15 of Leonard Cohen’s favorite books of all time


As we all search for something to fill our time during the lockdown, with a winter of long nights and short days ahead, many have turned to their dusty shelves for entertainment and retread the halls of their own personal libraries. . If you’re stuck for inspiration on what to read next, the great Leonard Cohen has a perfect reading list.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, distinguished poet and respected novelist, Leonard Cohen would always be a writer. Cohen drew inspiration from sexuality, romance, relationships, politics and religion in particular, and most notably, he delivered his own take on the aforementioned topics. Cohen was a man of the modern Renaissance and always championed the power of the written word.

The iconic Canadian artist often retreated into isolation, taking music and reading material in all its forms with him, using them as shields against the modern society that threatened to engulf him. He once said, “Every time I pick up a magazine, I read something that stands out. My pace and my perspective are continually influenced by the things I encounter. You recapitulate all the movement of your own culture. Cohen saw reading as an escape route and essential for development.

Cohen, more than most singers, understood the art of language and could find the beauty of all forms of literature. “Sometimes we are touched by certain elaborate languages, like the language we associate with the Elizabethan period, with the King James translation of the Bible, or Shakespeare,” he continued.

“There are times when you are influenced by very simple things. The instructions on a packet of cereal have magnificent clarity. You are touched by writing in National Geographic – it represents a certain kind of accomplishment.

The singer continued, “Sometimes you go to another phase where you are touched by writing from the demented or the mentally ill. I get a lot of letters from these kinds of writers. You start to see him as the type of. most accurate reflection of your own reality, the landscape you operate in. There are many types of expression that I am sensitive to.

Before his death in 2016 at the age of 82, Cohen read extensively at his home in Los Angeles. In an interview a few years earlier, he was asked if he could name some of the books that have stuck with him throughout his life. This makes for a truly inspiring playlist from one of music’s greatest literary minds.

Leonard Cohen’s Favorite Books:

  • The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi) by Hermann Hesse
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  • Portrait of the artist as a young man by James Joyce
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Selected poems by Irving Layton
  • Poems Collected by Federico Garcia Lorca
  • i am that by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Two women by Alberto Moravia
  • Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Catastrophe in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia by Ahmed Rachid
  • The man with the dice by Luke Rhinehart
  • Mental form by Michiko Rolek
  • The poetry of Edmund Spenser by Edmund Spenser
  • Essays by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Poems by Humbert Wolfe
  • Poems Collected by WB Yeats

In detailing the Dubliners, per James Joyce, Cohen proposed: “This paragraph. It is not the work of an author, but maybe five lines. It’s those five lines that will make me reluctantly explore the rest of the guy’s work. But this paragraph, I have never forgotten. There is this paragraph ‘Snow was general throughout Ireland.’ He was describing snow. It’s Montreal. It is our snow, our black iron gates in Montreal. It was perfect.”

In the same conversation, Cohen described Irving Layton as “one of the best writers in language.”


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