Janelle Monae, Jim James & More Stars Reveal Their Most Recent Reads

Portrait of Janelle Monae at Governors Ball 2014
Eric Ryan Anderson

Janelle Monae on day 2 of Governors Ball on June 7th, on Randall's Island in New York City

Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard

Right now I am reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle. It’s an autobiography about a guy who nobody really knows. He’s not famous, at least he wasn’t famous when he wrote this book, and he’s just writing about his life with this unbelievable transparency and prose, it’s just really amazing.

Janelle Monae

One of the last books that we read as a company was [Jeff Sutherland’s] Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. We have some incredible people working with Wondaland Records, and we knew that if we were going to be releasing five artists, including myself, we'd need to figure out a way to make sure we were on schedule. We wanted to find the quickest ways to get quality results we were all happy with. It solves problem on how we write music and how we run the company. It's the way people use it in the tech industry, inspired by the tech world. It justifies the way we run Wondaland Records.

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Gorgon City's Matt "RackNRuin" Robson-Scott

Keith Richards' Life. That was pretty hilarious. It was really really funny and I love the descriptions of old London in it. It’s really kind of interesting reading about him growing up in North London because he’s kind of from the part of London that I’m from.

Jim James, My Morning Jacket

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Politically, there's so much fighting: Everybody says they're far right or far left, and people think Rand is far right. That's not unfounded, but it's still one of the greatest books I've read, and a cool example that we can learn from each other.

Taylor Momsen

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. He's a genius.

Bret Michaels

I read a lot of books about our men and women in the military, a lot about pets and animals. My whole family, or most of them, are veterans. I read American Sniper, I read Lone Survivor. It was a very tough read, a very heartfelt read. One recently that was called The Reaper. It’s about our military men and women and what they go through. One of the book series that I love is Chicken Soup for the Soul. They are such great reads. I advise anyone who wants a great read with short stories, Chicken Soup for the Soul is one I read and there’s a lot of them for the mood you’re in – [including] Chicken Soup for the Pets. I love that series of books. That is the softer, more gentle side of Bret Michaels. I love reading books of real stories of our men and women overseas. I love fighting men and women in the armed forces. And I love Chicken Soup series. That gives you both sides of me.

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Julie Andrews

I'm in the middle of reading the beautiful bestseller All The Light We Cannot See [by Anthony Doerr]. And it's gloriously written! I’ve only read a few chapters but I'm dying to get back to it.

Tove Lo

It was Dice Man, it’s about Luke Rhinehart. It was in the like 70’s or 80’s but they re-released it in Sweden in 2005 because it’s such a revolutionary book. Its about a man who is a psychotherapist or a psychologist. Something like that, one of those people you talk to when you have issues. He starts using dice as making decisions in his life. This book is in Swedish. He says like when we make a decision, these impulses or urges we get, they’re like “the negroes of our personality,” which isn’t ok at all. But he’s saying like they’re the weaker part of our decision making. Then you have this other part that we’re raised to listen to but these impulses are just being suppressed and suppressed and it will lead to an explosion so you need to sometimes let them go.  So using the dice will help you do that.

So he starts using this method so he lives his life this way. And everything goes to shit so its like really amazing. So I was like should I buy a couple of dice and see where it goes. But I think this would be pretty dangerous but he kind of just goes like ok if the dice says 4 I’m going to go punch my neighbor in the face, if it’s 1, 2 or 3 I’m going to go to bed and if its 5 or 6 I’m going to go to a club and those are his choices. And then he goes really far, like should I punch my son? Should I cheat on my wife? But it’s an amazing book. That was the last one, I had to like take breaks from it because it got really depressing at some points.

Ringo Starr

“I don’t read books. I only read self-help books that give me thoughts for the day to keep me level. But I just found my Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts books.”


The Way of The Superior Man. It was given to me by Dr. Dre. It kind of changed my life. It talks about masculine and feminine imagery. It talks about how men should accept criticism from other men and be able to grow from it instead of falling back on another kind of energy and just walking away. That your brothers who critique you in love are really training you and I’ve been through that with Xzibit and different people that like have really helped me grow through constructive critique. I definitely really thank Dr. Dre for giving me that book and I recommend that book.

One of the books I try to read every 6 months is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. It talks about being genuine and authenticity. Caring about others and what others do. In that genuine, authentic persona, you get people to be genuine and authentic with you and you become successful through that. So when you talk about the truth its like, man you’re very honest and well that’s how to win friends and that’s how to influence people. At the end of the day that’s all people want is an honest person. Whether it’s an honest politician, an honest artist, an honest business man, an honest journalist. That’s all we want man, is like the truth or as close to it as we can get.

Reporting by Richard Bienstock, Harley Brown, Alex Gale, Phil Gallo, Chris Payne, Deborah Evans Price and Erin Strecker.

This story originally appeared in the May 30 issue of Billboard.


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