Required Reading is a series in which we invite people we love to recommend five of the books that have defined their journey as a reader. Consider it your new favorite book club.
Gwendoline Christie has always been a voracious reader. The actor—who’s played formidable fighters in everything from the Star Wars franchise to Game of Thrones, and can now be seen in the Tim Burton-produced Wednesday*—*says she remembers “growing up just being astounded by the idea that a book can offer such transportation to another realm, put you inside a different body, and allow you to look at the world through different eyes.”
Now, her rigorous filming schedule doesn’t allow as much time for reading as she’d like, though she still manages to devour paperbacks on weekends and during long-haul flights. She also can’t resist a well-stocked bookshop. “I just love the smell,” she smiles. (At the end of our interview, she also, rather charmingly, asks if she can recommend her favorite independent bookstores because they “need supporting”: Sam Read Bookseller in England’s Lake District; Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness, Scotland; Much Ado Books in Sussex; John Sandoe in London; City Lights in San Francisco; and The Strand and McNally Jackson in New York City.)
Though she enjoys reading widely, Christie admits that, these days, much of her reading tends to be somehow related to the projects she’s working on, whether directly or indirectly. While filming Wednesday, for instance, in which she plays Nevermore’s shapeshifting principal Larissa Weems, she found herself delving into nature writing: “Roger Deakin, Robert Macfarlane, Alan Garner, Ronald Blythe’s novel about a village in Suffolk, and The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald, which is about a walk but is also an exploration of time and the world.”
And as for Severance Season 2, in which she’s been cast in a yet-to-be-disclosed role? “I’m so unbelievably excited, and I have a long and highly unusual reading list for it, but due to the secrecy around the series, I can’t actually reveal what’s on it,” she laughs. “It’s an extraordinary show and really unlike everything else that exists on television.”
Below, Christie shares the five books that have most profoundly shaped her life.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
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In 2020, I did a job where I was working in Kyiv, and one night, we went to visit the Bulgakov house. It was closed because it was at night, but we kissed our hands and laid them on the door to thank him for his work. I think now about the situation in Ukraine and about Kyiv, and I feel so lucky to have been there and to have visited that house.