When awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, Bob Dylanresponded in his traditional, nontraditional way: he gave no comment for two weeks after the announcement, ignored the Academy’s calls, didn’t attend the ceremony, and collected the award in a hoodie four months later. But the Academy stipulates that winners must give a lecture within six months of the ceremony to collect their prize money, and Dylan slipped in a rambling, 27-minute ode to literature just under the wire.

Sounding like a true troubadour over a jazz piano arrangement, he begins with his deep love for Buddy Holly and Lead Belly, two early influences that opened his eyes to the vibrance and power of music that’s written with truth. He devoured early folk artists, picking up on the distinct vernacular of “ragtime blues, work songs, Georgia sea shanties, Appalachian ballads and cowboy songs.” And when he himself started writing, it was on the basis of the folk vocabulary he’d learned through song.

But he brought something else to his songwriting as well. Principles and perspectives he’d learned while reading the classics in school: “Don QuixoteIvanhoeRobinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s TravelsTale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.” Going on to detail the three books that really stuck with him  – Moby DickAll Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey – he ends on a quote from Homer: “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

Though Dylan has notoriously shied away from any poetic elevation (famously calling himself just “a song and dance man”), his work has long drawn from a variety of literary influences – largely the Romantics, early Southern folklore and the Beats. His songs often reference the work of other writers, to which he’s affirmed that “in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition.” And heavily influenced by Kerouac & Co, he said, “I came out of the wilderness and just naturally fell in with the Beat scene, the bohemian, Be Bop crowd, it was all pretty much connected. It was Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Ferlinghetti… I got in at the tail end of that and it was magic… it had just as big an impact on me as Elvis Presley.”

Read on for a list of Bob Dylan’s literary influences, largely poetic, but sprinkled with musician bios and soulful stories of personal transfiguration. Couple with his smoky 2016 Nobel Lecture.

The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club by Sonny Barger

“I didn’t know who I was before I read the Barger book.” -BD

The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Youngby Scott Barretta

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (also rec’d by Anthony Bourdain)

Stories by Anton Chekhov

On War by Carl von Clausewitz (also rec’d by Nelson Mandela)

Dylan has stated that “Clausewitz in some ways is a prophet” and his writing can make you “take your own thoughts a little less seriously.”

Victory by Joseph Conrad (also rec’d by Joan Didion)

Conrad is featured in the artwork for “Desire” and it’s thought that his novel Victory was an inspiration for “Black Diamond Bay.”

The Complete Poetry and Prose by John Donne (also rec’d by Martin Luther King Jr.)

The Anchor Anthology of French Poetry by Angel Flores