Books That Made a Difference to Steve Earle

The triple-threat artist has a new album, a novel, and a role on the HBO series Treme. But his real love is reading, and reading again.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

512 pages; Holt Paperbacks
"Mind-blowing" is how Steve Earle describes the 1970s classic about the plight of the American Indians in the 19th century, which has become a must-read for anyone interested in U.S. history and human rights. "A friend gave me a copy of this along with a copy of War and Peace when I was living in Mexico. And I read them both and returned them—I do return books!—and then he quizzed me on them." One of the first mainstream books to reject Native American stereotypes, "it's all about the history that we aren't taught," Earle says. "And the whole idea of spirituality that we're not taught either, even though it's a huge part of who we are. Genocide is also part of who we are. We are a people guilty of annihilation—for all practical purposes—of an entire race. It's about our arrogance, about believing that we are superior to other human beings simply because we look different or whatever. Or because we wanted the land where they were and thought they were misusing it."
— As told to Sara Nelson

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