Shirley Manson On The Books That Have Changed Her Life

​The Garbage singer on her most meaningful reads

Shirley Manson on stage

The singer and songwriter, 49, from one of the most influential grunge bands of our time credits reading with educating, informing and inspiring her. Add these 7 new books to your reading list

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1 Just Kids by Patti Smith

Even if you're not interested in music or New York, Smith writes so passionately about love and art that I think this book could be called a small masterpiece. I was 19 when an old boyfriend played me her music and she's inspired me ever since. The first time I met her I burst into tears. I've never done that before but she put her hand gently on my arm, which calmed me down.

2 The Wind In The Willows
 by Kenneth Grahame


My dad encouraged my two sisters and
me to read. He would lay books out in our dining room and we would choose one.
I chose The Wind In The Willows and have great memories of being four years old
in my little single bed with my parents reading me to sleep. Toad and Mole inspired an adventurous spirit in me. I still have my illustrated copy at home.

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3 When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne

When I was old enough to read on my own, this collection of children's poems by the Winnie-the-Pooh author was my favourite, and inspired my lifelong love of poetry. As
a child, my party piece was reciting The King's Breakfast about a king who wants butter for his bread. I always liked performing. Mum was an amateur singer but wasn't pushy; it was Dad who would bring out the portable cassette player to record us.

4 The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger

I was a difficult teenager and turned to books as an escape. I saw my alienation and angst reflected in the story of rebellious
Holden Caulfield and I would mimic him by calling everyone 'phoney'. It made such an impression on me that in Garbage's video for Why Do You Love Me I'm reading my dad's old copy. He never got it back.

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5 We Should All Be Feminists 
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I found this essay incredibly comforting. The word feminist has been so obfuscated but it has a beautiful meaning. I'm far too flawed and confused to be a leader like Adichie. She makes difficult topics engaging so I'm happy to follow her and recommend her work to my friends' daughters.

6 The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study
Of Female Sexuality by Shere Hite


My parents never had the sex talk with me so when my best friend thrust this book into my hands with a glint of mischief in her eye, it
was a revelation. When I was younger, I didn't even know the female orgasm existed, so it changed my life. It made me aware how hidden information about female pleasure was.

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7 The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

This is a sci-fi book by Scottish writer
Iain Banks. It's about a 17-year-old boy who does some very evil things. It's violent, dark and twisted: a depraved and subversive treasure that appealed to me in my late teens. I later became friends with Iain and his belief in me gave me confidence. When I got the gig in Garbage, there was no one happier for me than him.

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