As lead singer and lyricist for iconic alt-rock band R.E.M., Michael Stipe brought a distinctly emotive tenor, poetic lyricism, and artistic sensibility to the band’s three-plus decades of commercial and critical success. He also served as the group’s visual backbone, curating album artwork, overseeing stage design, and directing many of their music videos.

Since R.E.M.’s dissolution in 2011, Stipe’s occupied himself with a number of film, photography, music and art projects – noting the importance of exploring multiple creative lives. Citing punk poet Patti Smith as a life-long inspiration, it’s no wonder her acclaimed 2010 memoir Just Kids made Stipe’s desert island book list for NY-based bookstore One Grand.

Find Michael Stipe’s full list of reading recommendations below, and complement with the book lists of Patti Smith, David Bowie, and Kurt Cobain.


Complete Works by Arthur Rimbaud (also rec’d by Jim Morrison)

“Because of Patti Smith I read Rimbaud’s entire works at the age of 16. The whole time I was thinking his name was pronounced Rim-bawd. I actually can’t say at the time that I understood much of the finer points, but it was a wild read.” -MS

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

“This book became my band’s template. To explore the country and do it all — having a great big time — on our terms, and no one else’s. Hooray! Followed by “The First Third” by Neal Cassady. The muse speaks, writes, smokes, drinks, seduces.” -MS

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney

“Where I learned in eighth grade, I think, that in the future you could have unbridled sci-fi sex with every man and woman within reach, without guilt, fear or weirdness, and have great end-of-times adventures. Just like my dreams! Fantastically futuristic!” -MS

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

“Introduced me to irony and self-deprecating humor. I can’t say I learned the lesson well, but…a B- for effort.” -MS

All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

“He is one of our great futurist lights and this is all the proof I need to make such a claim.” -MS

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (also rec’d by David Bowie, Kim Gordon, Nick Cave & Patti Smith)

“His humor and grasp of humanity and language thrill.” -MS

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (also rec’d by St. Vincent)

“Which weirdly, through a Jack Pierson photograph and a gift from Douglas Coupland, became maybe the genesis of, and one of the three horns of my ongoing obsession with sculptural replicas and obsolete forms.” -MS

Four Plays by Aristophanes translated by William Arrowsmith

“I love the bawdiness and audacity of both writer and translator.” -MS

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

“She was so young; it’s so very French in its desperate and elegant melancholy.” -MS

Just Kids by Patti Smith (also rec’d by Annie ClarkCarrie BrownsteinFlorence Welch, Malcolm Gladwell & Marina Abramovic)

“Because I’m reading it as I write this, and it’s amazing.” -MS

(via One Grand Books)

Categories: Artists Musicians

Leave a Reply