Guns N ‘Roses singer Axl Rose’s favorite books of all time
When you think of Guns N ‘Roses singer and lyricist Axl Rose, a figure who has time for literary excellence is usually not an image that pops up. The only constant member of the hard rock heroes since their creation in 1985, Rose has become over the years a walking and speaking manifestation of the excess of rock ‘n’ roll. Sex, drugs, violence and a plethora of questionable opinions, Rose is often considered one of the most controversial and problematic figures in rock. While he’s widely hailed as one of the greatest and instantly recognizable singers of all time, the media image he’s cultivated has more in common with Kid Rock than, say, Robert Plant.
However, like any human being, Rose is multi-faceted. It would be reductive to see him clearly as a character defined by the traits described above, as hard to ignore as they are. You would be forgiven for thinking of him as a brash and boisterous individual without caring about anything of cultural value.
But that wouldn’t be true. Not only is Rose a very complex character, who has always struggled with a tough upbringing and all the complexities and emotional implications that it brought with it, but she’s also a very cultured person. This may also surprise you, given that the majority of Guns N ‘Roses’ work is not about what we will call “high” culture. The original lyrics of ‘Paradise City’ spring to mind to convey this point.
Following the famous return of Guns N ‘Roses with their sixth album, the highly anticipated Chinese democracy in 2008, fans’ attention turned to Rose’s literary tastes. This was because one of the most notable tracks on the album was titled “Catcher in the Rye”, which takes its name directly from JD Salinger’s 1951 novel of the same name.
Additionally, Rose claimed he wrote the lyrics after watching a documentary on John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman. This new found lyrical density shocked fans and critics, quite simply taken aback by Rose’s revelations. Rose didn’t stop there either. In a question-and-answer session with fans after the album’s release, he deepened the inspiration for the song. Rose said: “It started out as a fascination and curiosity with Holden Caufield Syndrome and what was or could be in the book that obviously some vulnerable people seemed to get so passionate about and resort to public attempts. or scandalous acts of violence. “
Even Rose’s mention of Holden Caulfield Syndrome falls far short of the image of the decadent rock star we all know too well. Rose is a direct reference to the killer of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman’s infamous illusion that he was actually Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The catcher in the rye. Chillingly echoing the cult of books, anti-“phony” message, Chapman convinced himself that he had to kill Lennon, whom he thought was the biggest phony of all. The most notorious excerpt from this horrific crime was that Chapman sat quietly reading the book after he shot the ex-Beatle, watching the horror around him unfold.
It would be easy to get bogged down in all the negative implications of The catcher in the rye, and it’s a story to be told, just another day. Coming back to Axl Rose, during this Q&A, not only did he share this The catcher in the rye was his all-time favorite book, and as a disoriented and confused teenager found solace in Holden Caulfield, Rose was also generous enough to divulge the titles of his other five favorite books.
It truly was the first time Guns N ‘Roses fans had been offered a portal into the leader’s brain, and much like his surprising fascination with Holden Caulfield Syndrome, it didn’t disappoint. An eclectic mix of books, the list had one common thread: a fondness for the darker side of the human condition.
Rose mentioned The stall by Stephen King, the 1978 post-apocalyptic dark fantasy centered on the aftermath of a deadly militarized flu pandemic. In the book, the few surviving remnants of humanity come together in factions ruled by a personification of good or evil. In many ways, this is King’s contemporary take on Tolkien’s work. The Lord of the Rings, and is a cult classic among his fans.
A dark scanner is another of the classic novels mentioned by Rose. The 1977 semi-autobiographical novel by sci-fi hero Philip K. Dick is set in a paranoid and dystopian version of Orange County, California, and deals with the recreational and abusive elements of drug culture. The other literary classic that Rose loves is Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic horror, Frankenstein, which does not need discussion.
Rose also surprised audiences with her inclusions of two lesser-known modern works, describing Rose as an avid reader who has her own unique taste. Apparently appealing to the same part of his ideation that found solace in the pages of Salinger, one of those other books was James Dean: The Mutant King, the 1983 David Dalton biography of the original Uncaused Rebel actor James Dean.
The last book Rose gave her love to was Zodiac by Neal Stephenson. The 1988 novel tells the story of fictional environmentalist Sangamon Taylor as he uncovers a conspiracy involving industrial polluters in Boston Harbor. Zodiac is an underrated gem, a speculative fiction that reflects Gen X’s dissatisfaction with big business and steadfast neoliberalism.
Check out the full list of Axl Rose’s favorite books below.
Axl Rose’s six favorite books:
- The catcher in the rye by JD Salinger
- The stall by Stephen King
- A dark scanner by Philip K. Dick
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- James Dean: The Mutant King by David Dalton
- Zodiac by Neal Stephenson
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