Born in the Irish County Cork in 1976, Cillian Murphy was a budding rock musician before pivoting to theater and shooting to fame for his acting debut in Enda Walsh’s breakthrough play, Disco Pigs. After cutting his teeth portraying complex and contradictory characters on Dublin and London stages, film offers started pouring in and Murphy rose to prominence starring in small independent pictures of the late 1990s.

The actor caught his big film break being cast in the lead role of Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic horror film 28 Days Later – and has spent much of his subsequent career playing the parts of violent, monstrous men. From The Dark Night‘s supervillain Scarecrow to gangster antihero Tommy Shelby in the long-running BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders, Murphy’s consistently sublime performances have cemented his status as one of the great actors to hail from the Emerald Isle.

Much like his film preferences, Murphy’s literary tastes are full of gritty, atmospheric tales written with precision, compassion and humor. In a reading list for NY-based bookstore One Grand, the actor recommended work by Irish favorites Patrick McCabe and John Banville, alongside Ford- and Updike-penned classics on the American male psyche. Find his favorites below.


The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy (also rec’d by Johnny Depp & Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

“One of those books that you read as a young man and become intoxicated with, yet it is a book to be savored over the course of a life. It was written with great mischief and humor, but full of empathy for the outsider struggling to imagine a purpose in this world. Donleavy is a writer who will be dearly missed.” -CM

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (also rec’d by Tana French)

“An absolutely stunning achievement and one of the most heartbreaking books I have ever read. Dark, fiercely funny, compassionate, and unashamedly Irish. Its depiction of a young boy’s descent into isolation and madness in small town Ireland has never left me…” -CM

Eclipse by John Banville

“Written by my other favorite Irish writer, this book couldn’t be more different in tone than The Butcher Boy, but is no less captivating. In this beautifully mediative tale, Alexander Cleave is a celebrated actor who returns to live in his childhood home. The book seemingly has little or no plot but the sheer towering beauty of its language, atmosphere and insight make it impossible to put down or to forget.” -CM

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (also rec’d by Bruce Springsteen, Owen Wilson & Philip Seymour Hoffman)

“Along with Updike, Ford has of course been the great chronicler of the modern American male. I relished the Bascombe Trilogy, beginning with The Sportswriter. Frank Bascombe worked his way under my skin.” -CM

Rabbit Series by John Updike (also rec’d by Ann Patchett)

“A quartet of Rabbit novels in one edition. For me, it is essential reading—as essential yet entirely different to Ford’s achievement. An extraordinary study and description of humanity and life in America between the ‘50s and the ‘90s.” -CM

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer

“Geoff Dyer is an abundantly talented writer. His books can sometimes defy classification and this one is certainly a case-in-point. It is a book of thrillingly different halves, about middle-age, art and existence. And much more. I devoured it.” -CM

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

“One of the most moving books I have read in recent years. It investigates a father’s suspended state of unexpected loss and grief with a gorgeously wry sense of humor. Captivating, poetic, and surprising.” -CM

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (also rec’d by Daniel Radcliffe, Jack Dorsey & Ray Bradbury)

“It’s always the beautiful simplicity of this story that transports me. Not a word is wasted. For such a short novel, it kind of approaches perfection in storytelling for me. Hemingway apparently said of the novel that it was the ‘best I can write ever for all of my life.'” -CM

The Grass Arena by John Healy

“I had heard about this book for many years before I read it. Ostensibly it is the autobiography of a former alcoholic who chronicles his struggles living rough on the streets of London in a vivid and unique style, but it is more than that. It is the story of determination and rebirth, the tale of a chess champion who overcomes a savage childhood to live again. A powerful book indeed.” -CM

Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara (also rec’d by Joan Didion & Tom Wolfe)

“This is a searing novel set in 1930s America, and the story unfolds in just over 36 hours. It is a book about sex, alcohol, class, and dreamers. Devastating in its conclusion, it completely drew me into the atmosphere and pressure of what it must have been like to alive in America at that time. All details are present—the cocktails, the cars, and in this book most overwhelmingly, the unhappiness.” -CM

(via One Grand Books)

Categories: Actors