In a 2016 interview with LitHub, American avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson spoke on the audio-visual nature of stories:

“Some books need music built in and you need to go into that room and sit in the visual room and look around. Then you can listen to the story. But you’re going to be someplace… It’s really hallucinatory. Books were, for me as a tiny kid, they were a world. So to fall into that world… they would be all around me. I can still walk into a book and be there, but it’s in a different way now, and I really wish I could still do it as a child.”

Sharing a list of her favorite books with One Grand, Anderson included Melville’s Moby-Dick, Nabokov’s Pale Fire and other works of experimental fiction. Read on for her recommendations, and complement with the bookshelves of Marina Abramovic, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, and David Bowie.


Within The Context Of No Context by George Trow

“It’s hilarious and dangerous. Dead on analysis of what makes America so big: the size of the con. Good summer reading that gives a context to making this country great again.” -LA

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (also rec’d by Jimi Hendrix)

“The most visual language of any book I know. Which is odd since this is a book about the bardo — the disintegration of the self and the transformation of energy. I love the imagery and it reminds me that every minute of life is the bardo!” -LA

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce SpringsteenPatti SmithRay BradburySteve Jobs & Tilda Swinton)

“Melville is master of the jump cut. I fell in love with this book. The words were songs, the flow embraced the way we actually think. Backtracking, looping, jumping. But here’s a tip: if you’re thinking of making a multimedia opera from your favorite book, don’t do it! I tried it and didn’t have the nerve to rough it up. I never took off the white gloves. So obviously it didn’t work out.” -LA

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

“It’s the ultimate shaggy dog story. Time stops. Many times. Written at the dawn of the novel, this is still so daring. And you’ll love Uncle Toby. Who doesn’t?” -LA

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

“Poetry disguised as prose. I check in on this one every once in a while to remind myself that poetry can also tell stories.” -LA

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

“The hero is so elusive. At the end you still don’t know whether Red is a person or a color. Announcements somehow contain opinion. I have never seen that done so well or so confidently. An epic poem. Plus very, very funny.” -LA

The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose

“An astounding account of the future of cities within the framework of Bach and a desire to repair the world. Rose looks directly and clearly at overpopulation, history, disastrous urban planning, terrorism and utopian dreams. He pictures ways we can potentially redesign our world with imagination and compassion. Deeply inspiring.” -LA

Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

“This book immediately made me want to read all his other books. It’s full of details (fabrics, weather, food) and emotions — jealousy and fear (not much love) — that make his drafty, dangerous world come to life.” -LA

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

“Reminds me to be in the present. Paints the world as a place that’s almost excruciatingly alive. The patience she has to wait for the smallest things to happen always resets my sense of scale. Plus, it’s like being outside the whole time.” -LA

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

“Reminds me that disasters can be positive. Reminds me to accept whatever happens and to make it my friend. Grounded in disaster, it leads to the comfort and understanding that we — and only we — can bring to ourselves. Reminds me that we all have broken hearts.” -LA
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