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Sacred texts: Hay stars choose favourite books of all time

10 June 2016

The Hay Festival attracts some of the top names in literature, film, comedy and television to its 10 days of ideas, insight and inspiration. We put some of them on the spot to find out the title of their favourite EVER book. Watch the films to find out what makes these reads special...

Ben Miller

The Fight by Norman Mailer

The Fight by Norman Mailer, 1975
My favourite book is The Fight by Norman Mailer. For me it’s the kind of voice that you rarely hear. It’s a brilliant fiction writer, writing about a real event, which in this case is something I love – boxing. The famous Rumble in the Jungle...

Caitlin Moran

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Guide's late author Douglas Adams holding a copy on the set of the BBC TV show in 1980
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy... was written by a sexy, liberal man talking about science, physics, and the future and philosophy, but also being incredibly funny with amazing characters and I was like that looks like a good job to have. I’d like that job. I was 12 at the time.

Charlotte Church

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights, cover illustration by John Lawrence for the Lantern Slides Edition, Scholastic Children’s Books
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, or the trilogy. They’re my favourite books because of the amount of imagination, blending fantasy, sci-fi and real human themes and the idea of killing God in a kids’ book is pretty bold!

Charlotte Church at Hay

Kelvin Jones

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
My favourite book is Noughts and crosses, which if you haven’t read it is one of the most challenging reads that you will have, so it keeps you engaged all the way through.

Singer-songwriter Kelvin Jones performed on Letters Live during this year's Hay Festival.

> BBC Music profile for Kelvin Jones

Louise Brealey

Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson

Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson
My favourite book is Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson. It’s a children’s book and it’s absolutely amazing. I love the Moomins full-stop because they tell us stuff about… ourselves.

Sherlock actor Louise Brealey performed on Letters Live during this year's Hay Festival.

> Louise Brealey discusses her playwriting debut, Pope Joan, on Radio 4's Woman's Hour (2013)

Mark Strong

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Han Kang's The Vegetarian, winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2016
That is a very difficult question, almost impossible to answer at the moment. I just read a book called The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which won the Booker Prize this year. It was recommended to me and it’s still in my head, so right now I think that’s the greatest book I’ve ever read.

Mark Strong appeared at Hay Festival 2016, performing at Letters Live.

> Mark Strong interviewed by Libby Purves in Radio 4's Midweek

Maxine Peake

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
My favourite book of all time is Wuthering Heights. Not particularly original but it was the first book I read that really turned me on to literature, and I just loved the romance and the mysticism and the spookiness of it. And I just think how evocative it was of the Yorkshire landscape.

Sam Mendes

Dubliners by James Joyce

Dubliners by James Joyce
My favourite book of all time would probably be Dubliners by James Joyce. It was the first time that I really loved a piece of literature. I was about 13 or 14 and I studied it at school, and it has stayed with me ever since.

Susan Calman

Dear Fatty by Dawn French

Dawn French's Dear Fatty
My favourite book, probably, that I’ve read recently is Dear Fatty by Dawn French, which was a series of letters to her friends and family and it was brilliant!

Susan Calman at Hay

Toby Jones

Life, A User’s Manual by Georges Perec

David Bellos's English translation of Life, A User's Manual by Georges Perec
If I had to pick a favourite book of all time I’d probably pick Life, A User’s Manual by Georges Perec, which I’ve only read in translation. It tells the story of an apartment block and its history, but it’s constructed in the form of multiple games that you can or can’t work out. And it’s the most extraordinary system, rather than a book.

Toby Jones performed at Letters Live during this year's Hay Festival. He will appear on-screen later this year in a new BBC One adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent.

> Mark Kermode picks his Top Five Toby Jones Films

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