Sgt. Pepper’s Book Club

Sgt. Pepper’s Book Club

On the weekends of the Countdown Calendar Zola would like to take some time to look backwards at some of our favorite features of the past. In this list, Zola presents some of the Liverpool lads’ favorite books and paperback writers.

LOTR book coverLord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

“When [Denis] O’Dell [head of Apple films] arrived, he tried to talk the Beatles into committing instead to a film of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which had become a cult book with the hippie generation. For a brief time the band considered the suggestion. Lennon fancied himself in the role of the wizard Gandalf. Paul might have been the plucky hobbit hero, Frodo. Stanley Kubrick had been approached to direct. The bizarre idea of the Beatles starring in Stanley Kubrick’s production of The Lord of the Rings came to nought.” —from Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes

Under Milk Wood book coverUnder Milk Woods by Dylan Thomas

“I’d take a bus to the Pier Head, go on the ferry by myself. I’d take a book of poetry, or a play, or something to read, come back on the ferry, take a bus home. I’d buy books from Philips Son & Nephews: Under Milk Wood, a lot of Dylan ThomasJohn Steinbeck; a little bit of Samuel BeckettWaiting for Godot. Or I’d steal them. There was a bookshop you could go in and very easily nick them.” —from Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles

Magic Christian book coverThe Magic Christian by Terry Southern

“And after Candy I thought [acting] was so easy, then Magic Christian came in—it was also by the same writer, Terry Southern, who I think is a fantastic writer. ‘Cuz I think the lines in a film are more important than the camera. You know, what you have to say. And so I decided to do The Magic Christian.” —1969 interview with Ringo Starr on Late Night Line-Up

Psychedelic Experience book coverThe Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary

“On another visit, [Barry] Miles showed him [John Lennon] a book that had appeared in America a few months earlier: The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Das). With an abruptness that his Aunt Mimi would have recognized, he took the slim volume, curled up on the couch in the middle of the shop and read it from cover to cover. The book transformed what he had regarded merely as a new game into alternative religion, with foundations as ancient as Christianity or Islam.” —from John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman

The Canterbury Tales book coverCanterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

“I had the greatest teacher ever of English literature…And he communicated his love of literature to us, which was very difficult because we were Liverpool sixteen-year-olds, ‘What d’fuck is dat der?’….His big secret, his clever move, was he told us about Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’…Dark was the night as pitch, as black as coal, And at the window out she put her hole, And Absalon, so fortune framed the farce, Put up his mouth and kissed her naked arse, Most savorously before he knew of this. And back he started. Something was amiss; He knew quite well a woman has no beard, Yet something rough and hairy had appeared… ‘What’s this? I love this book!’ So I totally loved Chaucer after that. Chaucer was my man, and I could get into this strange ‘Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was.’ I was interested to hear what a whimple was, it was one of those hats…So he got me fascinated.” —from Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles

Hooray for Thomas book coverHooray for Thomas by Reverend Wilbert Awdry

“The lady who put it together, Britt Allcroft, she came to the house one day and she said she had this idea for me to narrate these books…I’d never read the books as a child. I was probably one of the few children who was deprived of them. I’m more of a Beano man. I read the books and I thought they were fabulous, I thought they were really good books—also the drawings in the book, the style of them, I loved them.” —1984 interview with Ringo Starr on Good Morning Britain

Alice in Wonderland book coverAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“[On ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’] John had the title and he had the first verse. It started off very Alice in Wonderland: ‘Picture yourself in a boat, on a river…’ It’s very Alice. Both of us had read the Alice books and always referred to them, we were always talking about ‘Jabberwocky’—and we knew those more than any other books really.” —from Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles

Lamps of Fire book coverLamps of Fire by Juan Mascaró

“[Juan Mascaró] also sent me a copy of a book called Lamps of Fire and in his letter he says ‘…might it not be interesting to put into your music a few words of Tao’…And that’s where the words to ‘The Inner Light’ come from….In the original poem, the verse says ‘Without going out of my door, I can know the ways of heaven.’ And so to prevent misinterpretations—and also to make the song a bit longer—I did repeat that as a second verse but made it: Without going out of your door / You can know all things on earth / Without looking out of your window / You can know the ways of heaven.” —from I Me Mine by George Harrison

The Primal Scream book coverThe Primal Scream by Arthur Janov

“Lennon eventually released more music of his own, but he also spent his time pursuing other ventures. He had become fascinated by The Primal Scream, a book by California psychotherapist Arthur Janov, and he decided to fly to Los Angeles to work with Janov. He and Yoko spent a few months in California, participating in Janov’s ‘Primal Scream’ therapy class—where the patient would lie on the floor, think about bad events that had occurred in his or her life, and scream about them. The idea was to release all the pent-up pain and anger inside.” —from John Lennon: Imagine by Jeff Burlingame

Don’t miss any of the New Year’s countdown! See all of the stories here.

This article originally appeared on Zola Books.

Kelly Gallucci
Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of, where she oversees Bookish's editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors like Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, and Sabaa Tahir. She's just coming off of moderating an author panel at New York Comic Con. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and binging Netflix with her pitbull. She is a Gryffindor.