Phoenix’s 10 Favorite Books

Bookseller One Grand Books has asked literary celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is the list from the band members of Phoenix, Thomas Mars, Deck D’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai.

Everything and Nothing, by Jorge Luis Borges
There’s more to life than Jorge Luis Borges’s books, but not much more! I’ve read Borges so many times that I feel he’s a member of the family. And when the lonely darkness of a generic hotel room sets in, I play his DVD of interviews on repeat in the background and it instantly feels like home. —Brancowitz

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, by René Girard
The most powerful grand theory of the 20th century. At the crossroads of literature, anthropology, psychology, and theology, this review of Girard’s deceptively simple grand theory helped me crack the code of many mysteries of human existence. —Brancowitz

Your Ticket Is No Longer Valid, by Romain Gary
I have always felt a special connection with Romain Gary since reading Promise at Dawn in high school. This, however, is a different story, one about aging, the loss of libido, and suicide. The kind of story they wouldn’t recommend in any high school in Versailles, where I grew up — sex ed didn’t exist, and suicide rates were off the charts. This is my favorite of Gary’s books, because it deals with his darkest demons: Can you leave someone because you love them too much? Very French! —Mars

The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, by Salvador Dalí
It starts like this: “At the age of six, I wanted to be a cook. At seven, I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing ever since.” I read this autobiography a long time ago, but only visited Dalí’s house in Port Lligat last summer and understood that, of his many masterpieces, the greatest might be his life in this house on the Mediterranean Sea. —Brancowitz

Fragments, by Heraclitus
My neighbor happens to be a retired Italian philosophy teacher, and I would sometimes see his silhouette through the curtains writing at his desk late at night. We eventually became friends and I asked him for some lessons. “We must start from the beginning,” he said, and that was Heraclitus, also known as the Obscure — rightly so: Three years later we’re still studying this book. (I recommend Marcovitch’s 1967 edition. Of all the books I own, this might be my favorite.) —Brancowitz

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
During the recording of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Philippe Zdar (our producer) talked a lot about Hemingway’s techniques to be creative. There are few tricks revealed that we’re still using. I live in the same Paris area that he’s describing all through the stories; it’s the best book about my neighborhood that I know. —Mazzalai

La Conquête Récits Aztèques, by Georges Baudot and Tzvetan Todorov
History books are written by the winners, but these extraordinary accounts come from people who lost it all. This compilation of texts (mainly the Florentine and Tlatelolco codexes) relays the Spanish conquest of the Americas from the perspective of Aztec writers — the sublimely tragic story of a great civilization on the edge of annihilation. —Brancowitz

The Essays, by Michel de Montaigne
I discovered The Essays at 17 at school, and instantly felt this was about me, dealing with my issues, friendship, death, experimenting, education, morals, etc. I’m not a particularly big reader, but I’ve never stopped going back to The Essays since then, and hopefully won’t, as this extremely accurate, honest, pragmatic self-description of the author’s mind offers a way to know yourself a bit better each time you pick up that book, and as a consequence, live a better life. —D’Arcy

Manufacturing Consent, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
When the night is dark and the compass is broken, Noam Chomsky should be our North Star. —Brancowitz

Please Kill Me, by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil
I chose this one because I read a bad review about it in the New York Times when it came out. WTF NYT? This highly entertaining, uncompromising history of punk music is a classic. Iggy’s stories are my favorites. Raw power. —Mars

Phoenix’s 10 Favorite Books