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Philip Seymour Hoffman's favourite books of all time

“The job isn’t difficult. Doing it well is difficult.”

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor of classic dimensions. He could do it all. His talent flavoured some of the best pictures of the last thirty years. This illustrious list includes the likes of Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Almost Famous, The Master, Doubt, CapoteSynecdoche, New York and countless others.

He sadly passed away from combined drug intoxication in 2014, but Hoffman will be forever remembered as one of the greats of modern cinema. The way he tried his hand at every aspect of artistic expression, not being tied down by script, budget or subject matter, really added to his prowess. He starred in independent cinema and big-budget Hollywood films, perfectly displaying the honest character of the man and demonstrates his pedigree as a true actor. Hoffman was never confined to type-casting. If we note the characters played in the films above the array of lead and supporting roles he played to perfection is staggering: “Ultimately my main goal is to do good work. If it doesn’t pay well, so be it,” he once said.

Hoffman’s portrayal of author Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic Capote can be seen as the turning point in his career. Gaining widespread critical and commercial acclaim, afterwards, Hoffman would more frequently accept leading roles. His portrayals as arms dealer Owen Davian in Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Father Flynn in Doubt (2007) stand out in the memory. 

Consequently, Hoffman would receive the accolades he deserved. He won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He was also noted for his outstanding work on Broadway, where he was nominated for three Tony Awards.

Hoffman’s off-stage persona also fed into his legend. He was totally committed to every project he did, often to his own physical and mental detriment. “The most in-demand character actor of his generation” never took it for granted that he was offered roles and was allegedly always humble, as numerous co-stars have maintained. One statements sum up Philip Seymour Hoffman better than any others.

In 2008 he explained: “That deep kind of love comes at a price: for me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing … Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great – well, that’s absolutely torturous.” This dedication to quality is what kept Hoffman on stage and the big screen, as he felt through being on stage, he kept his love of acting aflame, as the benefits were more tangible.

Such a captivating human was obviously comprised of a whole host of influences. Otherwise there would have been no way he could have portrayed CIA agents to authors to cult leaders. Specifically, his portrayal of esteemed writer Truman Capote in 2005 made us wonder what literature Hoffman was interested in. In 2004, he remarked that books were a “kind of a compulsion for me.” “To find a great bookstore is a great thing.” Indicative of the time, before indoor smoking bans existed, he even conflated reading with smoking, “when you read, you think, and when you smoke, you think. It’s a pleasurable thing, and not a duty.”

In the same 2004 interview, Hoffman gave us some wise words on the writing craft. “I think writing is a mixture of craft, inspiration, and being incredibly, courageously explorative with yourself—and being brutally honest, too…It’s a very vulnerable position to be in.”

The late actor also gave us a perceptive, emotional insight into his thoughts when leaving a bookstore. “It’s frustrating for me. I end up walking out with like six books under my arm that I know I’m not going to be able to read anytime soon,” he commented. “It’s kind of that fantasy of what life will be like when I get older. All I’ll have time for is reading all the books that I’ve collected through my life.”

Although this may all sound melancholic given Hoffman’s departure from the earthly realm in 2014, he was kind enough to leave us with a list of his favourite books.

See the full list, below.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s favourite books:

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  • The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
  • Capote: A Biography by Gerald Clarke
  • The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
  • The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
  • Independence Day by Richard Ford
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
  • You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Remembrances of Things Past by Marcel Proust
  • The Human Stain by Philip Roth
  • Pastoralia by George Saunders
  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • Easter Parade by Richard Yates
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

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