsberg (also rec’d by Bob Dylan, John Lennon & Patti Smith)

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (also rec’d by Leonard CohenSusan Sontag)

Dubliners by James Joyce (also rec’d by Leonard CohenErnest Hemingway)

Ulysses by James Joyce

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Doctor Sax by Jack Kerouac

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

On The Road by Jack Kerouac (also rec’d by Bob Dylan, David Bowie & John Lennon)

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac

Why Are We In Vietnam? by Norman Mailer

The Adept by Michael McClure

Death Is A Star by Agnes Michaux

The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills

The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzche

Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter F. Otto

Parallel Lives by Plutarch

The Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich

The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman

Complete Works by Arthur Rimbaud

The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin & Ron Hall

The Outsider by Colin Wilson

(via The Lizard King, The Lizard King Was Here, & No One Here Gets Out Alive)

Categories: Musicians


Jim Morrison's Literary Influences

  1. With such an insatiable appetite, he devoured these darkest of peers; fueling his own solo flight, even while aware his heroic soaring must tragically end as peerless as it began; and yet with all his might he chooses to chase this plight!

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