Bob Mould's 6 favorite books

The alt-rock legend recommends works by William S. Burroughs, Jimmy Webb, and more


Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting by Jimmy Webb (Hyperion, $18). One can open this book to any page and find meaningful insight into a sometimes mysterious process. Webb gives readers a craftsman's view of an inspirational art form while mapping his lifelong journey as a pop songwriter of great note.

Subduing Demons in America by John Giorno (Soft Skull, $20). The mantras, the cadence, the silences between — all are signature components of the work of this poet and performance artist. John's live performances are mesmerizing, confrontational, uplifting — and this career-spanning collection is a must-have for anyone who works with words and rhythms.

Outsiders by Howard S. Becker (Free Press, $18). In this 1963 book, Becker used his experiences as a young musician in Chicago to delve into labeling theory, deviance, and the function of subcultures. In learning the techniques, codes, and language of a subculture, an individual transitions from "normal" to "deviant" — or so society thinks.

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Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (Grove, $15). To my then 17-year-old eyes, this book was a revelation. The characters, the horrors, the comic tragedy... I couldn't put it down; I had to consume it in one sitting. Everything I thought I knew was instantly wrong after I'd seen the world through the twisted prism of William Lee.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (Putnam, $17). Sometimes the simplest change can make all the difference in how artists start and finish their work. We tap into the energy of the universe, harness inspiration, then create and reshape our visions. This book occasionally slips into cliché, but it also offers simple ways to overcome inhibition and stimulate creativity.

Roman Opalka by Jacques Roubaud et al. (Dis Voir, $27.50). I viewed an installation of "Opalka 1965/1–∞"in Minneapolis in the early 1980s, and the experience left an enormous impression. In that painting series, Roman Opalka was writing out whole numbers from one toward infinity, mostly in shifting tones of gray. This 1996 monograph helps explain.

Bob Mould became an alternative-rock legend as the frontman of the bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar. He published the memoir See a Little Light in 2011. His latest album, Beauty & Ruin, will be released June 3.

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