Expert’s view

Stephen Mangan: my five best books

The actor, screenwriter and author shares the books which have meant the most to him

Stephen Mangan's debut, Escape the Rooms (Scholastic £6.99), for children aged 9+ and with drawings by his sister, the illustrator and designer Anita Mangan, is out now.

1

Lewis Carroll (1865)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Aged ten, I was cast as the Mock Turtle in our school play and, like the old pro I already was, I did my research and read the book. It blew my mind. The odd, funny, upsidedown world of Alice was so eccentric, strange and slightly frightening that I was hooked. Plus, I had a crush on the Queen of Hearts (the girl in our play, not the one in the book). A hormonal and literary explosion that left me altered forever

2

Charles Dickens (1861)

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

A wonderful, gripping story of crime and guilt, crushed ambition and ruined fortunes, snobbery and anxiety, with a spectacular cast of characters and a beautiful ending. Near perfection.

3

Kyril Bonfiglioli (1972)

Don’t Point That Thing At Me

Don’t Point That Thing At Me

A riot of gags, one-liners and great characters. There’s half a plot in there too, I think. A book that’s fantastic company because, like the best people, it’s exciting, clever, witty, disreputable and occasionally unpleasant.

4

Sue Townsend (1982)

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾

This made me realise that books could speak directly to me and to my world (obsessing over my forlorn love life, writing bad poetry, harbouring over-earnest convictions). As an adult, you realise Sue brilliantly reflects what’s happening in wider politics and society through the prism of this ordinary household in middle England. As a kid, you laugh at Adrian’s obsession with the length of his “thing”.

5

Primo Levi (1947)

If This Is A Man

If This Is A Man

An astonishing account of the author’s time in Auschwitz, written, he said, “with love and rage”. He finds humanity in arguably the bleakest episode in human history. Almost unbearable.

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