Before taking on the star-making turn of pill-popping medical maverick Dr. Gregory House on the hit Fox drama House, Hugh Laurie was a mainstay of 80s and 90s English humor. His early work – alongside longtime friend Stephen Fry as one half of the Fry & Laurie double act, and opposite Rowan Atkinson in the period comedy series Blackadder – helped define a generation of British comedy talent, and led to film roles in Sense and Sensibility, 101 Dalmatians, and Stuart Little.

Outside of his acting work – for which he’s won three Golden Globes, two SAG Awards and ten Emmy nominations – Laurie’s released two blues albums to favorable reviews, and authored the 1996 novel The Gun Seller, a satirical romp through the espionage genre.

Sharing six of his all-time favorite books in a reading list for O Magazine, Laurie included seminal work by Steinbeck, Melville, and his comic hero P.G. Wodehouse. Check out his recommendations below, and complement with the bookshelves of other iconic actors and comedians.

Hugh Laurie’s Reading List

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce SpringsteenGabriel García Márquez, Howard Zinn, Hugh JackmanNelson MandelaRay Bradbury & Tom Wolfe)

“Novels that set out to describe grand historical events sometimes struggle with scale: too big, and they lose the particular, the personal; too small, and they lose the immensity, the connectedness of all things. Steinbeck describes the experience of migrating ‘Okies’ during the Depression, and makes you weep on both scales.” -HL

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce SpringsteenJohn Irving, Morgan Freeman, Norman MailerPatti SmithPenn JilletteRay BradburySteve JobsSusan Orlean & Tilda Swinton)

“I believe some people have already remarked on this novel. Unflaggingly brilliant and stunningly modern. Besides learning a huge amount about whales and seafaring, you can also impress your friends with the origin of the name Starbuck.” -HL

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carré

“There are few things quite as beautiful as a well-constructed thriller. This, the coldest of Cold War novels, describes the journey of Alec Leamas, burned-out spy, on his final mission behind the Iron Curtain. It has the symmetrical, mathematical precision of a piece of Bach, and to this day, I get all tingly thinking of the line: ‘And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamas understood the whole ghastly trick.'” -HL

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel C. Dennett

“Dennett looks at Darwin’s idea of evolution in a philosophical and logical framework instead of a biological one. The book points out that if we truly wish to know what we are in the scheme of things, Darwin is the place to start. You think you can grasp the magnitude of Darwin’s leap and its implications for all human life and thought. And then Dennett shows you that you’re only on the ground floor of a majestic skyscraper. Beautiful.” -HL

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (also rec’d by George R.R. Martin)

“A satire on war, I suppose, but that’s a pretty broad and uninteresting category by itself. Catch-22 plays with the first principles of existence: Out of a million possible examples, how about this? One soldier named Dunbar notices that time passes more slowly when you’re bored; he therefore sets about cultivating a state of perfect boredom in which time will actually stop, allowing him to live forever. Except that thought itself is interesting, and so hastens his death. And so on. Breathtakingly brilliant stuff.” -HL

The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse (also rec’d by Nigella Lawson)

“Over the years, wise men and women seem to have more or less agreed that Wodehouse is unmatched as a writer of comic fiction. This book is where my love affair with Wodehouse began. In this tale, wealthy if intellectually negligible man-about-town Bertie Wooster and his manservant, Jeeves, retrieve a silver creamer in the shape of a cow. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But I warn you, on no account should you drink milk while reading this novel in public. (You probably shouldn’t be drinking milk in public anyway.)” -HL

(via O Magazine)

Categories: Actors Comedians

Leave a comment