Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1970, Octavia Spencer got her first acting gig while working behind the scenes on the 1996 thriller A Time to Kill. After a string of small but scene-stealing roles in film and television, she shot to fame as one of the lead characters in 2011 period drama The Help. For her performance as forthright housemaid Minny Jackson in 1960s Mississippi, she won an Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe, and established herself as one of Hollywood’s finest character actors.
In the decade since, she’s received praise for prominent roles in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, the James Brown biopic Get on Up, ’60s Space Race drama Hidden Figures, and the psychological horror film Ma. As an author, Spencer has published two books in a young adult series starring an amateur ninja detective: 2013’s The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit and 2015’s The Sweetest Heist in History.
A crime fiction aficionado, the actress shared six of her favorite mystery books in a reading list for The Week. From Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes, find her recommendations below.
Octavia Spencer’s Reading List
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
“My love of mystery began at the ripe old age of 8 with the Encyclopedia Brown series. I highly recommend it to parents who want to experience a touch of nostalgia or to help their children become better at deductive thinking.” -OS
Mind Hunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
“As a budding mystery writer, I realized that I had to understand the criminal mind. This book, co-written by the man who developed the FBI’s profiling system, gave me the insights I needed. I consider his system one of the greatest innovations in criminal investigation since latent fingerprint analysis.” -OS
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Two words: pure pleasure. For crime-fiction aficionados like me, having the Sherlock Holmes canon on hand is a must. All four novels and 56 stories are here, including my favorites: the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles and the short story ‘The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.'” -OS
Dead Time by Eleanor Taylor Bland
“A bit of detective work might be required to secure all the books in Eleanor Taylor Bland’s Marti MacAlister series. But consider it a treasure hunt. Bland immediately hooks you into the professional life of a recently widowed detective who is bound by her familial obligations.” -OS
Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell
“What’s better than a tenacious, hard-boiled lady detective who has nothing to lose? A tenacious, hard-boiled, forensic pathologist with everything at stake! Kay Scarpetta is one of my all-time favorite characters. I first met her in these heartrending, thrill-a-minute pages.” -OS
“To this crime-fiction lover, there is nothing more fun than reading an Alex Cross thriller and rooting for its protagonist, a black psychologist turned detective turned FBI agent. I’ve always felt a strong connection to Cross, a widower with three young children who are looked after by his grandmother, Nana Mama. Patterson had me from the start.” -OS
(via The Week)