Expert’s view

David Hare: my six best books

The award-winning playwright and screenwriter shares his top reads

David Hare’s latest volume, We Travelled: Essays and Poems (Faber £14.99; The Week Bookshop £11.99), a collection of his prose and poetry, is published this week.

Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum (2020)

If you’ve read the British press during the pandemic, you will know that once creditable and witty rightwing journalists are now shills for a liar. Applebaum’s book asks why conservatives in the West have so willingly embraced deceit, corruption and authoritarianism. She has answers, too. Penguin £9.99; The Week Bookshop £7.99

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt (1963)

The definitive account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Isaiah Berlin was once asked to define overrated. He bitched, “Hannah Arendt”. Asked the same, I’d say “Isaiah Berlin”. Penguin £10.99; The Week Bookshop £8.99

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (2013)

The history of Hollywood told through the life of one superb working actress. Its 1,056 pages leave our heroine in 1940, aged 33. It’s one of the greatest books about cinema, but where is Volume Two? With Simon Callow’s long-awaited fourth volume on Orson Welles, it’s the great white whale of film publishing. Simon & Schuster £14.99

Faith Healer by Brian Friel (1979)

Friel’s landmark play. A healer has a gift, and he has no idea where it comes from – or why it departs. Sensational and unsurpassed. Faber £9.99; The Week Bookshop £7.99

The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake (2006)

About the rivalry and shared loves of a genius, Yves Saint Laurent, and a jealous showman, Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld is Salieri to Saint Laurent’s Mozart. I’ve read it three times, and the dark, destructive world of Paris fashion goes on deepening. Bloomsbury £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99

The Hand (La Main) by Georges Simenon (1968)

This is the novel adapted into a stage play, The Red Barn, memorably directed by Robert Icke, and starring Mark Strong. But I might have chosen any of Simenon’s romans durs. Bleak, swift, brutal and unwavering. Penguin £8.99; The Week Bookshop £6.99

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