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Film

Hugh Laurie's favourite books of all time

Before Hugh Laurie became one of television’s highest-paid actors for his leading role in House, he was a regular face in the world of British comedy. The star gained prominence in the 1980s when he and fellow Cambridge Footlights alumni Stephen Fry formed the comedy duo Fry and Laurie. The pair landed their own sketch show A Bit of Fry and Laurie, which ran from 1989 to 1995, and they also appeared in countless other shows together, such as Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster.

By the 1990s, Laurie found himself in more serious acting roles and film appearances, such as Sense and Sensibility, which starred his ex-girlfriend Emma Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay. Furthermore, Laurie’s voice can be heard in the Disney animation 101 Dalmatians, as well as Stuart Little and an episode of Family Guy. However, it was his role as Dr. Gregory House in the Fox drama House that earnt Laurie worldwide recognition. The actor went on to win multiple Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his leading role, and by the late 2000s, he was reportedly earning at least $250,000 per episode.

Laurie’s hefty collection of acting credits is not all he has under his belt though, and he is also a keen musician. With an affinity for playing guitar, drums, harmonica, piano, and saxophone, as well as singing, Laurie decided to release a blues album in 2011, which included collaborations with Tom Jones and Irma Thomas. Moreover, Laurie also has an interest in writing, and in 1996 he released his first novel, entitled The Gun Seller. The book was well-received and drew comparisons to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, what with its clever use of comedy to aid the telling of the thrilling tale.

Thus, it is no surprise that Laurie has cited Wodehouse as one of his biggest inspirations, claiming that “from the very first sentence of my very first Wodehouse story, life appeared to grow somehow larger.” He cites his favourite Wodehouse novel as The Code of the Woosters, which is also one of his all-time favourite books. In fact, Laurie was able to play the character of Bertie Wooster in the television adaptation of Wodehouse’s ‘Jeeves’ stories entitled Jeeves and Wooster. Speaking on his love for the novel, Laurie says: “Wodehouse is unmatched as a writer of comic fiction. This book is where my love affair with Wodehouse began. […] On no account should you drink milk while reading this novel in public.”

Laurie has also shared his interest in John Le Carré, the spy-turned-author who is perhaps most famous for his espionage story The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. The actor declared his love for the novel saying: “There are few things quite as beautiful as a well-constructed thriller. […] 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.’”

Other favourites of the actor include Moby Dick by Herman Melville and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – two ground-breaking and essential works of American literature. Laurie claims Steinbeck perfectly conveys such a prominent time in American history within The Grapes of Wrath, stating that “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.”

Hugh Laurie’s favourite books:

  • The Code of the Woosters – P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John Le Carré
  • Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • Darwin’s Dangerous Idea – Daniel Dennett

Furthermore, Laurie has also stated a liking for Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, referring to the satirical tale of war as “breathtakingly brilliant stuff.” The actor has also expressed an interest in non-fiction, selecting Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea as another favourite. He says: “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.”

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