Meltdown is over. The artists have moved on to their next gigs, the stages have been reset, and the Southbank Center is hosting another project. One aspect remains, however: the Lending Library is still open! Until September 13th, you may check out a book from David Byrne's private library, take it home, and return it to Southbank free of charge. Maria Popova published a lovely essay on the topic recently on

David Byrne’s Lending Library

A colorful case of the mosaic of influences that is art.

“When a library is open, no matter its size or shape,” Bill Moyers wrote, “democracy is open, too.” A century and a half earlier, Thoreau extolled a different aspect of the library as a technology of thought, writing in his diary: “Those old books suggested a certain fertility … as if they were making a humus for new literatures to spring in.”

It was in a similar spirit that, in curating the 2015 Meltdown Festival at London’s Southbank Centre, beloved musician David Byrne decided to turn his personal book collection into a lending library. “I love a library. The idea of reading books for free didn’t kill the publishing business,” he writes in The Guardian, “on the contrary, it created nations of literate and passionate readers. Shared interests and the impulse to create.”

His impressively worldly library of more than 200 titles spans nearly every aspect of music — from technique to theory, mechanics to memoirs, instruments to interviews — as well as psychology, art, architecture, history, and copyright law.

A lifelong lover of reading, Byrne grew up in a small suburban town near Baltimore, where the library was his only access point to the wider world and books became his formative creative sandbox. I asked him about his earliest memory of a formative book he borrowed from that childhood library and he points to The Phantom Tollbooth. How apt that the 1961 classic contains the now-iconic map of The Kingdom of Wisdom, with its Mountains of Ignorance, Foothills of Confusion, and Sea of Knowledge — an perfect metaphor for how reading itself equips us with an invaluable compass for navigating the landscape of life.

In resonance with Umberto Eco’s concept of the “anti-library,” Byrne points out that he hasn’t read all the books in his library, but has bought each one with the intention of reading it one day — a practice the Japanese call tsundoku.

I’ve digitized the complete alphabetized list of books in Byrne’s lending library, sent to me in a photograph by Brain Pickings reader Ben Hart. What emerges is confirmation that great art is always a mosaic of vibrantly varied influences.

1. 40 Watts from Nowhere: A Journey into Pirate Radio by Sue Carpenter
2. A divina comedia dos Mutantes by Carlos Calado
3. A Photographic Record: 1969–1980 by Mick Rock
4. A Thelonious Monk: Study Album by Lionel Grigson
5. A Whole Room for Music: A Short Guide to the Balfour Building Music Makers’ Gallery by Helene La Rue
6. Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life by Brandon Labelle
7. Acoustics for Radio and Television Studios by Christopher Gilford
8. Africa Dances by Geoffrey Gorer
9. African Music: A People’s Art by Francis Bebey
10. African Rhythm and African Sensibility by John Miller Chernoff
11. Afro-American Folk Songs by H.E. Krehbiel
12. AfroPop! An Illustrated Guide to Contemporary African Music by Sean Barlow & Banning Eyre
13. All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman
14. Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafè by Miguel Algarin & Bob Holman
15. An Illustrated Treasury of Songs by National Gallery of Art
16. And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey by Studs Terkel
17. Arranged Marriage by Wallace Berman & Robert Watts
18. Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music by Cristoph Cox & Daniel Warner
19. Austin City Limits: 35 Years in Photographs by Scott Newton & Terry Lickona
20. Bachata: A Social History of a Dominican Popular Music by Deborah Pacini Hernandez
21. Bandalism: The Rock Group Survival Guide by Julian Ridgway
22. Beats of the Heart: Popular Music of the World by Jeremy Marre & Hannah Charlton
23. Best Music Writing 2001 by Nick Hornby & Ben Schafer
24. Best Music Writing 2002 by Jonathan Lethem & Paul Bresnick
25. Best Music Writing 2003 by Matt Groening & Paul Bresnick
26. Best Music Writing 2006 by Mary Gaitskill & Daphne Carr
27. Best Music Writing 2007 by Robert Christgau & Daphne Carr
28. Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne
29. Black Music of Two Worlds by John Storm Roberts
30. Black Rhythms of Peru: Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific by Heidi Carolyn Feidman
31. Blues Guitar: The Men Who Made the Music by Jas Obrecht
32. Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music that Seduced the World by Ruy Castro
33. Botsford Collection of Folk Songs Volume 1 by Florence Hudson Botsford
34. Botsford Collection of Folk Songs Volume 2 by Florence Hudson Botsford
35. Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie
36. Bourbon Street Black: The New Orleans Black Jazzman byJack V Buerkle & Danny Barker
37. Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship by Idelber Avelar & Christopher Dunn
38. Brutality Garden: Tropicalla and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture by Christopher Dunn
39. Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise by David Rothenberg
40. But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer
41. Cancioneiro Vinicius De Moraes by Orfeu
42. Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music by Mark Katz
43. Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White
44. Chambers by Alvin Lucier & Douglas Simon
45. Chinaberry Sidewalks: A Memoir by Rodney Crowell
46. Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk by Deborah Harry, Glenn O’Brien & Shepard Fairey
47. Clandestino: In Search of Manu Chao by Peter Culshaw
48. Clothes Music Boys by Viv Albertine
49. Cocinando! Fifty Years of Latin Cover Art by Pablo Yglesias
50. Conjunto by John Dyer
51. Conversations with Glenn Gould by Jonathan Cott
52. Conversing with Cage by Richard Kostelanetz
53. Copyrights & Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity by Siva Vaidhyanathan
54. Dancing in Your Head: Jazz, Blues, Rock and Beyond by Gene Santoro
55. Desert Plants: Conversations with Twenty-Three American Musicians by Walter Zimmerman
56. Diccionario de Jazz Latino by Nat Chediak
57. Diccionario del Rock Latino by Nat Chediak
58. Driving Through Cuba: Rare Encounters in the Land of Sugar Cane and Revolution by Carlo Gebler
59. Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion by Mickey Hart & Jay Stevens
60. Essays on Music by Theodor W. Adorno
61. Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond by Michael Nyman
62. Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2 by Negativland
63. Fela Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore
64. Fetish & Fame: The 1997 MTV Video Music Awards by David Felton
65. Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim
66. Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents by Bruno Nettl
67. Folk Song Style and Culture by Alan Lomax
68. Folk: The Essential Album Guide by Neal Walers & Brian Mansfield
69. Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition by Iannis Xenakis
70. Fotografie in Musica by Guido Harari
71. Genesis of a Music by Harry Partch
72. Give my Regards to Eighth Street: Collected Writings of Morton Feldman by B.H. Friedman
73. Gravikords, Whirlies, & Pyrophones: Experimental Musical Instruments by Bart Hopkin
74. Guia Esencial De La Salsa by Jose Manuel Gomez
75. Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning by Gary Marcus
77. Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening, and Modernity by Veit Erlmann
78. Here Come the Regulars: How to Run a Record Label on a Shoestring Budget by Ian Anderson
79. He Stopped Loving Her Today: George Jones, Billy Sherrill and the Pretty-Much Totally True Story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time by Jack Isenhour
80. Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music and Graffiti by Steven Hager
81. Hit Men by Frederic Dannen
82. Hitsville: The 100 Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazines 1954–1968 by Alan Betrock
83. Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why by Ellen Dissanayake
84. Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture by Alice Echols
85. How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond by John Powell
86. Hungry for Heaven: Rock and Roll and the Search for Redemption by Steve Turner
87. I Have Seen the End of the World and it Looks Like This by Bob Schneider
88. I’ll Take You There Mavis Staples: The Staple Songers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway by Greg Kot
89. In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik
90. Indian Music by B. Chaitanya Deva
91. It Ain’t Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues by Paul Myers
92. Japanese Music and Musical Instruments by William P. Malm
93. Javanese Gamelan by Jennifer Lindsay
94. Jazz by William Claxton
95. Knitting Music by Michael Dorf
96. La Traviata: In Full Score by Giuseppe Verdi
97. Laurie Anderson by John Howell
98. Leon Geico: Cronica de un Sueno by Oscar Finkelstein
99. Lexicon of Musical Invective by Nicolas Slonimsky
101. Light Strings: Impressions of the Guitar by Ralph Gibson & Andy Summers
102. Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music by Eric Weisbard
103. Listening Through the Noise: the Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music by Joanna Demers
104. Listen to This by Alex Ross
105. Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981–2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany by Stephen Sondheim
106. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Music Made New in New York City in the ’70s by Will Hermes
107. Love in Vain: The Life and Legend of Robert Johnson by Allen Greenberg
108. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture by Tim Lawrence
109. Low by Hugo Wilcken
110. Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-dirty in Seventies New York by James Wolcott
111. Macumba: The Teachings of Maria-Jose, Mother of the Gods by Serge Bramly
112. Mango Mambo by Adal
113. Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song: MPB 1965–1985 by Charles Perrone
114. Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll by Steven Kasher
115. Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells by Tommy James
116. Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe
117. Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an imaginary Soul Superstar by Dori Hadar
118. Mister Jelly Roll: The Fortunes of Jelly Roll Morton, New Orleans Creole and “Inventor of Jazz” by Alan Lomax
119. Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture by Thurston Moore
120. Music by Paul Bowles
121. Music and Communication by Terence McLaughlin
122. Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters by Bob W. White
123. Music and the Brain: Studies in the Neurology of Music by MacDonald Critchley & R. A. Henson
124. Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr
125. Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations between Music and Possession by Gilbert Rouget
126. Music Cultures of the Pacific, The Near East, and Asia by William P. Malm
128. Music in Cuba by Alejo Carpentier
129. Music, Language and the Brain by Aniruddh D. Patel
130. Musica Cubana Del Areyto a la Nueva Trova by Dr. Cristobal Diaz Ayala
131. Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia with More than 4,000 Original Drawings by Ruth Midgely
132. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks
133. My Music by Susan D Crafts, Daniel Cavicchi & Charles Keil
134. New York Noise: Art and Music from the New York Underground 1978-88 by Stuart Baker
135. Noise: A Human History of Sound & Listening by David Hendy
136. Noise: The Political Economy of Music by Jacques Attali
137. Notations by John Cage
138. Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds by David Toop
139. On Sonic Art by Trevor Wishart
140. Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Opera by Fred Plotkin
141. Patronizing The Arts by Marjorie Garber
142. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music by Greg Milner
143. Pet Shop Boys: Literally by Chris Heath
144. Popular Musics of the Non-Western World: An Introductory Survey by Peter Manuel
145. The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the Science of Song by Elena Mannes
146. Presenting Celia Cruz by Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte
147. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
148. Queens of Havana: The Amazing Adventures of the Legendary Anacaona, Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band by Alicia Castro
149. Recordando a Tito Puente: El Rey del Timbal by Steven Loza
150. Reflections on Macedonian Music: Past and Future by Dimitrije Buzarovski
151. Remembering the Future by Luciano Berio
152. Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording Music and Its Effect on Music by Michael Chanan
153. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles Records and the Sixties by Ian Macdonald
154. Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans by John Broven
155. Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Pay: The History of Politics in the Music Industry by Steve Shapple & Reebee Garofalo
156. Rock Archives by Michael Ochs
157. Rock Images: 1970–1990 by Claude Gassian
158. Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews by Timothy White
159. Salsa Guidebook for Piano & Ensemble by Rebeca Mauleon
160. Salsa: The Rhythm of Latin Music by Gerard Sheller
161. Salsiology: Afro-Cuban Music and the Evolution of Salsa in New York City by Vernon W. Boggs
162. Samba by Alma Guillermoprieto
163. Sonic Transports: New Frontiers in Our Music by Cole Gagne
164. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear by Steve Goodman
165. Souled American: How Black Music Transformed White Culture by Kevin Phinney
166. Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture by Frances Dyson
167. Soundings by Neuberger Museum
168. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous by John Broven
169. Spaces Speak, Are You Listening: Experiencing Aural Architecture by Barry Blesser & Linda-Ruth Salter
170. Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music by Angelique Kidjo
171. Starmaking Machinery: The Odyssey of an Album by Geoffrey Stokes
172. Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer by Jonathan Cott
173. Stolen Moments: Conversations with Contemporary Musicians by Tom Schnabel
174. Stomping the Blues by Albert Murray
175. Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson
176. Text-Sound Texts by Richard Kostelanetz
177. The ABCs of Rock by Melissa Duke Mooney
178. The Agony of Modern Music by Henry Pleasants
179. The Anthropology of Music by Alan P. Merriam
180. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
181. The Beatles: Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn
182. The Book of Drugs: A Memoir by Mike Dougherty
183. The Brazilian Sounds: Samba, Bossa Nova, and the Popular Music of Brazil by Chris McGowan & Ricardo Pessanha
184. The Faber Book of Pop by Hanif Kureishi & Jon Savage
185. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places by Bernie Krause
186. The Human Voice by Jean Cocteau
187. The Kachamba Brothers’ Band: A Study of Neo-Traditional Music in Malawi by Gerhard Kubik
188. The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron
189. The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music on the United States by John Storm Roberts
190. The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock by Charles White
191. The Merge Records Companion: A Visual Discography of the First Twenty Years by Merge Records
192. The Music Instinct by Philip Ball
193. The Music of Brazil by David P. Appleby
194. The Mystery of Samba: Popular Music and the National Identity in Brazil by Hermano Vianna
195. The New Woman Poems: A Tribute to Mercedes Sosa by Nestor Rodriguez Lacoren
196. The Performer Prepares by Robert Caldwell
197. The Rational and Social Foundations of Music by Max Weber
198. The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl by Trevor Schoonmake
199. The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa by Evan Eisenberg
200. The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
201. The Rolling Stone Interviews: The 1980s by Various
202. The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice by Greil Marcus
203. The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World by Trevor Cox
204. The Sun and the Drum: African Roots in Jamaican Folk Tradition by Leonard Barrett
205. The Thinking Ear by R. Murray Schafer
206. The Traditional Music of Japan by Kishibe Shigeo
207. The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art by Tim Blanning
208. The Veil of Silence by Djura
209. The Wilco Book by Dan Nadel
210. This Business of Music: The Definitive Guide to the Music Industry by M. William Krasilovsky & Sidney Shemel
211. This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
212. Through Music to Self by Peter Michael Hamel
213. West African Rhythms for Drumset by Royal Hartigan
214. What Good are the Arts? by John Carey
215. White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960’s by Joe Boyd
216. Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History 1955–Present by Gail Buckland
218. Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Languages by John Shepard, Phil Virden, Graham Vulliamy, Trevor Wishart
219. Why is This Country Dancing: A One-Man Samba to the Beat of Brazil by John Krich
220. Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein
221. The Rough Guide to World Music: Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia, and Pacific: An A-Z of the Music, Musicians and Discs by Simon Broughton & Mark Ellingham
222. The Rough Guide to World Music: Salsa to Soukous, Cajun to Calypso by Simon Broughton, Mark Ellingham, David Muddyman & Richard Trillo
223. World: The Essential Album Guide by Adam McGovern
224. Yakety Yak: The Midnight Confessions and Revelations of Thirty-Seven Rock Stars and Legends by Scott Cohen

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