Actor and children’s book author Neil Patrick Harris has been a storyteller for most of his life, starring on the big and small screens in memorable roles like serial womanizer Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother), evil mastermind Count Olaf (A Series of Unfortunate Events), and original kid doctor Doogie Howser (Doogie Howser, M.D.). To celebrate the release of The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, the latest installment of his fanciful children’s book series, Harris shared some of the stories that have made lasting impressions on him.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your favorite book as a child?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I really developed my sense of humor from Roald Dahl, so James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Great Glass Elevator. Good times.
What are your favorite books to read to your children?
They’ve become voracious readers, and our favorite new books for them are probably the World’s Worst Children books, by David Williams. They’re much more popular in the U.K. than they are in the U.S., apparently, and that’s a shame. There’s three volumes, and they’re very dark, almost Grimms-fairy-tale versions of terrible kids… but they’re wonderful and lovely.
Who’s your literary hero?
Agatha Christie. I’m very into the whodunit right now. She was my mother’s favorite author.
What’s one book you wish you’d written?
I just finished The Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz, and it’s a murder mystery within the murder mystery. Before it gets solved, you flash back to present day and there’s its own murder mystery that has to be solved, like how the two connect, and it is so delicious in its structure. I can’t wait to shake that man’s hand learn how he thinks.
What’s a classic you’ve never read?
I haven’t read Moby-Dick, and I am a big fan of both of those words individually, but I can’t find the time to put them together.
What’s the book that cemented you as a writer?
I loved A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. It’s just hilarious and free-form and stream-of-consciousness and fearless.
What’s the last book that made you laugh, and the last book that made you cry?
The last book that made me laugh was Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin. We read a lot of picture books with our kids. The last book that made me cry is Fear, by Bob Woodward. I don’t think there’s any explanation necessary, kind of self-explanatory why.
What are you reading now?
I have two books on my nightstand. One is called My Morning Routine [by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander]. They interviewed a ton of interesting entrepreneurs and people to find out how they start their day. I’m also reading a book by Jim Steinmeyer called The Last Greatest Magician in the World. He’s a terrific author.
What’s a book you’ve read over and over again?
I love a book called The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. It’s sort of an ensemble, Twin Peaks, whodunit for sort of middle grade, but I find it so clever and I’ve read it multiple times throughout my life. I’m hoping somebody will turn it into a very cool movie or Netflix show.
What’s a book people might be surprised to know you love?
Old-school Dr. Seuss books. He’s kind of the original rapper. Dr. Seuss makes me feel like I’m Lin-Manuel Miranda when I’m reading to my children.
What was your favorite book series growing up?
I love the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I loved the unique structure of it. And there was another book series called The Three Investigators.
What’s your favorite book adaptation?
I’m just starting season 3 of Game of Thrones. I’m a little bit behind, but I find that adaptation more and more enthralling every hour I commit to it.
What’s book you’re most excited to read?
Life Is a Party, by David Burtka.