Helga Esteb /

Following his early success playing foppish heartthrobs in movies like The Jane Austen Book Club and Ella Enchanted, British-born Dancy has found a comfortable home in gritty American dramas, notably on NBC’s Hannibal, as the FBI profiler Will Graham, and currently in Hulu’s The Path, in which he plays the menacing leader of a New England cult. The actor, who read English at Oxford, has also starred in several literary adaptations, including the title characters in Daniel Deronda and David Copperfield. His reading list is punctuated with both British and American classics from Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith to P.G.Wodehouse and D.H.Lawrence, but also makes room for a contemporary master in Karl Ove Knausgard’s My Life.

Below are Hugh Dancy’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


The Pickwick Papers

Charles Dickens
When I need to read something that I know will fill my imagination, lift my spirits and also be effortless, I go to Dickens, and this is the most preposterously, comically overflowing of them all.
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Women in Love

Nobody has ever written like D.H.Lawrence (except bad imitators, and nothing’s more embarrassing than knock-off Lawrence. Sometimes he’s pretty embarrassing too). This novel transports you.
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Sabbath’s Theater

Philip Roth
The most anarchic, provocative, lewd and brilliant Roth novel. It feels like it’s on fire.
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Lucky Jim

Kingsley Amis
I was recommended this when I was a teenager trying to figure out how to start reading ‘serious’ books. Great recommendation, because on the surface it’s nothing of the sort, but it is brilliant.
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My Struggle

Karl Ove Knausgård
In part because reading the first two gave me the unsettling sensation of knowing what it’s like to be someone else better than I know what it’s like to be me, and in part because including it might force me to read the remaining four.
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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Laurence Sterne
You could spend years on the first chapter alone, in fact people have. But in a good way. There’s so much going on and so much reinvention it’s bewildering.
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The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler is one of life’s great pleasures, ideally in a bath with a drink in hand.
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The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula K. Le Guin
Forced to pick a single sci-fi novel I’ll go with this because, in ways even beyond most sci-fi, it is so far ahead of its time. You’re left believing entirely in the worlds she’s imagined, including a better version of this one.
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The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology

I know that on and off I’ll be reading this until I die.
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The Tremor of Forgery

Patricia Highsmith
I could pick almost any of her novels—Deep Water would be another. This one is typically masterful in the way it measures out information and suggestion, laced with a growing sense of dread. And a great title.
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