Monday, 10 May 2021

JOHN LENNON'S FAVOURITE BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Here, we take a look through the various volumes of John Lennon’s library and get a glimpse into the literary world of one of the greats.
 

 


John Lennon once revealed in an interview, a conversation recorded just weeks before his untimely death in 1980, that his family in Liverpool weren’t necessarily equipped to fulfil the notions of the poetic genius Lennon was showing himself to be at a young age: “It was scary as a child, because there was nobody to relate to,” he would comment.

“Neither my auntie nor my friends nor anybody could ever see what I did,” he added. “It was very, very scary and the only contact I had was reading about an Oscar Wilde or a Dylan Thomas or a Vincent van Gogh – all those books that my auntie had that talked about their suffering because of their visions. Because of what they saw, they were tortured by society for trying to express what they were.”

John decided to write some interesting literature, using his knack of improvisation to guide him.

His first work, The Daily Howl, was brimming with comics and caricatures, poetry and prose, and was largely shared among high school chums. 
His first proper work was 1964’s John Lennon: In His Own Write and was filled with nonsensical prose and wordplay. It sold so well he received another book deal just a year later.

Despite the success, writing books wasn’t something John had originally bargained on. “There was never any real thought of writing a book,” he later said. “It was something that snowballed. If I hadn’t been a Beatle I wouldn’t have thought of having the stuff published; I would have been crawling around broke and just writing it and throwing it away. I might have been a Beat poet!”
 
 “I’d have a separate songwriting John Lennon who wrote songs for the meat market, and I didn’t consider them (the lyrics or anything) to have any depth at all; to express myself I would write A Spaniard in the Works or In His Own Write, the personal stories which were expressive of my personal emotions. Then I started being me about the songs, not writing them objectively, but subjectively.”

As much as his own work as a writer could influence his music, Lennon also found influence from other authors would shape the sounds of The Beatles. Talking about the notion of penning Beatles’ hit ‘I am the Walrus’, Lennon said: “I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days. It’s from ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter.’ ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ To me, it was a beautiful poem.”
 
He added: “It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realised that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh s...t,I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it? (singing) ‘I am the carpenter…’”  


A less fantastical and more contemporary source of inspiration for John as a teenager and onwards into adulthood was his love of the Beat poets of New York. From Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, Lennon massively admired the spirit and soul of the movement’s work. Ginsberg gets a shoutout in ‘Give Peace A Chance’ while William S. Burroughs is featured on the famous cover of Beatles record, Sgt. Pepper.

Ginsberg recalls, on meeting with John before his death: “I was passing by Dakota Apartments last month, phoned upstairs and visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono for an hour…[Lennon] said he was lying sleepless one night listening to WBAI earphones and heard someone reciting a long poem, he thought it was Dylan till he heard the announcer say it was Ginsberg reading ‘Howl’…said he’d never read it or understood it before, his eye’d seen the page but, ‘I can’t read anything, I can’t get anything from print’, but once hearing it aloud he suddenly understood, he said, why Dylan had often mentioned me to him, and suddenly realised what I was doing and dug it.”

With all the sensitivity, poetry, prose and percussion in everything Lennon writes, it is easy to see the influence on his life the books below had on him. 
 
John Lennon’s favourite books:

    Beano
    Ronald Searle (illustrations)
    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    Curiosities of Natural History by Francis T. Buckland
    Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
    Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
    Just William by Richmal Crompton
    Howl by Allen Ginsberg
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
    On The Road by Jack Kerouac
    The Psychedelic Experience:A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead   by Timothy Leary
    Grapefruit by Yoko Ono
    1984 by George Orwell
    Animal Farm by George Orwell
    Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe
    Born Under a Bad Sign by Tony Palmer & Ralph Steadman
    Forty-One Years In India by Field Marshal Lord Roberts
    Major Works by Jonathan Swift
    Major Works by Alfred Lord Tennyson
    Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas
    I Am Also a You by Jay Thompson
    Writings and Drawings by James Thurber
    Complete Works by Oscar Wilde 
 

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