Neil Peart’s mammoth reading list: The drummer’s favourite books of all time
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Neil Peart’s mammoth reading list: The drummer’s favourite books of all time

    It’s a cliché of music that the drummer is, ahem, the least well-read member of the band, to put it mildly. Fortunately, for the sticksmiths who have been beleaguered by this trope since time immemorial, Rush’s late thunderous groove engine Neil Peart crafted a hefty tome of texts to disavow the prejudice for good.

    It is notable in Peart’s case, that he was also the lyricist for Rush which represents a fairly rare double act in music. In order to keep his quill sharp so to speak, the drumming extraordinaire was forever delving into books and prising any wisdom that he could. As ardent fans might already know, the works of Ayn Rand and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain are both recurring touchstones in the band’s back catalogue, but there was a lot more than that evidently floating in the wheelhouse of inspirations, a whole lot more!

    For many years, the drummer who sadly passed away in 2020, ran a section on his website called Bubba’s Book Club headed with the Aldous Huxley quote: “The proper study of mankind is books.” Peart then expands upon this with his own analysis, writing: “First reading that quote some years ago, I was perplexed, and thus unenlightened. I liked the implied reverence for books, which I have shared all my life, but—what did it mean?”

    He then goes on to say: “Now, with the benefit of a few more years of living, reading, and learning to understand how great minds express themselves, I realize those few chiselled words have to be parsed with Aristotelean precision. An intellect as cultivated and rigorous as Aldous Huxley’s would weigh and measure each word that way.”

    In the lengthy write-up that follows Peart reveals himself as a sagacious literary mind and reflects on how novels have influenced his life and work in one of many lengthy reviews he penned for the site; all of which have been collated in the mammoth list of mentions that he doled out over the years in his own impassioned prose.

    From his take on the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men that was later adapted into the Coen brothers movie of the same name, that Peart describes as: “[McCarthy’s most ambitious myth yet, and like many myths, it also has a lot to say about the world around us now. In the familiar McCarthy landscape of West Texas, along the Mexican border, the fate of two men and those around them are affected by a drug deal gone fatally bad. The ageing Sheriff Bell reflects on the changes he has known through his life and career, while a young man, Llewelyn Moss, finds himself swept into a vortex of evil and violence.” 

    To his rather thought-provoking take on David Foster Wallace who he links to a fellow musical trailblazer, Brain Wilson. “Wallace suffered from the pressures of having the word ‘genius’ lobbed in his direction,” he writes, “And struggled to live up to his own expectations for his work (another musical echo, of Brian Wilson, a fragile, burning spirit of pure ambition weighed down by the need to ‘measure up’ to some imagined expectation).”

    You can check out the full list of the books he felt stirred enough by to review below. 

    Neil Peart’s favourite books:

    • Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
    • The Man With the Golden Arm, by Nelson Algren
    • Inés of My Soul, by Isabel Allende
    • Scattered Suns, by Kevin J. Anderson
    • Metal Swarm, by Kevin J. Anderson
    • Resurrection Inc, by Kevin J. Anderson
    • The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah
    • Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, by Joe Bageant
    • The Book of Ten Nights and a Night, by John Barth
    • Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons, by John Barth
    • More Die of Heartbreak, by Saul Bellow
    • Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow
    • The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow
    • Humboldt’s Gift, by Saul Bellow
    • The Inner Circle, by T.C. Boyle
    • Drop City, by T.C. Boyle
    • Louis Riel, by Chester Brown
    • Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, by Bill Bruford
    • A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
    • A Salty Piece of Land, by Jimmy Buffett
    • The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton
    • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
    • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
    • Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of A Husband, Father, and Son, by Michael Chabon
    • Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
    • The Republic of Nothing, by Lesley Choyce
    • The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady
    • The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad
    • Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad
    • Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
    • Victory, by Joseph Conrad
    • Eleanor Rigby, by Douglas Coupland
    • The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies
    • Underworld, by Don DeLillo
    • The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt
    • The Old Curiosity Shop, bt Charles Dickens
    • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • The Brothers K, by David James Duncan
    • The River Why, by David James Duncan
    • The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell
    • A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
    • What is the What, by Dave Eggers 
    • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
    • You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers
    • How We Are Hungry, by Dave Eggers
    • Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
    • A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
    • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
    • The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
    • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
    • The Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
    • Canada, by Richard Ford
    • Strong Motion, by Jonathan Franzen
    • Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier
    • Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene
    • Journey Without Maps, by Graham Greene
    • The Lawless Roads, by Graham Greene
    • The Heart of the Matter, by Graham Greene
    • The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
    • Our Lady of the Forest, by David Guterson 
    • Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
    • Rebuilding the Indian, by Fred Haefele
    • Late Nights On Air, by Elizabeth Hay
    • Under Kilimanjaro, by Ernest Hemingway
    • To Have and To Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway
    • Islands in the Stream, by Ernest Hemingway
    • Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway
    • A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
    • The Garden of Eden, by Ernest Hemingway
    • Pike’s Folly, by Mike Heppner
    • The Egg Code, by Mike Heppner
    • The Man Talking Project, by Mike Heppner
    • A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
    • High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
    • About a Boy, by Nick Hornby
    • How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby
    • Songbook, by Nick Hornby
    • Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby
    • The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby
    • A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, by Tony Horwitz
    • After Many A Summer Dies the Swan, by Aldous Huxley 
    • Frank Lloyd Wright, by Ada Louise Huxtable
    • Until I Find You, by John Irving
    • A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
    • The World According to Garp, by John Irving
    • The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
    • In One Person, by John Irving
    • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston
    • The Custodian of Paradise, by Wayne Johnston
    • A World Elsewhere, by Wayne Johnston
    • Ulysses, by James Joyce
    • Critique of Religion and Philosophy, by Walter Kaufmann
    • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
    • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee 
    • This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of A Human Obsession, by Daniel J. Levitin
    • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
    • White Fang, by Jack London
    • The Sea-Wolf, by Jack London
    • Martin Eden, by Jack London
    • The Way the Crow Flies, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
    • Fall on Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
    • Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: The Life of David Foster Wallace, by D.T. Max
    • No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
    • Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
    • Blood Meridian, or, The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy
    • The Border Trilogy, by Cormac McCarthy
    • Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    • Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World, by Ewan McGregor
    • The Good Life, by Jay McInerney 
    • Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
    • The Story of My Life, by Jay McInerney
    • Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee 
    • Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-oil-powered Car, and A Cross-country Search for A Greener Future, by Greg Melville 
    • Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
    • Unfinished Journey: Twenty Years Later, by Yehudi Menuhin
    • The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud 
    • A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
    • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    • Fool, by Christopher Moore
    • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore
    • French Revolutions, by Tim Moore
    • Paradise, by Toni Morrison 
    • Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov
    • The Big Year, by Mark Obmascik
    • Going After Cacciato, by Tim O’Brien
    • The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
    • In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
    • This Is Your Life, by Tim O’Brien
    • In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje
    • There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning To Do, by Michael Ondaatje
    • Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje
    • The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
    • The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje
    • The Motor Cycle Chums of the Northwest Patrol, by Howard Payson
    • Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl
    • The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles, by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
    • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
    • The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
    • Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Mark Richardson 
    • Barney’s Version, by Mordecai Richler
    • The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, by Mordecai Richler
    • St. Urbain’s Horseman, by Mordecai Richler
    • Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal
    • The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    • An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth 
    • Jupiter’s Travels, by Ted Simon
    • So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star, by Jacob Slichter
    • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
    • The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck
    • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
    • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
    • Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten
    • Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, by William Styron
    • Blinding Light, by Paul Theroux
    • The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments From Lives on the Road, by Paul Theroux
    • A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews
    • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
    • Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
    • A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe
    • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace
    • The Broom of the System, by David Foster Wallace
    • Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
    • The Architects Are Here, by Michael Winter

    You can find Peart’s thoughts on the above by clicking here.

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