A Lou Reed Reading List

By Lynn Ann Lobash, Associate Director, Readers Services and Engagement
March 15, 2019

"I didn’t understand his erratic behavior or the intensity of his moods, which shifted, like his speech patterns, from speedy to laconic. But I understood his devotion to poetry and the transporting quality of his performances. He had black eyes, black T-shirt, pale skin. He was curious, sometimes suspicious, a voracious reader, and a sonic explorer. An obscure guitar pedal was for him another kind of poem. "  —Patti Smith, The New Yorker, November 11, 2013.

We are thrilled to announce that beginning March 15, 2019, the Lou Reed Archive has been processed and is now available to users at The New York Public Library for Performing Arts.

To celebrate, we've created a book list dedicated to the great poet and musician in appreciation of his legacy—and what a legacy it is. 

"I always believed that I have something to say and I said it." - Lou Reed

The Basketball Diaries

The Basketball Diaries by Jim CarrollWritten between the ages of twelve and fifteen, this diary tells the story of a kid growing up in New York, stealing, hustling, getting high, and playing basketball.


Essential Teachings

Essential Teachingsby His Holiness the Dalai LamaA translation of a series of talks given by the 14th Dalai Lama in India, 1974.


Giovanni's Room

Giovanni’s Room by James BaldwinDavid meets Giovanni in a gay bar in Paris and is swept off his feet. When David’s girlfriend returns to Paris, he pretends the affair never happened while Giovanni spirals into tragedy.


I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp

I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard HellBeginning in 1967 when he hits the streets of New York, Hell chronicles his rise to fame with The Clash and The Sex Pistols to his full-blown drug addiction.


Just Kids

Just Kids by Patti SmithSet in the ‘60s and ‘70s in New York, this memoir recounts Smith’s lifetime friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe.


Pictures from Brueghel

Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems by William Carlos WilliamsThe collection from a poet whose subject matter centered on everyday life and common people in accessible language and who continually experimented with form.  


Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester BangsA collection of essays from the famous music critic, including thoughts on Lou Reed.


Summer Knowledge: New and Selected Poems by Delmore SchwartzThe final collection of poetry by Lou Reed’s friend and early mentor.


Train Dreams

Train Dreams by Denis JohnsonA haunting story about a man living alone on the American frontier.


Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories

Up In the Old Hotel and Other Stories by Joseph MitchellA collection of literary portraits of people living and working on the Lower East Side.  



Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!