Viggo Mortensen: TOP TEN BOOKS

Viggo Mortensen’s Favorite Books

Viggo Mortensen photographed by Josh Jensen, via Wikimedia Commons

The Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen made his debut in 1985 in “Witness,” working alongside Harrison Ford. Mortensen went on to star in “A History of Violence,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “On the Road,” and several others, earning Academy Award nominations for “Captain Fantastic” and “Eastern Promises.” After a childhood growing up in New York City, Venezuela, Denmark and Argentina, (his varied upbringing revealing itself in his choices below,) he ventured to Hollywood. “The following are ten books I’d take with me if I were literally stranded indefinitely on a desert island at this time,” says Mortensen. Note the implicit flux.

“We need to broaden our perspectives and our points of view to see what other people think—to consider the arguments of people we instinctively don’t agree with,” Mortensen told The Daily Beast last year. It’s a process that can be done, happily, with reading.

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


The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin
There is nothing more important than the natural world we live in, and we are bound to affect it positively or negatively by virtue of our relatively brief individual and collective presence. Darwin’s visionary study of the evolution of living beings on our planet is a crucial guide to our understanding of why we are here and what we might to do to live in harmony with our environment.
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The Republic

The notions we have in the United States and in other countries that function to a better or lesser degree as nation states with variations of democratic, representative government as their political systems would not exist without Plato’s work.
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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu
For me this is as every bit as important a guide in terms of personal moral ethics as Plato’s work is. Another side of the same coin. The timeless lessons that can be had from Plato and Lao Tzu reinforce each other in many ways.
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The History of Western Philosophy

Bertrand Russell
With all of its inevitable sins of omission and generalization, this great compilation of Western philosophical ideas and currents from pre-Socratic times until the middle of the 20th century is an invaluable and accessible guide to our shared social history.
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Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies

William Shakespeare
There are many poets that I might have included in this list of books, but, to my mind, Shakespeare is the greatest of all in terms of the breadth of his knowledge, his lyricism, humor and the universal applicability of his work.
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The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri
Right alongside Shakespeare, Dante’s work explores and highlights enduring universal truths related to the human condition as well as any writer I know of.
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The Gaucho Martín Fierro

José Hernández
I debated between Cervantes’ “Don Quijote” and “Martín Fierro,” because they both are great classic epic stories in the Spanish language, but ended up choosing José Hernández’s great poetic work because of my early connection with it as a child growing up in Argentina.
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Faust: A Tragedy

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
A great work of literature and an extraordinary cautionary tale, this story has much to teach us about psychology, politics and history. More than ever, it can allow us to look at ourselves and our rulers with open eyes.
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Danmarks Krønike

Saxo Grammaticus
This is the best book for understanding the early history of society, literature and politics of Northern Europe. Without Saxo’s research and extensive work in compiling ancient texts and oral stories, our knowledge of early Nordic, Germanic, Celtic and English cultures and nation-building would be far poorer than it is.
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A People’s History of the United States

Howard Zinn
If every U.S. citizen could have the benefit of knowing Zinn’s collection of historical texts from a wide range of relatively known and unknown people throughout our country’s history, there would be a lot better quality in our current political class and in the style and substance of our governance.
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