My 10 Favorite Books: Viggo Mortensen


For his bookshop and website One Grand Books, the editor Aaron Hicklin asked people to name the 10 books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. The next in the series is the actor Viggo Mortensen.

“The Origin of the Species,” Charles Darwin

There is nothing more important than the natural world we live in, and we are bound to affect it positively or negatively by virtue of our relatively brief individual and collective presence. Darwin’s visionary study of the evolution of living beings on our planet is a crucial guide to our understanding of why we are here and what we might to do to live in harmony with our environment.

“The Republic,” Plato

The notions we have in the United States and in other countries that function to a better or lesser degree as nation states with variations of democratic, representative government as their political systems, would not exist without Plato’s work.

“Tao Te Ching,” Lao Tzu

For me, this is as every bit as important a guide in terms of personal moral ethics as Plato’s work is. Another side of the same coin. The timeless lessons that can be had from Plato and Lao Tzu reinforce each other in many ways.

“The History of Western Philosophy,” Bertrand Russell

With all of its inevitable sins of omission and generalization, this great compilation of Western philosophical ideas and currents from pre-Socratic times until the middle of the 20th century is an invaluable and accessible guide to our shared social history.

“Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies,” William Shakespeare

There are many poets that I might have included in this list of books, but, to my mind, Shakespeare is the greatest of all in terms of the breadth of his knowledge, his lyricism, humor and the universal applicability of his work.


Emily Berl for The New York Times

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