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Bruce Springsteen Reveals Books and Authors That Inspire Him

Cormac McCarthy, Walt Whitman, hard-boiled crime novels and Mariano Rivera’s autobiography on the rocker’s recommended list


Children's book author Bruce Springsteen shared some of his favorite novels and writers in a new interview.

Hollandse Hoogte/Corbis

Bruce Springsteen‘s first children’s book Outlaw Pete, based on a character introduced in the Working on a Dream song of the same name, is due out November 4th, and the songwriter-turned-author spoke to the New York Times about his own favorite books and writers.

Springsteen’s literary tastes are varied, as we learn the E Street rocker’s bookshelves are filled with everything from cosmology and philosophy books to hard-boiled crime novels, Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera’s autobiography.

“I like the Russians, the Chekhov short stories, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I never read any of them until the past four years, and found them to be thoroughly psychologically modern,” Springsteen said. As for his current favorites, the rocker lists authors Richard Ford, Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth, a fellow New Jersey native.

Given the often dark, unforgiving nature of those authors’ novels, it’s clear where Springsteen’s inspiration as a writer comes from. As the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer said of his book back in August, “Outlaw Pete is essentially the story of a man trying to outlive and outrun his sins,” which is heavy material for a children’s story, even if the main character is a bank-robbing baby. The story will also include memorable personalities from throughout the Springsteen songbook.

In the interview, we learn that Springsteen wrote his 1995 single “The Ghost of Tom Joad” before he even read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the novel in which Joad is the protagonist; Springsteen was initially inspired by both Woody Guthrie’s “The Ballad of Tom Joad” and director John Ford’s cinematic adaptation than the Steinbeck novel itself. Springsteen also admits that Steinbeck’s East of Eden is the novel he’s most embarrassed to not have read yet.

If Springsteen ever plans on writing his own life story – like so many rockers before him – he’s setting his own bar high. “As far as memoirs, it’s hard to beat Keith Richards’ love of music that shines through in Life,” he said. “I also found Eric Clapton’s autobiography to be surprisingly revealing and very moving. Of course I loved Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. It made me proud to be a musician.” Rolling Stone contributing editor Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music was also selected as Springsteen’s favorite book about music.

In This Article: Bruce Springsteen


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