Actor and filmmaker Ben Affleck caught his big break in 1997’s Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote with childhood friend Matt Damon. Now ranked among Forbes magazine’s most bankable stars and one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, he’s perhaps even more renowned for his work behind the camera as a screenwriter, producer, and director.

Asked to name five of his all-time favorite books for O Magazine, Affleck mused:

“I can’t decide which five books are the most important to me. When I was asked to do this list, I sat around, going in circles for a long time, before I decided to pick whatever came to mind and accept that, on some level, those chosen from the ether probably were (whether I liked it or not) the books that had had a resounding and significant impact on my life. There are a maddening thousand more, but these are the ones that—when I sent out the first echolocation in my mind—bounced back.”

From a classic style guide to writing, to a riveting account of the Rwandan genocide, find Affleck’s reading recommendations below. Complement with the book lists of other famous actors and directors.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (also rec’d by Bill Nye)

“I, like many, initially chafed at Strunk and White’s ideas. Once I accepted that you had to learn the rules before you could break them, I set about what would become the oddly comforting task of getting to understand the true and ordered nature of the universe of writing. Perhaps the best thing in the book was what it taught (or tried to teach) me not to do. Their caution against overwriting, overstating, injecting opinions, and going on at length (I’m in serious danger of it here, in fact) was sorely needed.” -BA

Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński

“The book shows that ultimately the people of Iran had to choose between the oppression of SAVAK and the firebrand ayatollahs of the Islamic revolution. History tells us, of course, whom they opted for; Kapuściński tells us why they did so and shows us the madness and tragedy of how it happened.” -BA

We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

“This is an extraordinary account of a Western journalist trying to find answers in Rwanda in the years following the genocide. Yearning, peripatetic, and deeply accessible, it gave me an entrée into this monstrous event. Gourevitch finds a very human path through the wreckage of an inhuman event. Riding in his wake, I felt as though I started to know a place I had never been. As soon as I finished the last page, I wanted to know more.” -BA

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky (also rec’d by RATM)

“I’m grateful to the book for introducing me to Chomsky, a political analyst whose startling brilliance comes from speaking plainly and without compromise about matters that others would wrap in a mendacious fog. Along with Howard Zinn—whose book A People’s History of the United States had a similar impact on my life—Chomsky is a writer I believe everyone should read. You will not agree with either of them all the time (I don’t), but even when you disagree, you will find both men challenging your preconceptions, making you think, and generally leaving you smarter and more compassionate than when you found them.” -BA

The Book of Matthew

“Reading the Bible made it harder for me to accept its being used to propagate damaging and small-minded beliefs in the name of Christian values. In the Book of Matthew, those values sound like this: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. … Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. … Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.'” -BA

(via O Magazine)

Categories: Actors Directors

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