Feature

What Pretenders musician Chrissie Hynde is reading

The musician recommends works by Chinua Achebe, John Banville, and more

Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer and principal songwriter of the Pretenders, will be touring with her band again this summer. She has recently produced a memoir, a book of paintings, and a jazz album featuring tunes by other great songwriters.

Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee (1983).

It's not often I read something that affects me the way this novel did. So tender, bursting with humanity and understanding. It's in my top five of all time. I might start crying just thinking about it.

Low Heights by Pascal Garnier (2003).

This French writer was new to me; I found his novel in a hurry at the airport. It's very funny, full of insight on being arrogant and getting old, and on being a servant who is generous of spirit. Humility, grumpiness, some tender love, and brutal violence. I will now investigate all of Garnier's other books — there are about 60!

The Blue Guitar by John Banville (2015).

I have to include Banville, one of the greatest novelists alive, and I like to think he wrote this one expressly for me — blue guitar and all — although it doesn't have the slightest reference to me and I am delusional. I take ages reading Banville, as I reread every other sentence to savor his incredible constructions of text. Nobody can touch him, in my opinion.

Enemies, a Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1972).

Another masterpiece by a master. Singer's story about a Polish Holocaust survivor living in New York manages to be extremely funny, heartbreaking, and insightful. Any reader who hasn't read this has a real treat in store.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958).

The first time I read this one, I was on tour in Australia. I had to hide in a hotel room for an hour to finish it. I was devastated, crying, the lot. It was one of the first novels by an African to be published in English, and it is a masterpiece. Breathtaking stuff.

Me Cheeta by James Lever (2008).

This surprising spoof autobiography is not only hilarious, but also tender and insightful. Cheeta recounts his days working with Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan's chimpanzee sidekick, but it's more than that. He also recalls his capture from the jungle and arrival in America. I can honestly say that I laughed, I cried, and I learned a lot. Why this baby has not seen a movie screen yet is a mystery. It's another that I read and reread.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, try the magazine for a month here.

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