Richey Edwards’ favorite books

Manic Street Preachers - Richey Edwards

Richey Edwards was a rare character in the story of alternative rock. Fiercely determined to create popular art while speaking about alienation, ugliness and despair as much as much as he did about redemption and beauty. Confident about quoting not only the Clash as inspiration but also Nietzsche and Camus. He was a person very critical of the state of the world,  but wanting to be massively successful and accepted for his art in a world he distrusted. Richey Edwards certainly distinguished himself from the crowds of would be rockstars of the time. And while his pessimism is evident in much of his work, there is great determination to add real weight to his words.

Manic Street Preachers released the album The Holy Bible in 1994. In many ways it’s the groups masterpiece. It was their third album and the last with the original guitarist/lyricist Richey Edwards. Famously he went missing soon afterwards. His whereabouts or any details of what actually happened to him have remained unknown until this day. The album is regarded as one of the greatest in alternative rock history. It’s certainly a work that is dense, well thought out and in many moments shockingly engulfed in darkness and despair.

The Holy Bible, Richey Edwards - Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers members divided labor like a hippie commune. For the most part guitarist/vocalist James Dean Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore worked on the music, having the most knowledge and experience of playing their instruments. Bass player Nicky Wire and Richey Edwards worked on the lyrics and constituted by default (at least in the early days of the group) the image of the group.

With their first release the Manic Street Preachers announced their objective to sell more albums than Guns n’ Roses and split up right afterwards. The plans did not quite pan out, but the band continued to play and to get better. By the time of their third album, The Holy Bible, they had achieved their peak in terms of creativity. The British press who had supported the Manics initially especially in light of their image and inflammatory statements now heaped praises on them for their musical achievements.

Richey Edwards - Manic Street Preachers

Richey Edwards had a degree in political history and just slight glance over the lyrics he contributed to the Manic Street Preachers would reveal he was  a very smart guy and an avid reader. The web site www.richeyedwards.net offers a treasure trove list of (presumably) Richey Edwards favorite books. The list is certainly impressive in terms of his taste in literature, but it’s also important as it acts as a sort of guide map to the early work of the Manic Street Preachers.

There might be little surprise that some of Edwards favorite authors include Dostoevsky, Ballard or Genet, writers with a similar interest for the beauty of the natural world and the conflict with the corruption and ugliness of humanity. The first lyrics on the Holy Bible on the song Yes are : “For sale? dumb cunt’s same dumb questions/Oh virgins? listen, all virgins are liars honey”. Edwards was certainly not someone to mince his words or hide his disgust for some of humanity’s worse aspects. It also did not help that he came from a culture seemingly obsessed by defeatism and from a town in Wales that had suffered a great economic depression and massive unemployment rates.

Edwards also seems to have an interest in authors similarly interested in the decay of human morals, like the Czech born Franz Kafka,  Octave Mirbeau or William Golding . Edwards also displays an interest in the beat generation authors such as Burroughs and Kerouac, the philosophy of Camus and the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath or William Blake. In fact, in a TV interview he referred to “A season in hell” by Rimbaud as his favorite book.

Below is the full list as published on the aforementioned web site. Imagine that, rock music that actually makes you want to read a book.
Small Craft Warnings / Suddenly Last Summer / Baby Doll – Tennessee Williams

Go Ask Alice – Anonymous

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

A Season In Hell – Arthur Rimbaud

Junkie – William Burroughs

The Myth Of Sisyphus / The Outsider / The Fall / The Plague – Albert Camus

Poetry by any of the following:

Philip Larkin
Primo Levi
William Blake
Siegfried Sassoon
The Boy Looked At Johnny – Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons

Mystery Train – Greil Marcus

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age Of Rock – Nik Cohn

Crosstown Traffic – Charles Shaar Murray

Elvis – The Last 24 Hours / The Lives Of Lennon – Albert Goldman

1984 – George Orwell

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The Fire Next Time / Another Country – James Baldwin

Borstal Boy – Brendan Behan

Less Than Zero / American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

Lord Of The Flies / The Inheritors – William Golding

Prick Up Your Ears – John Lahr

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Desolation Angels – Jack Kerouac

The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

The Catcher In The Rye – J. D. Salinger

Birdy / Pride – William Wharton

Naomi – Junichiro Tanizaki

No Longer Human – Osamu Dazai

The Trial / The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

Frisk – Dennis Cooper

Notes From The Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Bernice Bobs Her Hair – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Black Rain – Masuji Ibuse

Thirst For Love – Yukio Mishima

The Picture Of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Miracle Of The Rose – Jean Genet

Crash / The Atrocity Exhibition – J. G. Ballard

Blown Away – A.E. Hotchner

Knots – R. D. Laing

Under The Volcano – Malcolm Lowry

The Waste Land – T. S. Eliot

The Torture Garden – Octave Mirbeau

The Runaway Soul – Harold Brodkey

(source http://www.richeyedwards.net/richeybooks.html).

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