Richard E. Grant reveals his eight favourite books

From Robinson Crusoe to A Clockwork Orange, the British actor cracks the spine on the classics he loves to revisit…

Richard E. Grant’s new book is called a “Pocket Full of Happiness” — a reference to his late wife’s imperative that he find such a thing inside every day. It is, in itself, a container of so many different things — a strikingly intimate diary of grief; a vivid porthole into the glitzy orbit of the storied actor; a moving homage to Joan Washington’s character.

Its vitality and honesty is testament to Grant himself, who as an actor — in Withnail and I, and in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, say — often seems to be performing without barriers or borders or filters, so to speak; open and genuine and full of heart. Here, Grant chooses his favourite books. 

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Grant says: “Lewis Carroll’s book is my favourite of all time. I have read it every year since I was a child. It’s the unofficial guide to the English Class system, English imagination and sense of humour”.

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

Grant says: “Enid Blyton’s adventure stories were utterly compulsive. Growing up in Swaziland in the 1960s without television, reading was my escape into the world beyond. I devoured all of the ‘Secret Seven’ series and ‘Famous Five’ books, compulsively”.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Grant says: “Allegedly the first novel ever written, it reads like a true story and a travelogue of an explorer who has to make do when he finds himself shipwrecked and alone on a tropical island. It’s the original Desert Island Discs narrative that’s so beguiling as you try to imagine what you would do if stranded and having to totally rely on your own wits and ingenuity”.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Grant says: “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel, written when he was 23-years-old and documenting what it was like to experience the 1920s Jazz Age in America. Lyrical and romantic in equal measure”.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Grant says: “Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, written in three weeks, is a visceral, violent, sexually charged rollercoaster ride of a book, replete with ‘Nadsat’, Anglo-Russian slang. It follows the life of a teenage psychopath called Alex, whose adventures in a dystopian future are a Rake’s Progress of anarchy. Riveting”.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Grant says: “This novel by Gabriel García Márquez is unashamedly about passion and love in all its forms: unrequited and satiated and set in tropical South America, where the steamy climate matches the complexity and heat of the character’s love lives”.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Grant says: “Donna Tartt’s debut novel is an adult version of the Famous Five, wherein we follow the stories of a group of university students and as their lives are impacted by a murder. Friendship, loyalty, lust and betrayal interweaved in an incredible narrative”.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Grant says: “Jane Austen’s masterpiece and a magnifying glass insight into English life in the early 19th Century. Class, money, inheritance, romance, misunderstanding and longing combine to make for an irresistible comedy of manners and a deeply satisfying love story”.

 A Pocketful of Happiness by Richard E Grant is published by Gallery, £20

Want more A-lister insights? From swing to soul, Jeff Goldblum picks his eight favourite records…

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