Asif Kapadia: TOP TEN BOOKS


Photo courtesy of Jimmy Walker

The London-born Asif Kapadia is the kind of singular documentarian whose adept use of found footage has brought into focus the worlds of both the Brazilian Formula 1 racing driver, Ayrton Senna, and the singer Amy Winehouse in his award-winning documentaries Senna, which won a 2010 BAFTA, and Amy, which won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Next up he turns his lens on a living subject — the controversial maverick Argentinian soccer player, Diego Maradona.

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


The Buddha of Suburbia

Hanif Kureishi
This felt so personal when I first read it, laugh out loud funny. One of the finest books, or actually any art form, to deal with the complexities of growing up being British and Asian. It’s about family, London, politics, art, relationships and the fascination with Eastern spirituality. I always shared the lead character's dream of escaping to NYC. 
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St. Agnes' Stand

Thomas Eidson
I love Westerns and always wanted to make this into a movie. I still do! It's the one that got away. A tight, taut, tense standoff, and almost impossible to put down once you start reading, dealing with differing beliefs in nature, faith, spirituality.
Currently unavailable

Midnight's Children

Salman Rushdie
Huge, magical, realist epic about Indian Independence through the eyes of a child born on the stroke of midnight. Funny, dense, flowery, the story goes on huge tangents, but I love this crazy novel, which somehow manages to depict and sum up the essence of the incredible vast country of India. A real education for me as someone who grew up in London, who had never been to India while growing up. This book helped me better understand what my parents had been through, where they came from before they chose to travel across the world to settle in the the U.K., where I was born.
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Rock Springs

Richard Ford
Simple, dark, powerful short stories about families, break-ups and their kids caught in between. Love the restraint. It’s all brewing under the surface, less is more. 
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Italo Calvino
Dryly humorous, collection of tales about a poor Italian family and simple things in life. The book was recommended to me by an inspirational tutor at university and this collection, more than any, motivated me to try to write short screenplays.
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Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of people and trying to understand what motivates ordinary people to do the things they do, as well as the guilt and the redemption of these people afterwards. I cannot think of another book which took me into a character's brain before, during, and after, a crime quite like this one.
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Francois Truffaut
The master filmmaker creates the finest book about filmmaking, all told in his own words. 
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In Ghostly Japan

Lafcadio Hearn
A collection of magical, supernatural Japanese folk tales, first recommended to me by a well-traveled and well-read friend, this collection has a special significance as a four line footnote from this book about a young boy training to be a samurai inspired the screenplay of my first feature film, “The Warrior.”
Currently unavailable

The Autobiography of Malcom X

as told to Alex Haley
An inspirational, life changing book about an amazing personal journey. I first read it just as I was starting college, and I’d grown up in a pretty poor, rough part of London. At the time I was heavily into music by Public Enemy and loved Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. So listening to Chuck D and Spike Lee talking about Malcom X motivated me to search out the book as I wanted to learn about the man for myself.
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Patrick Suskind
An incredible, sensual, magical, dark, twisted story. There was a point when everyone was reading this book in London and I delayed. For some reason I didn’t like the cover (embarrassing, but true), but finally the word of mouth was just too strong and I dove in, took one sniff and was blown away. It’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read. 
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