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An Illustrated Life

An inventive biography of David Bowie, featuring María Hesse’s cosmic illustrations of this otherworldly music legend.

Sales restrictions: Not for sale in the United Kingdom
September 2019
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168 pages | 6.5 x 9.5 | 129 color illus. |

David Bowie was a master of artifice and reinvention. In that same spirit, illustrator María Hesse and writer Fran Ruiz have created a vivid retelling of the life of David Robert Jones, from his working-class childhood to glam rock success to superstardom, concluding with the final recording sessions after his cancer diagnosis.

Narrated from the rock star’s point of view, Bowie colorfully renders both the personal and the professional turning points in a life marked by evolution and innovation. We see Bowie facing the sorrow of his brother’s mental illness, kicking a cocaine habit while other musicians succumbed to deadly overdoses, contending with a tumultuous love life, and radiating joy as a father. Along the way, he describes how he shattered the boundaries of song and society with a counterculture cast that included Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, and Freddie Mercury—as well as his own creations, Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke.

Evocatively illustrated from start to finish, Bowie is a stellar tribute to an inimitable star.

  • Introduction
  • Timeline
  • Absolute beginners
  • Liftoff
  • Hazy cosmic jive
  • The side effects of the cocaine
  • Standing by the wall
  • Put a bullet in my brain and it makes all the papers
  • Dancing with the big boys
  • A heart for the tin man
  • World wide Bowie
  • Never get old
  • I can’t give everything away
  • Discography
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments


María Hesse

An illustrator and graphic designer, Hesse is the author of Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Life.

Fran Ruiz

Ruiz is a professor of geography and history, and his writing regularly appears in the magazine Cultural Use Manual.

Ned Sublette
New York City

Sublette is a musicologist and the author of four previous books.


“While Bowie portrayed many larger-than-life characters in his music, this book attempts to turn Bowie himself into a similarly superhuman character, adding a few extra dashes of magic, wonder and awe into his already stunning life as an artist.”
Paste Magazine

“[A] beautifully illustrated book of [Bowie's] life—not a 'graphic biography' but something more imaginative.”
Shepherd Express

“[Bowie's] fabulous ink and watercolor portraits…borrow elements of religious iconography to portray Bowie with heart and nerves exposed, wrapped in rainbows, or sprouting plant life. The art reflects a man consumed with himself as an evolving art project, at once self-absorbed and self-sacrificing, cooly aesthetic and curiously, lovably human.”
Publishers Weekly

“Evocatively illustrated from start to finish, [Bowie] is a stellar tribute to an inimitable star.”
OutWord Magazine

“[A] delightful little tome…it's easy to devour in a single sitting, making it more a creative introduction than an authoritative, essential work. That doesn't stop it from being pleasurable.”

“This isn’t a traditional biography by any stretch, which makes perfect sense for anyone even vaguely familiar with the life and times of David Robert Jones...This illustrated version serves its purpose well because art (or artifice) was such an integral part of his persona...Hesse's work gives the pages a hypnotic power, mimicking legendary photographs in a style all her own.”
Rogues Portal

“[An] inventive biography…Told from Bowie's viewpoint, readers follow along his personal and professional life and meet many of the famous musicians he interacted with, including Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Freddie Mercury and others.”
Chicago Tribune


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca