Michael Shannon: TOP TEN BOOKS


Michael Shannon by Lauren Weissler

A small role in Groundhog Day, aside, Michael Shannon carved his career on the stage, founding A Red Orchard Theater in Chicago where star turns in plays like Tracey Lett’s Killer Joe got him noticed by such iconoclastic directors as Werner Herzog who has described him as “the best of his generation.” Although his first love will always be the theater (“It’s like tripping, and the trippier it is, the better” he told Time Out), Shannon’s` screen credits are something to behold, a cast of villains and the occasional mensch that have illuminated such shows as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the BBC’s The Little Drummer Girl, as well as critically-lauded movies like Revolutionary Road, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, and the Oscar-conquering The Shape of Water. None of it has gone to his head—when The Shape of Water cast tripped on to the stage to receive the Academy Award for Best Picture, he was watching from a dive bar in Chicago. Now he’s heading back to the stage, this time for the Broadway revival of Terrence McNally’s stirring two-hander Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring opposite Audra McDonald.

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


Nine Stories

J.D. Salinger
Kind of holy to me. Particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Teddy. Every time I go to the ocean, I think of these two stories.
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The Minds of Billy Milligan

Daniel Keyes
The chronicle of a man who had about 30 personalities. He had a personality that spoke fluent Russian!! And he had never been to Russia for chrissake! I'm a sucker for mental illness. I was gonna put the DSM on here but I ran outta room.
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Eleven Kinds of Loneliness

Richard Yates
Of course, Revolutionary Road made quite an impact on me. But these stories are exquisite. Yates' understanding of the human psyche in the day and age in which he lived, the confines and conflicts of expected norms, and the turmoil which they generated, is excruciating yet mesmerizing.
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Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Paul Reps
I took this one on a camping trip with a couple buddies of mine. We just sat around reading, hardly said a word to each other. I did not attain enlightenment, but I had some good laughs and realized what a dumbass I am.
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Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper

Art Pepper
Jazz is what has kept me from completely losing my marbles. A friend recommended I check this out, and that's how I knew he was my friend. A bullseye. Art's story told through his own words and the words of those who loved him or at least were fascinated by his incredible gift and witnessed his every attempt to blow it to smithereens. Gives you the most palpable sense of the agony and the ecstasy, the unreasonableness and eventual reasonableness of his life.
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Welcome to the Monkey House

Kurt Vonnegut
I was obsessed with this book when I was a teenager. His imagination is limitless. His humor is monumental. His compassion is staggering.
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The Lorax

Dr Seuss
This book kind of sums up the whole deal really. Particularly nowadays. Someone should read it aloud over and over again while blaring it through huge mega-speakers throughout the Washington DC area. Reading this book to my daughters is about the happiest I get in life.
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Making Movies

Sidney Lumet
One of the proudest moments of my career was working with Mr. Lumet on his last picture. When I was collecting auction items for a benefit at my theatre in Chicago, I went to his office and he signed a copy for me to donate, then gave me my own. Getting to read about his life and career in such astonishing detail is almost as much a blessing as working with the man himself.
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Ham on Rye

Charles Bukowski
This one just floored me. So vivid, so alive. So blunt. I thought I had a raw deal as a kid and then I read this and realized it could have been a lot worse.
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Notes and Counter Notes

Eugene Ionesco
Ionesco is my favorite playwright full stop. His work can be daunting to say the least, so reading this book can be quite helpful when trying to enter his impossible realms.

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