When J.J. Abrams cast Chris Pine in his 2009 Star Trek reboot, the actor was a relative unknown. He’d found some success in naughties romcoms like The Princess Diaries 2 and  Just My Luck, but it was the colossal role of Captain Kirk that earned him critical acclaim and a legion of fans. Pine’s charm and on-screen charisma breathed new life into the iconic character, and he’s tackled a diverse range of characters since, with credits including Hell or High Water, Into the Woods, and Wonder Woman.

Born into a family of performers in 1980 Los Angeles, Pine was an English major at Berkeley before pursuing a career in showbusiness. Ever the avid reader, he recently spoke with Esquire on his favorite books of late – and his picks range from Japanese crime fiction to a powerful 700-page account of the Vietnam War. Including Truman Capote’s classic tale of American violence alongside John le Carré’s entire ouvre, explore Pine’s book recommendations below, and check out the reading lists of other iconic actors right here.

Chris Pine’s Reading List

Lady Joker, Volume 2 by Kaoru Takemura

“She’s like the grande dame of Japanese detective fiction.” -CP

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

“I really wish I could speak intelligently about Flights. It’s super mosaic-y, and every time you start getting invested in one of these mosaic pieces, she kind of flips the subject. I found it pretty impenetrable until the end. It did land for me in the last bit.” -CP

Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes

“[Flights] reminded me, oddly, of this book, Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes. He wrote a nonfiction book called What It Is Like to Go to War, which will blow your fucking mind. But Matterhorn is a seven-hundred-page novel about Vietnam, and the drudgery and the impersonalization of war. Essentially, it’s about how we live alone, and we die alone.” -CP

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen

“It’s really an interesting story, until it just doesn’t end up anywhere you want it to end up. After spending some time with this protagonist, you’re like, ‘Please succeed, please succeed,’ and then—no. It didn’t get me as angry as A Little Life, which left me apoplectic in my anger—it’s just so unrelentingly dark. Copenhagen—at least it’s shorter.” -CP

Dispatches by Michael Herr (also rec’d by George Saunders)

“Dark, too. But it’s a bit like Apocalypse Now.” -CP

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

“I just went through a huge Norman Mailer phase. I read The Naked and the Dead, which he wrote when he was fucking twenty-five. His insight into the human mind and the psyche, and insight into a soldier, is profound. He definitely gilds the lily—sometimes you can really see him flexing his muscles. But God—I mean, a book about an unrequited homosexual love affair between a sergeant and a general in 1947, when the war’s just ended? The fuck is that about? A complete existentialist takedown of war, the stupidity of war, sending men off to die for nothing. Fascinating.” -CP

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer (also rec’d by Emily St. John Mandel & Joan Didion)

“It’s so tremendous in its depth, and the layers of these people’s lives that it peels back. Mailer can’t help but fall in love a bit with the protagonist, who’s a killer. He finds the strange brilliance and charisma and perhaps sociopathy of his primary character, and how he twists the lives of the people around him, and he becomes both tragic and awful and worthy of compassion and empathy, like any normal human being. So, it’s really complicated. Brings up a lot as you read it.” -CP

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (also rec’d by Bill Hader, David BowieHenry Rollins & Philip Seymour Hoffman)

“A fucking masterpiece, in the same vein—it humanizes these awful people in a way that’s difficult for your brain, your moral brain, to deal with. So that was great.” -CP

Underworld by Don DeLillo (also rec’d by Irvine Welsh)

“DeLillo’s language is like a really, really dense luminescent spiderweb. It can go particular and then it can go into graphic abstraction in the course of a paragraph. The first forty pages, where they’re at the baseball game, are unbelievable. Maybe the best 40 pages I’ve ever read. Sinatra, Toots Shor, and fucking J. Edgar Hoover. It’s the weirdest trio.” -CP

Master of Souls by Irène Némirovsky

“I think she was a Polish emigre to France, pre-World War II, and then got swept up in the camps and died. She wrote the Suite Francaise, these two novels that were rediscovered after her death. Master of Souls is a great parable about greed, the need for more, ambition. It’s beautiful and short and quite good.” -CP

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (also rec’d by Amy PoehlerChristopher HitchensDean Koontz, Elizabeth Warren, George R.R. MartinMaya Angelou & Uzo Aduba)

I love Dickens. I read Bleak House when I was like 14, and it always stayed with me. I hadn’t read Dickens since. And Tale of Two Cities I thought was going to be some giant book—which it’s actually not. He’s the master of the run-on sentence and the parenthetical, but also, he’s so fucking funny—still. Just like Mark Twain. But also, Tale of Two Cities is so relevant to America right now. I think we all need to read this book, because this is about how revolutions happen and how ugly they are. What happens when the middle class dies.” -CP

The Master and The Magician by Colm Toibin

“I read these back-to-back. These are fictional accounts—one’s of Thomas Mann and the other’s of Henry James. They really took me for a ride, I loved them both deeply. Fucking Thomas Mann lived an extraordinary life. From the Austro-Hungarian Empire into Weimar Republic, into Fascist Germany, then he escapes to France. Then he lives in the fucking Pacific Palisades during World War II, in the expat German community. Then ends up in Switzerland, raises two flamboyantly unapologetic gay artist children in, like, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin. God—just a fucking wild life. Wild life.” -CP

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr

“Berlin Noir I read a little while ago, but I fucking love it. Bernie Gunther—he’s a detective in Nazi Germany. It’s interesting to get a sense of what it’s like to be a normal person inside a fascist thing.” -CP

All of John le Carré

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold—fucking hands down one of the most gorgeous novels ever written, I think. And this is quite fun—The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life. It’s one of the last things he wrote—it’s just a beautiful tour through his life as a writer. But in terms of where to go after Spy, I would go for the George Smiley series, Honorable SchoolboyTinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley’s People. So nuanced, so complicated, just stunning.” -CP

(via Esquire; photo by Amy Sussman)

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Categories: Actors