It’s September, time to say goodbye to your Tevas and tank tops and hit the books. We asked a handful of artists releasing music this Fall to tell us what they’re reading, so even if you aren’t a student, you can make like one. For our first installment, the three funny, smart dudes in Das Racist give us their top picks.
HIMANSHU SURI BKA HEEMS
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by MG Vassanji: This book taught me about how much more confused I would have been if I was an Indian dude in Kenya instead of New York.
Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal: This book never struck me as very well-written although I think that’s why I like it. It was funny. It was also one of the few South Asian diaspora novels I could imagine my cousins reading leisurely and relating to, like myself. It’s a book about brown people that not just liberal arts and Ivy League-educated brown people and white people can enjoy.
Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeill and Jillian McCain: This book is my favorite, even though Television is probably the only band discussed that I actually religiously listen to. Perhaps I glorify the New York before my time.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: This book made me want to write the way I speak more than any other book ever and also made me feel like, Holy shit maybe I can win a Pulitzer, too! Also, it was mad funny. I emailed Junot Diaz to thank him for writing it and that motherfucker never responded.
Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell by Deborah Solomon: This book was given to us by Deborah Solomon after she interviewed us for the NY Times mag and then immediately quit or got fired. It’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read. It inspires me to make art and not be a freak that lives in my mom’s basement forever like I probably would have been if I didn’t make art. AND HE’S FROM QUEENS.
ASHOK KONDABOLU BKA DAPWELL
Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler: This book finally confirmed what I’d already known: Le Corbusier was a total slut. Also, everything sucks. Cars and roads suck, white men are evil, Disneyland sucks, etc. Goes a long way in explaining the incoherency of the physical (remember, mind-body duality is a cracker myth, so the physical and mental are the same) American landscape.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: The descriptions of being high on marijuana alone are incredible. Amazing introduction. The book also has something to do with a black man, though I can hardly pay attention to that in this post-racial era.
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: This dude is incredible at writing about a rich, old Italian man rapidly becoming irrelevant in a world he finds rapidly becoming vulgar!
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks: Try and find a copy not covered in cum! Impossible!
VICTOR VAZQUEZ BKA KOOL A.D.
The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn: Anyone who has a vague idea that America is wack but can’t back it up when arguing with idiots at their job or whatever should read this and arm themselves with a few factoids to win any argument with.
Black Elk Speaks as told to John G. Neihardt: This is the memoir of a Sioux medicine man who was Crazy Horse’s cousin. He fought at Little Big Horn (when he was twelve) and Wounded Knee and then later went on to reenact these battles for the Queen of England as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. And if that’s not rife enough with symbolism for you, there’s hella psychedelic visions of flying horses and rainbows and shit, too.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X and Alex Haley: If you don’t like this book I don’t even care about you.
Beneath the Underdog: His World as Composed by Charles Mingus by Charles Mingus and Neil King: Classic Charles Mingus banger. It’s got everything: prostitution, mysticism, colorfully transcribed conversations about white mediation of negritude in America, etc. He also wrote a pamphlet on how to train your cat to use a toilet.
The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky by Alejandro Jodorowsky: This fool was out his damn mind. The part about the multi-million dollar failed attempt at adapting the science fiction novel Dune with Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and H.R. Giger is a laugh riot.