“My stack of reading books is eclectic, and it always seems to encompass the things I’m most passionate about exploring in my films,” says the British filmmaker behind the 2002 hit Bend It Like Beckham. Chadha’s new movie, Blinded by the Light, in theaters on August 16, is based on a memoir about the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of Bruce Springsteen’s music. (Springsteen, a fan of Manzoor’s book, loved the script and gave Chadha the go-ahead to use his music throughout.) Here, Chadha recommends three books, including, it should come as no surprise, Springsteen’s 2016 memoir.
The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern California Experience, by Timothy White
I love the Beach Boys, and their story of family disharmony and transcendence is inspiring. They painted such vivid, cinematic visions of California for a girl growing up in West London, long before I met my Japanese-American husband, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the band. This book highlights their musical genius and their ability to persevere and leave an incredible legacy despite harrowing childhoods.
Quant by Quant, by Mary Quant
Currently at the V&A in London is an awe-inspiring exhibition on Mary Quant, which showed me how little I knew about her work and legacy. Mary was a true pioneer, a shy art student who unwittingly revolutionized fashion and helped create the Cool Britannia we now live in and love. She was an entrepreneur, an innovative designer, and a mother. I love that she had such an enormous impact during a period of huge social change, and it all started with her wanting to design comfortable clothes and a shorter skirt that would enable women to run for the bus.
Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
I devoured this book so completely I had to re-read it fully to take in what an incredible man Bruce is. He’s a proper superhero. He’s searingly honest, political, compassionate, and a true national treasure. His book should be required reading for all Americans—no, for all citizens of the world who believe in the power of music and words. I’ve loved his music for decades, but this book underlines what a brilliant, astute writer Bruce is, and how rare it is to have such an accomplished artist share so much of his personal life with his admirers. I’m still floating that Bruce trusted me to use all of his music in my film, and when he told me how much he loved the final film, it was the greatest review I’d ever received.