Cillian Murphy has captivated viewers for 20 years. Born in Douglas in 1974, the actor has risen to fame and is quite unlike his peers, many of whom trained at RADA, Guildhall and the like. In contrast, Murphy only entered acting after dropping out of Cork University in his freshman year and spending some time weighing the possibility of a life in music.
After leaving college and playing in various bands, Murphy managed to land the lead in the Corcadorca Theater Company’s production Disco Pigs. After circling the boards for a few years, he found his first film work when he Disco Pigs was filmed in 2001. However, his breakthrough came with Danny Boyle’s 2002 low-budget horror 28 days laterwhich earned him Best Newcomer at the Empire Awards and Breakthrough Male Performance at the MTV Movie Awards.
The success of the role brought Murphy to Hollywood attention, and it wasn’t long before he landed roles in big-budget studio productions such as cold mountain, The girl with the pearl earring and Batman begins. At the same time, he continued to pursue smaller art house and indie projects such as Breakfast on Pluto and The wind that shakes the barley.
Here, Cillian Murphy recommends some of his favorite books, all of which would make a worthy addition to your fall reading list.
Five book recommendations by Cillian Murphy:
the old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway (1952)
A book about aging, art and – as so often with Hemingway – masculinity, the old Man and the Sea was the author’s last work and was instrumental in his attainment of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The book tells the story of an elderly Cuban fisherman who, after spending many months trying to catch something of little value from his tiny fishing vessel, tries to land a giant marlin off the coast of Cuba.
“It’s always the beautiful simplicity of this story that pulls me in,” Murphy told New York bookstore One Grand. Not a word is wasted. For such a short novel, it approaches storytelling perfection for me. Hemingway apparently said of the novel that it was “the best thing I’ve ever written in my entire life.”
The ginger man – JP Donleavy (1955)
Banned in both Ireland and the United States on release in 1955, The ginger man by Irish-American writer JP Donleavy is a manic, pulsing maelstrom of a novel. Once you get used to Donleavy’s shifting habits, his verbal phrases and third-person modulations, this classic post-war novel proves to be as humorous as it is insightful.
“One of those books that you read as a young man and get high on, and yet it’s a book to enjoy throughout life,” Murphy said of the controversial novel. “It was written with great mischief and humor, but full of empathy for the outsider struggling to make sense of this world. Donleavy is a writer we will miss dearly.”
Mourning is the thing with feathers – Max Porter (2015)
Like Donleavy, Max Porter knows how to play with form in a dazzling way. his debut novel, Mourning is a thing with feathers is the story of a father who takes care of his two sons after the death of his wife. Interestingly, it is told from three different perspectives: that of the father himself, his children, and a crow visiting the grieving family.
Murphy mentioned the book during his conversation with One Grand, calling it, “One of the most moving books I’ve read in years. It explores a father’s suspended state of unexpected loss and grief with a delightfully wry sense of humor. Captivating, poetic and surprising.”
Appointment in Samarra – John O’Hara (1934)
Another book now banned for its sexual content, this 1934 novel tells the story of a wealthy car dealer who decides to destroy himself through a series of impulsive acts for a reason that is never fully stated. Within three days he destroyed his reputation, his business and his relationship with his wife. Above all, the desire for total self-annihilation circles like a hungry bird.
“This is a searing novel set in 1930’s America, and the story unfolds in just over 36 hours,” Murphy said. “It’s a book about sex, alcohol, class and dreamers. The ending was devastating and pulled me completely into the atmosphere and pressure of what it must have been like to live in America at that time. All the details are there – the cocktails, the cars and, most overwhelmingly in this book, the sadness.”
Jeff in Venice, death in Varanasi – Geoff Dyer (2009)
On the surface, this book about a middle-aged journalist who travels first to Venice to cover the annual Biennale and then to India seems like anything you’d want to avoid. But don’t be fooled. As self-deprecating as tender, Jeff in Venice, death in Varanasi slowly morphs into an exploration of those lurking existential questions we’ll all have to face one day.
“Geoff Dyer is a tremendously talented writer,” remarked Cillian. “His books can sometimes defy classification, and this one is certainly a case in point. It is a book made up of excitingly different halves, about the Middle Ages, art and existence. And much more. I devoured it.”