Richard Armitage shared that he would use the Lord of the Rings as a step stool to reach the top shelf in his wardrobe.
The earliest memory I have of reading.
When I was around seven years old, I discovered Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. I was able to purchase her books at the local newsagents and I would read one book per week. I eventually made my way through The Wishing Chair, Brer Rabbit, and The Famous Five series.
The book I loved most during my childhood.
CS Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, explores the concept of a portal to a different world. This idea of escaping into a parallel universe is one that both children and adults often fantasize about. I distinctly recall the exhilarating excitement I experienced when Lucy encounters Mr Tumnus in the snowy forest of Narnia as night falls.
The book that changed me as a teenager
When I was 13, I read The Lord of the Rings. I owned a single edition containing all three books, which I would use as a step to reach the top shelf of my wardrobe. I read it thoroughly from beginning to end, fully immersing myself in the story and feeling completely transported. I even shed tears when I finished it. Little did I know that almost 28 years later, I would have the opportunity to portray Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit movie.
The author who shifted my perspective.
I have avoided writing within a specific genre in the past. I do not enjoy excessive violence, so the more disturbing elements of horror or crime have always made me feel disconnected. However, my perspective changed after reading The Shining by Stephen King.
The book that inspired me to pursue writing as a career.
EM Forster’s A Passage to India was part of my A-level reading list when I was 16. The novel’s vibrant portrayal of India during the turn of the century captivated me and delved into the complex themes of colonialism, racism, and gender politics. It depicts a British Raj that is flawed and corrupt at its core.
I returned to the book.
I had always felt a sense of obligation to read The Grapes of Wrath, but it wasn’t until I was 49 years old and approached to narrate it for Audible that I finally did. The task seemed daunting due to the range of Oklahoma dialects, but it turned out to be a revelation. Steinbeck masterfully portrays the strong instinct for familial survival that persists even in the darkest of times.
I am revisiting the book.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The diary of the Roman Emperor, a stoic philosopher, was never meant to be published. These are words of advice to the self written nearly 2,000 years ago. Aurelius muses that it’s not death that a man should fear but never beginning to live. I was performing Astrov in Uncle Vanya in 2019 on the edge of the pandemic lockdown; a speech of Astrov’s about embracing mortality made me realise that Chekhov must have read Marcus Aurelius; it was almost verbatim.
The book I could never read again
I participated in a theater project at Lamda, my drama school, where we worked on adapting Proust’s In Search of Lost Time for the stage. Throughout the seven volumes of the diaries, Proust explores themes of childhood in the countryside, obsessive jealousy, and the homoeroticism present in high society through the eccentric character of Baron de Charlus. Despite spending a year on the project, I found the book to be difficult to fully comprehend. Furthermore, in our final production, I was assigned the role of an older Proust reflecting on his life, which required me to remain seated for two hours while my classmates had fun performing on stage. Needless to say, I would not choose to do that again!
is “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.
I am currently reading the book “The Alchemist” written by Paulo Coelho.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. A shocking exploration of the Sackler family and the proliferation of prescription narcotic OxyContin. I have Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Complete Poems in the reading queue.
My comfort read
If you have not yet read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I suggest opening the book around December 19th and starting.