Since making his feature film debut in the 1987 cult classic Withnail and I, Swazi-English actor Richard E. Grant has established himself as one of the most sublime character actors of his generation. He’s turned in stunning performances in indie and high-profile films alike – including The Player, Dracula, L.A. Story, and The Phantom Menace – and received broad critical acclaim for his role opposite Melissa McCarthy in the 2018 drama Can You Ever Forgive Me?

In 2021, when Grant’s beloved wife Joan died after nearly forty years together, she left him with a challenge: to find a pocketful of happiness in every day. In honor of this promise, the actor compiled a career’s worth of diary entries that celebrate life’s little joys into the 2022 memoir A Pocketful of Happiness.

Asked to name his top ten desert island reads by NY-based bookshop One Grand, Grant included the madcap semi-memoir of Withnail director Bruce Robinson alongside classics by Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and Virginia Woolf. Explore his recommendations below, and dive into the reading lists of other brilliant actors here.

Richard E. Grant’s Reading List

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (also rec’d by Caitlin Moran, Hayao MiyazakiJohn LennonMaurice SendakPatti Smith & Rose McGowan)

“I first read when I was a little boy and have every year since. The best guide to the English class system, sense of humor, and innately eccentric sensibility.” -REG

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (also rec’d by Amy Tan, Bruce Springsteen & Rose McGowan)

“A tropical love story in all its variations.” -REG

The Kenneth Williams Diaries edited by Russell Davies

“Hilariously scabrous and heartbreaking insight into this uniquely funny/sad comedian.” -REG

Money by Martin Amis (also rec’d by David Bowie)

“A viscerally funny, bravura dissection of fame and fortune.” -REG

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (also rec’d by David BowieFlorence WelchHaruki MurakamiHunter S. ThompsonJohn KrasinskiTa-Nehisi Coates & Williams S. Burroughs)

“An unrequited love letter to the Jazz Age that manages to be both intimate, epic and achingly romantic about an era that almost never was.” -REG

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (also rec’d by Marlon James, Norman Mailer & Nora Ephron)

“Class, money and marriage in a book that manages to combine insight, malice and the magnificence of romantic misunderstanding.” -REG

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (also rec’d by Kurt Cobain)

“Having been led by my nose all my life, this story about pursuing the perfect scent is irresistible.” -REG

Timebends: A Life by Arthur Miller (also rec’d by Gene Wilder)

“A narrative of 20th century America as witnessed and refracted by this singular master playwright.” -REG

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson

“A biliously funny and mordant ‘autobiography’ by my great friend who wrote me the role of a lifetime in Withnail and I.” -REG

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (also rec’d by Alison Bechdel, Greta Gerwig & Ocean Vuong)

“Groundbreaking, haunting and elliptical.” -REG

(via One Grand Books)

Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Richard E. Grant’s reading list on

Categories: Actors