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Richard Ayoade's 20 favourite books of all time

Richard Ayoade has worked in various domains over the course of his career, ranging from iconic acting roles in projects like the IT Crowd to fantastic directorial efforts such as Submarine. Although Ayoade has harboured dreams of directing more features in the future, those plans haven’t come to fruition since his last feature in 2013 – The Double.

Known for directing skilful music videos for prominent bands such as the Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian, Ayoade has often claimed that he finds acting to be a very difficult job and that he prefers to be behind the camera. Ayoade has certainly proven his skills as a filmmaker with Submarine which is now considered to be one of the most beautiful coming-of-age films in recent memory.

Although Ayoade hasn’t landed more directorial gigs for features, he has continued to feature in prominent productions. Last year was a good one for Ayoade as he acted in two of the most acclaimed films of 2021, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and The Souvenir Part II, where he reprised his role from the first film by Joanna Hogg.

As an artist, Ayoade draws inspiration from various sources including filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa as well as iconic literary masters. While naming some of his favourite books of all time, Ayoade listed multiple works by the Russian visionary Fyodor Dostoevsky whose artistic investigations have a deep impact on Ayoade.

“I’m not very articulate about good literature but you know when you’re in good hands,” Ayoade said in an interview while describing the beauty of the poetic explorations of T.S. Eliot. “Poetry is very hard to explain because you are extemporising in generally rubbish language about something that isn’t missing any non-essential words.”

He also cited American actor and writer Wallace Shawn as one of his personal favourites: “Wally Shawn is one of my favourite writers. His last play An Evening at the Talk House is a masterpiece and his book of essays is great too.” In addition, Ayoade has also named some essential books on filmmaking that have taught him a lot.

Check out the full list below.

Richard Ayoade’s favourite books:

  • The poetry of T.S. Eliot (Especially The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)
  • Essays by Wallace Shawn
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Notes on “Camp” by Susan Sontag
  • The Brain-Dead Megaphone by George Saunders
  • Ukridge by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Cultural Amnesia by Clive James (especially The Problem with Sartre)
  • Michael Haneke’s Cinema: The Ethic of the Image by Catherine Wheatley
  • On Film-making: An introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander MacKendrick
  • Orson Welles: Interviews by Mark W. Estrin
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Building Stories by Chris Ware
  • An Evening at the Talk House by Wallace Shawn
  • Somewhere Becoming Rain: Collected writings about Philip Larkin by Clive James
  • O Positive by Joe Dunthorne

Among these brilliant books, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye had a huge impact on Ayoade’s artistic sensibilities because the book showed him that there was no real distinction between humour and sadness which is why it is considered to be a classic now.

While talking about the book, Ayoade commented on the beauty of the book’s fundamental paradoxes: “Catcher in the Rye is the funniest book and the saddest book. You can juxtapose things, there are a thousand juxtapositions an A-level student could come up with.”

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