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.
Coming Through Slaughter
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

Coming Through Slaughter

160 pages; Vintage
The English Patient author's first novel "is my favorite book," Steve Earle says. "My novel sort of exists because of it. It's about Buddy Bolden—a musician who was huge at the turn of the 20th century. Ondaatje imagines that, at the peak of Bolden's career, around 1906, he disappears for a while. When he comes back, he is never the same again." This is a unique book "because it has a poetic spirit," Earle says, noting that Ondaatje had published primarily poetry before this. "For me, someone who is essentially a poet by trade and is writing prose for the first time, this is an incredible hybrid piece of literature." Comparing the novel to On the Road, Earle says that in his own novel, he was trying to emulate Ondaatje, whose book he has probably read "at least ten times."
— As told to Sara Nelson