In honour of Benedict’s great appreciation for reading, here are some of the authors and books he loves and that helped to shape his career.
We included both novels and plays, dividing them by how they relate to Benedict and his work. All the titles redirect to their publisher’s website, their author’s website or a website for public-domain books.
We tried to be as thorough as possible and will update this page whenever necessary, but it’s by no means intended to be an exhaustive record. Have we missed a quote or book reference? Please, feel free to contact us, we are always grateful for your help!
I can feel infinitely alive curled up on the sofa reading a book– from the Jaguar‘s Alive commercial
I love to stay in at night, light a fire, have a whiskey and watch a movie or read a good book. People forget about books. They’re always just turning on the television, but reading a good book is the most nourishing thing you can do.– from an interview with People magazine published in 8 December 2014
Reading is one of the joys of life and, once you begin, you can’t stop and you’ve got so many stories to look forward to.– from this video where he reads the children’s book The Little Red Hen
(Some) Authors he loves
As we know, Benedict doesn’t really do favourites. Nonetheless, he named a few of his favourite authors during an interview with LondonThreatre.co.uk in 2010, saying:
Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Paul Auster, William Boyd, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Nancy Mitford, AS Byatt, Beryl Bainbridge, Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy… Must get on and read more of them!!!
Books he has mentioned in interviews
Saturday by Ian McEwan – Referred to it as one of his favourite books along with William Golding’s To the Ends of the Earth (more about the series on the “Adaptations” section) in an interview with What’s On Stage in which he also said that, if he hadn’t become an actor, he’d liked to have been a neurosurgeon because of the main character in the book:
I’d have liked to have been a neurosurgeon – I’m thinking that because of the character in Saturday. It would have been nice to have done something useful, responsible, that required a mind-blowing skill, where something really important hangs in the balance.
Terence Rattigan: The Man and his Work by Michael Darlow – Mentioned it in the aforementioned interview with LondonTheatre.co.uk.
The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon – In the Sherlock Series 2 Q&A held by PBS in May 2012, he said he would love to work on an adaptation of the novel.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – Referred to it as a book that changed his life during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.
American Purgatorio by John Haskell – When asked by a fan at the Oz Comic-Con 2014 what he was reading, he said he was halfway through it.
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh – He mentioned in a couple of interviews that he read it as part of the research he did in order to play Doctor Strange.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – He mentioned in those same interviews.
The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra – He said in this interview that he read it when he stayed at the Tibetan Monastery in India.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig – Another book he said he read during his stay at the Monastery.
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel – In a 2014 interview to The Japan Times, he said:
The Zen spirit, in particular, intrigues me. One can’t always achieve it — it’s a goal, that becoming one with what you’re trying to achieve . . . as in that wonderful book about Zen and the art of archery, where the archer momentarily becomes the bow and the arrow. In special moments, that can happen in acting as well.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Referred to it as one of the books he grew up loving in this BuzzFeed Q&A on Tumblr.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Referred to it as one of the books he grew up loving in this BuzzFeed Q&A on Tumblr.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – Referred to it as one of the books he grew up loving in this BuzzFeed Q&A on Tumblr. In addition to that, he said the following in a 2013 interview with The Sunday Post:
My dad is an extraordinary actor, so he brought to life for me this already extraordinary world of Hobbits and Dragons when I was six or seven […] It was a very rich way to be introduced to such an incredible book. So, when you can go home and say to your dad, ‘I’m playing Smaug, and I’ve got you to thank for it,’ it’s a very satisfying day in an actor’s life. He played Smaug as this amazing gravelly, growling creature, so I basically ripped off my dad for my performance
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli – A huge fan of Rovelli, Benedict said he carries the book around “like a small Bible”.
Books he reviewed
Benedict used to review books for the talk show Richard & Judy. Here are the ones we know he did:
The Resurrectionist by James Bradley – Video of his review
How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper – Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a video of his review, but he mentions he found it a great read on the video above.
Guernica by Dave Boling – Video of his review
Mystery Man by Colin Bateman – Video of his review
Mr Toppit by Charles Elton – Video of his review
Starter for Ten by David Nicholls – Starter for Ten
Atonement by Ian McEwan – Atonement
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – The Other Boleyn Girl
Creation (or Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution) by Randal Keynes – Creation
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré – Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo – War Horse
The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkien – The Hobbit trilogy
Inside Wikileaks by Daniel Domschett-Berg and Wikileaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding – The Fifth Estate
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup – 12 Years a Slave
Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges – The Imitation Game
Whitey by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill – Black Mass
Doctor Strange comics – character created by Steve Ditko and San Lee; written by various authors over time – Doctor Strange
In an interview with F*** magazine, Benedict said he loved the art of Into Shamballa whilst director Scott Derrickson said in an interview with Total Film that both it and The Oath influenced his writing of the script and the visual design of the first movie.
In a webchat promoted by The Guardian, he said he was reading Strange Tales Volume 2 (possibly referring to this arc?).
Finally, in a picture shared by professional Movement Designer Jay Funk and in another shared by his dialect coach, Sarah Shepherd, we can see him reading issue #18 of the 2015 Doctor Strange series.
The Jungle Book(s) by Rudyard Kipling – Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss – The Grinch
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household – Rogue Male
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – How to Stop Time
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage – The Power of the Dog
Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi – Prisoner 760
The War Magician by David Fisher – The War Magician
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters – Tipping the Velvet
Fortysomething by Nigel Williams (currently unavailable) – Fortysomething
Rites of Passage, Close Quarters and Fire Down Below by William Golding – To The Ends of The Earth
Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters – Stuart: A Life Backwards
Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie – Marple: Murder Is Easy
Small Island by Andrea Levy – Small Island
Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock
BBC Books released a few tie-in editions: A Study in Scarlet, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles (with an introduction by Benedict), The Sign of Four, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Essential Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures (in a single hardback volume and in two paperbacks).
It also released Sherlock: Chronicles, a guide to the show featuring interviews, behind-the-scenes information and over 500 images of concept artwork, photographs, costume and set designs and more.
Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford – Parade’s End
There’s also the script book by Tom Stoppard which includes scenes and parts of scenes that were shot but didn’t make the cut so as not to extend the running time of the episodes.
Henry VI – Part 1, Henry VI – Part 2, Henry VI – Part 3 and Richard III by William Shakespeare – The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan – The Child In Time
The Patrick Melrose novels (Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk and At Last) by Edward St Aubyn – Patrick Melrose
Pan MacMillan released tie-in editions:
In paperback: Volume 1 (containing the first three novels) and Volume 2 (containing the final two novels)
In e-book: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk and At Last.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – Good Omens
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr – The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Benedict, who celebrated the books’s 50th-anniversary alongside the late author and illustrator last year, said at the occasion that he has vague memories of his father reading it to him and that he reads it to his children:
It is something that has continued from generation to generation and it’s now a wonderful thing to be passing it on.Source: Irish Examiner
For more about the adaptations themselves, please visit our Radio page and our Audiobooks page.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian
Field Study by Rachel Seiffert
The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
A Country Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
Demons (aka The Possessed) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Odyssey by Homer
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Kepler by John Banville
Seven Women by J.M.Barrie
Old Man Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott
In two hardback volumes: Volume 1 and Volume 2
In four individual paperbacks: The Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, A Division of the Spoils
The Collected Stories of Rumpole by John Mortimer
Tom & Viv by Michael Hastings
Thrilling Stories of the Railway by Victor Whitechurch
The House of Dr Edwardes By Francis Beeding
The Story of My Life by Giacomo Casanova
Copenhagen by Michael Frayn
My Dear Bessie by Chris Barker and Bessie Moore (edited and introduced by Simon Garfield)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Oh, What a Lovely War by Joan Littlewood
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen
Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams
Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco
The Fire-Raisers (aka The Arsonists) by Max Frisch
The City by Martin Crimp
After the Dance by Terence Rattigan
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Look Back in Anger by John Osborne
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
These books didn’t fit into any of the above categories, but that doesn’t make them any less important!
Letters of Note series by Shaun Usher and To the Letter by Simon Garfield – Inspiration behind Letters Live
Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon by Daniel Falconer – Benedict wrote its foreword. You can read it here.
Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age by Jack Copeland – We can see him reading it in this picture shared by his dialect coach, Sarah Shepherd.
The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood – The author posted a picture of Benedict reading the book.
An English Room by Derry Moore – Benedict talks about his favourite place to read a script: The Garrick Club’s library in London:
This place is an oasis of quiet: a stone’s throw from Charing Cross Road and the theatre district on one side, and from Covent Garden on the other.Via
Curious Stories by Various Authors – Collection of stories written by UK artists about the things that inspired them as children. All proceeds benefit Creative Minds, a charity dedicated to securing that the arts are part of children’s and young people’s educations. They posted Benedict’s story here.
A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters – Benedict is quoted on the cover saying “I couldn’t put this book down”.
Edison: A Life of Invention by Paul Israel – He mentioned he was reading it on the Guardian live webchat
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – He also mentioned he was reading it on the Guardian live webchat
Facing the Monster: A Photographic Story of the Faces of Cancer by Imelda Bell – Benedict wrote the foreword for this compilation of the photographer’s acclaimed project.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter – SunnyMarch acquired the film rights to the book in May 2017.
The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry – SunnyMarch acquired the TV rights to the book in April 2018.
The Gender Games by Juno Dawson – SunnyMarch optioned it for TV in June 2018.
We hope you found this page useful and that it filled up your tbr lists!