Herbie Hancock's 6 favorite books

The jazz legend recommends works by Barack Obama, Quincy Jones, and more

(Image credit: (Gail Oskin/Getty Images for American Academy of Arts and Sciences))

Footprints by Michelle Mercer (Tarcher, $15). Wayne Shorter is a saxophonist, a wonderful composer, a very bright and extremely creative person, and also my best friend. But I didn't meet him until about 1963, when I was 23 and he was maybe 29. When I read his biography, I got a chance to learn more about his childhood. He and his brother Alan, also a musician, had a kind of rebelliousness when they were young, choosing not to follow the crowd. They showed a great deal of courage early on, even as kids.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (Broadway, $15). I've had the good fortune to meet President Obama. I believe he's a compassionate man, and my impression of him is compatible with how he describes the flow of his life from his early childhood.

The Buddha in Your Mirror by Woody Hochswender, Greg Martin, and Ted Morino (Middleway, $14). I've been a practicing Buddhist for 41 years now — I follow a school called Nichiren Buddhism, founded by a Japanese monk in the 13th century. I wrote the foreword to this book, a guide to achieving enlightenment. It's kind of an easy read for non-Buddhists, to provide an understanding of Nichiren principles.

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A Brief History of Time (Bantam, $18) and The Theory of Everything (Jaico, $15) by Stephen Hawking. I'm interested in cosmology, technology, and science. These books, Hawking's explanation of the formation of the universe and a series of his lectures at the University of Cambridge, are difficult to get through but well worth it.

Q by Quincy Jones (Three Rivers, $14 as an e-book). Quincy Jones is also a dear friend of mine, and has been for 50 years, yet I really enjoyed reading about his life and career in his 2002 autobiography. It was Quincy, back in the '90s, who told me, "Herbie, you better start writing your book." I hadn't thought of it, but over the years, I started to think he was right. He made suggestions on how to do it, and he would remind me periodically, "Start writing that book!"

Herbie Hancock has accumulated 14 Grammy Awards across a six-decade career in which he's been consistently a pioneering force as a keyboardist and composer. Possibilities, his first memoir, has just been published by Viking.

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