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btrThe great Southern novelist Walker Percy called singer-writer Bruce Springsteen his “favorite American philosopher.” Raised in a blue-collar household in central New Jersey, Mr. Springsteen was not exposed to literature by his parents and attended a junior college only briefly; yet he began reading seriously in his late-twenties and at age sixty-seven continues to be a voracious reader. “The one thing I wish for my children is that they be readers,” Mr. Springsteen recently said. The following list comes from interviews with Mr. Springsteen and from his autobiography, which is first below. —Editor

1.  Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

2.  America, The Story of a Free People, by Henry Steele Commager and Allan Nevins

3.  Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez

4.  Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

5.  The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

6.  Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, by James Miller

7.  The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

8. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

MobyDick9. How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in Twenty Questions and One Attempt at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell

10. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

11. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

12. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

13. Stories of Anton Chekhov

14. Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories

15. American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

16. The Lay of the Land, by Richard Ford

17. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

18. Message in a Bottle, by Walker Percy

19. The History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

20. Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Scientific Quest for the Secrets of the Universe, by Dennis Overbye

21. Woody Guthrie: A Life, by Joe Klein


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Published: Dec 17, 2014
Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen (b. 1949) is an American songwriter, musician, and singer, who has performed in front of audiences since 1963. His albums include Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, and Born in the U.S.A. Nicknamed "The Boss," Mr. Springsteen is known for the poetry of his lyrics, which revolve around the stories of working-class Americans, his distinctive voice, and his lengthy and energetic stage performances. He is the recipient of an Academy Award, twenty Grammy Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mr. Springsteen's autobiography is Born To Run.
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8 replies to this post
  1. Well, now, we can be a lot more specific than “central New Jersey.” That was Freehold, New Jersey, site of the Battle of Monmouth. The Boss graduated from Freehold High School in 1966 or thereabouts. Hence the line in one of his early tunes about stepping out over the (county) line on Highway 9 in that fine, fuel-injected vehicle he and his buddies had availed themselves of.

    Another thing. Jim Miller’s book is very interesting. He also published just about the only book on Foucault (I am tempted to add “by Foucault”) that I recommend.

    • Yes, the author knows Freehold well, having lived there himself for a time. But this essay is not meant to present a detailed biography of Mr. Springsteen, of course, but to get right to the list of books without too much distraction. Thus the generalized “central New Jersey” was chosen, and details such as the Battle of Monmouth and Rte. 9 not mentioned. You can find more biographical details about Mr. Springsteen in two longer essays I authored here at this journal.

  2. I’m going to have to revise my opinion of Mr. Springsteen. I’d always considered him a poor man’s copy of Bob Dylan. Now, that I find that he reads, and listed a number of my favorites in his Christmas list, he seems a bright chap.

  3. This is a fine list.

    I hope to read Born to Run soon.

    I am grateful that this website lets us contemplate the work of a truly great American artist….in spite of his pitifully awful politics. 🙁

    • Thank you, sir, for this most thoughtful comment. Men are indeed complicated, and it is refreshing to find readers like you who can separate a consideration of a man’s artistry and philosophy from a consideration of his politics. We appreciate your loyal readership.

  4. As much as I have been a fan of Mr Springsteen for more than half his career so far, and I like his songs much, I don’t take him to be a good advisor on the matter of books. Still he surely is a grand one on musical matters.

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