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Bruce SpringsteenThe 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-five is now a voracious reader. Not long ago, he was spotted taking notes in a book on philosophy and asked about his interests in the realm of literature. The following list comes from this and other interviews given by Mr. Springsteen.

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

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

3.  Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

4.  The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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

6.  The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

7. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

MobyDick8. How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in Twenty Questions and One Attempt at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell

9. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

10. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

10. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

11. Stories of Anton Chekhov

12. Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories

13. American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

14. The Lay of the Land, by Richard Ford

15. The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

16. Message in a Bottle, by Walker Percy

17. The History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

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

19. Woody Guthrie: A Life, by Joe Klein


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5 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.

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