Ronan Farrow reveals the books that have defined his life
The books of Ronan Farrow's life
It's been quite a year for Ronan Farrow. The writer and journalist was named a Pulitzer Prize recipient this past week for his dogged, industry-shaking New Yorker reporting on Harvey Weinstein and sexual abuse cover-ups in Hollywood. And now he's published a new book, War on Peace, which traces the decline of American influence. (Buy it here.) To celebrate the publication, EW caught up with Farrow and asked him about the books that have defined his life.
The book I loved as a child
"I loved Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series as a kid, and then again as a (nerdy) adult, for its smart slice of alternate history and its cynical views on authority and adulthood. Also there's a polar bear fight scene."
What I read in secret as a teenager
"I started college at 11 (deal with it), so by my teens I was pretty independent. And I was surrounded by books as a kid."
The book that changed my life
"I don't know that there's a single book. There's a passage in C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet that has stuck with me. An academic is kidnapped and taken to Mars. The aliens there are sentient otters and find us confusing. They don't have the concept of regret, because they think it's silly to draw conclusions about the meaning of a moment before you see how it echoes over a lifetime. One says, 'When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then — that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.' The important thing is when a person ‘remembers all this, and boils it inside him and makes it into poems and wisdom.’”
The last book that made me laugh
"Randall Jarrell's Pictures From an Institution, which Mike Nichols, shortly before his death, told me was the funniest book ever written. Also I re-read Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 a few months ago, which is funny as hell."
A book I wish I'd written
"Maybe Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I wish I had his grasp of obscure history or weird sex or surprising sentence structure, but who does?"
The classic I'm most proud to say I've read
"Honestly, we should all be proud any time we finish a book these days."
An author who inspires me to write
"I want to grow up to be Cynthia Ozick [pictured], who can do essays and criticism and also the Great American Novel (TM). I love The Puttermesser Papers (speaking of books that made me laugh)."
Authors I'm embarrassed to say I've never read
"Some huge gaps: Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens [pictured], E.L. James."
The book I've read over and over
"This is a boring answer but I reread Handmaid's Tale around the release of the series and was as enthralled as ever. And then I went down an Atwood rabbit hole and devoured all the MaddAddam books."
The piece I wrote that makes me cringe
"Every tweet is a mistake."
What I'm reading now
"Researching War on Peace required wading through probably a hundred nonfiction books, so I'm catching up on a lot of abandoned fiction. I'm re-reading Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and a few other mystery standards as research for a project. I've gone back to Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, and the final volume of Murakami's 1Q84, and Justin Cronin's The Passage, all of which I bailed on as my own book hit crunch mode."