Readers and Writers

In 2023, actor Tom Hanks published a work of fiction entitled The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece. Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown used a family member’s experiences as inspiration for her novel Nineteen Steps. Celebrities from Prince Harry to Britney Spears published memoirs. It seems many celebrities enjoy writing, or at least enjoy inspiring us with their stories that ghostwriters may have helped pen. As is often pointed out, reading is necessary for good writing. Celebrities are no exception to this rule. Whether they have published a best-selling book or not, celebrities are readers. Have you ever wondered what your favorite celebrities enjoy reading? I know I have. Let’s take a look at some of the favorite literary works of some of our favorite stars. 

Lovers of Classics 

As a lover of classic literature myself, I simply must begin this investigation with celebrities who love the classics as much as I do. Does it surprise you, for instance, that Bill Murray’s favorite book is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain? It seems to me to be a good fit for this funny but serious actor.  How about Anne Hathaway’s top pick being The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett? Again, I think that fits as well.  Perhaps the one that surprised me most was Dolly Parton’s love of the children’s classic The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I probably should not have been astonished. I should have recognized it would suit her “I can do it” attitude and wonderful, childlike free spirit. Quite the opposite of The Little Engine that Could is Timothy Chalamet’s favorite work – George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. (I wonder if his love of this book played a part in his portrayal of Paul in the most recent film depiction of Frank Herbert’s Dune). Bradley Cooper’s taste runs more toward Vladimir Nobokov’s masterpiece Lolita, while Zoë Saldana prefers The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. James Franco lists his favorite book as William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Jennifer Lawrence loves J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Rita Wilson enjoys Beloved by Toni Morrison. (We’ll take a peek at some of her husband’s favorite reads in a bit). Do you have any guesses as to what Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite novel is? No, it’s not Harry Potter. It’s Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Scanlon).  

Powerful Reads 

Have you ever read a book so powerful it moved you to tears, laughter, deep thought, or even anger? I know I have shed tears, laughed out loud, and even felt annoyed at, frustrated by, or furious at some of my favorite books. In fact, books that elicit such responses are usually the books toward which I lean in my reading and studies. Celebrities, of course, feel this as well. Issa Rae, for example, would agree with Zoë Saldana about Coelho’s The Alchemist. She described how the work made her think differently at an important time in her life. (Will Smith shared something similar in his memoir Will [190]). The aforementioned Millie Bobby Brown reports A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole made her cry, while Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library caused her to question her own ideas. However, the book that broke her heart was The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo (Ukiomogbe). Toni Collette shed a few tears of her own when she read the work Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. (I can relate to that. I discovered Strout’s magnificent writing this past year). I can also relate to tennis star Serena Williams explaining the Bible is the book that has taught her the most. Scary Movie star Regina Hall has found inspiration in Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama (Darisaw). Comedian Ali Wong became so engrossed in On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong that she may have skipped washing her hair a time or two to read the book (Scanlon). (If you find yourself in this predicament, may I recommend taking a book into the bathtub with you? I often do that, considering my curly hair takes around an hour to condition. It’s a great time to indulge in a favorite book and maybe some bubbles or nice, hot, relaxing water). 

Musicians’ Favorites 

Researching the favorite books of actors made me wonder what could be the favorite books of popular musicians. If you have wondered that as well, look no further. I have a list that may be of interest to you. For example, Dua Lipa lists such favorites as Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (“Dua Lipa’s Book Club List”). It seems Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour may be a classic lover (like I am!). One of his favorites is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. He also has some contemporary favorites like Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (“Corey Taylor’s Top 10 Books”). Lucinda Williams, who crosses genres with her music, also likes various genres of books. Some of her favorites are Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Women by Charles Bukowski, and Dancing with Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield by Penny Valentine (“Lucinda Williams’ Reading List”). We mentioned Britney Spears’s own memoir. When it comes to books she enjoys, she lists Happiness by Danielle Steele, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and Whiskey in a Teacup by another celebrity book lover Reese Witherspoon (“Britney Spears’ Favorite Books”). (Speaking of Reese Witherspoon, don’t forget both she and Oprah Winfrey have their own book clubs you may want to check out if you would like to read their recommendations). 

Celebrity Authors 

So far, we have only discussed actors and musicians and their love of literature. However, we should also discuss the favorite books of those who write for a living. After all, authors can be celebrities, too. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy reading the favorite books of my favorite authors. Sometimes by doing so, I discover new favorites. 

For example, Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch, is probably my favorite current-day author. Through a search of interviews with her (does anyone else research favorite authors, or is it just me?), I discovered one of the writers she read most when she wrote her cult classic The Secret History was twentieth-century British author Evelyn Waugh (Temple “Donna Tartt on the Books that Were Important to Her While Writing The Secret History”). He was an author with whom I was not yet familiar, so I picked up Brideshead Revisited, which is often considered by scholars to be his masterpiece. After reading it, I can see why Donna Tartt finds his work so inspiring. 

It probably should come as no surprise that A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin’s favorite work is the fantasy penned by the first author with R.R. in his name – J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (Scanlon). I can see some similarities in the two authors. Both are masters of world-building and character development. 

The late author and journalist Joan Didion not only enjoyed Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, but spoke about how his writing inspired her to think about how sentences are structured (Scanlon). Would we have The Year of Magical Thinking without A Farewell to Arms? Who can say?  

Speaking of Hemingway, did you know he recommended everyone read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert? Hemingway was not the only one. It’s also a favorite of American Psycho author Brett Easton Ellis and the author of the book and screenplay of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding. Likewise, Hemingway and his writer pal F. Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed Leo Tolstoy’s tome War and Peace. It’s also a masterpiece none other than Stephen King recommends. The late Maya Angelou’s taste tended toward Ralph Ellison’s classic Invisible Man. Neil Gaiman prefers Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. Zadie Smith always suggests people read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Temple “Which Books Do Famous Authors Read and Recommend Most?”). 

Now where exactly should I put Ethan Hawke? I mean, not only has he starred in such movies as The Purge, The Black Phone, The Northman, and (my all-time favorite movie) Dead Poets Society, but he is also a (might I say amazing? I am not above putting in shameless plugs for my favorite authors) writer. If you would like to read some books that have meant a lot to him, check out The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. This is no surprise since Hawke portrayed legendary Kansas abolitionist John Brown in the TV series based on the book. He also enjoys Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Starkey, Healey). You also might consider checking out Hawke’s own books like The Hottest State, Ash Wednesday, Rules for a Knight, and A Bright Ray of Darkness.

I promised we would also take a peek into the favorite books of Mr. Rita Wilson (also known as Tom Hanks). I saved him for this section since he is also an author in his own write – or I mean right. Some of Mr. Hanks’s favorite books are The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Claimed Russia by Masha Gessen, Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, and Stasiland by Anna Funder (Potter). I love complex reading tastes. Such always inspires me to try something new. 

Reading What Celebrities Read 

This list that I have presented is certainly not complete or definitive. I have mentioned but a few books that are celebrity favorites. I encourage you to do more research on your favorite celebrities. And if you would like to try some favorite celebrity reads, why not check out the selection at the Salina Public Library? We have many of the works mentioned in this article. You might find you have similar taste to your favorite star. While you’re there, maybe you will want to borrow some of their movies or music as well. 



“Britney Spears’ Favorite Books.” Radical Reads, 27 Oct. 2023, Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

“Corey Taylor’s Top 10 Books.” Radical Reads, 3 Dec. 2023, Accessed 12 Jan. 2024. 

Darrisaw, Michelle. “25 Celebrities Tell Us the Book that Changed Their Life.” Oprah Daily, 23 May 2019, Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

“Dua Lipa’s Book Club List.” Radical Reads, 28 Oct. 2023, Accessed 6 Jan. 2024. 

Healy, M. “Books That Made a Difference to Ethan Hawke.”, Accessed 5 Jan. 2024.  

“Lucinda Williams’ Reading List.” Radical Reads, 10 Oct. 2023, Accessed 12 Jan. 2024. 

Potter, Jordan. “Tom Hanks Reveals His 10 Favorite Books.” Far Out, 6 Sept. 2023, Accessed 6 Jan. 2024. 

Scanlon, Colin. “32 Celebrities Reveal Their Favorite Books.” Redbook, 8 Dec. 2022, Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

Smith, Will and Manson, Mark. Will. Penguin Press, 2021. 

Starkey, Arun. “Ethan Hawke’s Favorite Books of All Time.” Far Out, 2 March  2022, Accessed 5 Jan. 2024. 

Temple, Emily. “Donna Tartt on the Books that Were Important to Her While Writing The Secret History.” Literary Hub, 22 Dec. 2022, Accessed 7 Jan. 2024. 

Temple, Emily. “Which Books Do Famous Authors Read and Recommend Most?” Literary Hub, 28 June 2018, Accessed 20 Dec. 2023. 

Ukiomogbe, Juliana. “Shelf Life: Millie Bobby Brown.” Elle, 21 Sept. 2023, Accessed 7 Jan. 2023.