Daniel Radcliffe explains books that have been influential to him
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is one of the funniest books he's ever read
Radcliffe began reading "Midnight's Children" after hearing the song 'The Booklovers'
The Master and Margarita
By Mikhail Bulgakov
Daniel Radcliffe has amazon.com to thank for introducing him to this satirical novel about Stalinist Russia, which Bulgakov wrote in secret from 1928 until just before his death in 1940, and which was finally published 26 years later. “I was reading Louis de Bernières’s trilogy on Latin America and this book came up as something I might like, so I bought it,” says Radcliffe. “It’s now my favorite novel – it’s just the greatest explosion of imagination, craziness, satire, humor, and heart.” The fantastical work so captured Radcliffe that for his 21st birthday, he traveled to Russia to visit the author’s apartment in Moscow. “There are passages that have become everyday Russian sayings. For instance, ‘Manuscripts don’t burn.’ If it had ever come out that this book was being written, Bulgakov would likely have disappeared permanently. That phrase stands for the fact that nothing is more powerful or more indestructible than the written word.”
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
By Hunter S. Thompson
“This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, which is the main reason I recommend it to people,” says Radcliffe, who was given Thompson’s drug-fueled, madcap rumination on American culture in the 1960s as a 15th birthday present by a friend on the Potter set. “But there is a sadness in it as well. I think Thompson loved America despite himself, and this is a lament for the passing of a time that we’ll never see again. He was such an intelligent and socially aware person; he knew even when he wrote this in 1971 that a decade like the ’60s could not happen again. And it is kind of sad to read it now because I know I will never have the feeling of living in a time that fresh and with so few boundaries.”
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By Emile Zola
This hefty masterpiece about the plight of French miners in the 1860s “made me realize that when books are considered ‘classics,’ most of the time they’re actually very readable and exciting,” Radcliffe says. “It amazes me how deftly Zola captures the idiosyncrasy, the mundanity, and the scale of life among all these different classes of people. Every character feels fully formed and real. And once I learned more about Zola’s involvement in the Dreyfus affair” – the infamous turn-of-the-century case in which Zola, citing anti-Semitism, publicly accused the French army of wrongfully convicting a Jewish captain of treason – “and how he advocated for individual freedom, I just thought, I love this man. He must have been an incredible person to know.”
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By Jorge Luis Borges
This collection of short stories by a master of magical realism “blew my mind,” says Radcliffe. “When I read a good book, I sometimes like to think I might be capable of writing something similar, but never, in my wildest dreams, could I write anything that approaches the level of cleverness and intellect and madness of Borges. I don’t think anyone could.” His favorite? The Argentinean writer’s short story “The Library of Babel” (“Borges proves that if you can write a story in ten pages, it doesn’t need to be any longer”), in which he imagines an infinite library filled with every book written, not yet written, and every combination of words and letters in between. “The premise is that contained somewhere in these books is the meaning of life. So cults develop that walk through the library searching for it. The fact that Borges could start with such an idea – an infinite library, what would that involve? – and then take it to a logical conclusion is remarkable.”
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By Salman Rushdie
“I read this on vacation in Australia when I was 15,” says Radcliffe, who credits the Northern Irish band the Divine Comedy with getting him hooked on Rushdie’s allegorical novel about the independence and partition of India and its aftermath. “They have a song called ‘The Booklovers,’ which is, essentially, a list of famous authors. I made it my mission after hearing it to read one book by every author on the list, which starts with Aphra Behn and ends with Rushdie. So I bought Midnight’s Children.” Radcliffe says people scoffed when he picked up the novel, thinking he was too young to grasp it. “I still have no idea why. It is the most enchanting book. And it’s such a brilliant idea: children born at the same hour who metaphorically encompass all the good and evil attributes of a new society. Rushdie writes with a true patriotism – a love for his country that’s not blind.”
The Old Man and the Sea
By Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s last major work of fiction, the epic tale of a luckless fisherman and his exhausting struggle to reel in a giant marlin, “is just a beautiful story, simply told,” Radcliffe says. “I have friends who never read books, and so when they ask me what they should pick up first, I always give them this one. I tell them there are some books that are like drugs, and will give you a quick hit, but if you want something that will stay with you and resonate for a long while afterward, then try this. I read it for school, and it speaks to the power of the book that I could analyze the bugger out of it and still not fall out of love with it.”
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