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From Virginia Woolf to Derek Jarman: Enjoy a selection of Tilda Swinton's 32 favourite books


One of the most unique and creative actors you’re ever likely to come across, Tilda Swinton is a committed artist in all her endeavours. She adds an extra texture of intelligence to everything she does and that transcends into her dream reading list. 

The actor was often remarked on for her otherworldly nature, always managing to hold the gaze of every room that she enters, not through sheer beauty or volume but through her magnetic charisma.  

Often referred to as David Bowie’s gendered counterpoint, the androgynous star regularly called the singer her ‘North Star’, a guiding point on the horizon, she even described him as “the cousin [she] never had.” She has clearly been a fan for a while as Swinton has managed to adapt his ability to adopt personas like a chameleon.  

In her wide range of roles, the actor has always managed to bring truth and authenticity to the most fantastical of roles—three of which feature in her reading list. First up is Alex Garland’s iconic pop-lit masterpiece The Beach which Swinton took on the role of the somewhat psychotic ‘Sal’.  

It’s a role that was forever burned in our brains as impressionable viewers, while for younger readers Swinton’s role as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, which is also in her selection. The trilogy of C.S. Lewis clearly leaving an indelible mark on Swinton’s life and career.  

The third and final choice of books in which Swinton has played a role for an adapted screenplay is Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. While the previous selections may have been included as doffs of her figurative cap to landmark moments in her life, Orlando clearly made a huge impression on her growing up.  

About Orlando, she said: “In my adolescent fantasy I read this book and believed it was a hallucinogenic, interactive biography of my own life and future. For me, this trifle of phantasmagoria has always been a practical manual. A tourist guide to human experience, the best of wise companions. At least, it was my first: a message in a bottle from an imaginary friend.” 

The remainder of the list is as far-reaching, eclectic, eccentric, and exciting as you would expect to come from someone like Tilda Swinton. From poetry to essays, to the most advanced prosaic work of recent times, Swinton is bringing you her dream reading list through numerous different interviews conducted throughout her career.

Enjoy the list, below. 

Tilda Swinton’s Favourite Books:

  1. Bento’s Sketchbook by John Berger
  2. Gavin Maxwell: A Life by Douglas Botting
  3. Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems by Mahmoud Darwish
  4. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
  5. A Time Of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. Une Vie Exemplaire by Floc’h
  8. The Beach by Alex Garland
  9. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  10. The Operators by Michael Hastings
  11. Modern Nature by Derek Jarman
  12. Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert A. Johnson
  13. Thumbsucker by Walter Kirn
  14. My Old Man by Tedd Kessler
  15. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 
  16. The Many Days: Selected Poems Of Norman MacCaig By Norman MacCaig
  17. Collected Poems Of Sorley MacLean by Sorley MacLean
  18. Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell
  19. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  20. Love In A Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  21. The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne
  22. The Statement by Brian Moore
  23. The Collected Poems Of Frank O’Hara by Frank O’Hara
  24. The Essential Rumi by Rumi
  25. Light Years by James Salter 
  26. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver 
  27. The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
  28. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  29. Young Adam by Alexander Trocchi
  30. The Child, The Family, And The Outside World by D.W. Winnicott
  31. The Essential P.G. Wodehouse by P.G. Wodehouse
  32. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Source: The New York Times / Refinery 29 / Radical Reads