With the passing of the legendary David Bowie earlier this year, we have seen the beginning of a flood of books about this musical icon – biographies and memoirs, in particular – but it doesn’t stop there.
Aussie DJ Steve Wide has taken a VERY different approach with Bowie A to Z:The Life of an Icon from Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust. This approach is almost like an insiders’ joke to the Bowie devotee – as there are 24 letters between Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust, but chronologically, they follow each other, with ‘Ziggy’ released in 1972 and ‘Aladdin Sane’ in 1973…but I digress.
In recent years, we have seen a new breed of ‘children’s books for adults’, the most well-known being the infamous Go the F**k to Sleep! by Adam Mansbach. Wide has taken the classic A to Z format and given us a Bowie book that is informative, entertaining and easy to read. Each letter focuses on an aspect of Bowie’s life: personal, musical, characterisation and historical impact, and includes a side-column of related facts, of the same letter. These facts are concise, informative and fun to read. Wild knows his Bowie and makes it enjoyable, for both the devoted and newcomer to engage with his knowledge.
Adding to the sheer fun of the book’s simplistic approach are the illustrations of Libby Van Der Ploeg. Like the book’s content, these are vibrant and colourful, visually entrancing and so very Bowie! Van Der Ploeg enhances what we are being told, with a combination of simple, stylistic imagery and more detailed visuals.
After finishing Wide’s book, I am ready to dive back in. This is not a one-time read. It’s a coffee table book to flick through whilst enjoying the back catalogue of Bowie, complete albums (rather than a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection) to give relevance to some of the lesser known works that feature in this book.
My only complaint – and it is minor, in the extreme – is the few repetitions you come across in multiple letters. Easily forgivable within such a beautiful work of literature and artistic accompaniment.
Reviewed by Glen Christie
Rating out of 10: 9