Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Proof Is In the Picture: Photos of Famous People Reading

 James Dean reading James Whitcomb Riley, his favourite poet

I was struck recently by an old photograph of James Dean reading a book of poetry (above). I didn't know he was a reader, never mind a reader of poetry. And boy, does he make it look cool!

Which got me to thinking about all those other famous shots of famous people reading. And there are many. I'm sure some of you can recall the numerous different shots of Marilyn Monroe reading? She wanted to emphasize that she wasn't just a pretty face you see.  She was also a reader (of highbrow literature I might add - who else can claim they've read James Joyce's Ulysses?)

So, intrigued,  I had a browse online to see what I could find. Below, I've pasted a gallery of photos I've found and liked. Most of them are authentic snap-shots from ordinary life, capturing a star mid-read (I love the one of Marlon Brando, he looks so completely absorbed by his book and the real spontaneous caught-on-camera moments like Jake Gyllenhaal on the subway or Jennifer Lawrence on set, immersed in a book. ) Others, self-styled photo ops, or from films.  But all self-confessed enthusiastic readers.

Who are the modern celebs most noted for reading? Nathan Fillion, who plays the novelist Richard Castle in Castle is a huge campaigner for reading, especially getting children to read.  Robert Pattinson is one that comes to mind too. Yes, the teen-idol from Twilght is an avid reader and has an eclectic taste in fiction: alternative, indie, classics, all high literature.  He notes his favourite author as Carson Mc Cullers and it was his rave ranting about 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' that got yours truly to read it. 

How about you? Can you think of any other famous photos with famous people reading? What famous celeb reader do you admire or are even influenced by? Oprah, of course, has done a great service for reading, via her ever-popular Bookclub. Obama too, hailed as 'America's most bookish President' is a reader and advocate for reading.

It's great to see these photos, a fitful homage to the pleasures of reading. If only libraries and classrooms would display them and help fix the image of reading as 'cool' in our communities, then maybe we would have more young readers and young readers not afraid to be known as readers. Especially needed in this day of Digital distractions.  These pictures show that reading never goes out of style and that being a reader is well - hip.



Marilyn Monroe reading 'Ulysses'

 James Dean engrossed again

 Elizabeth Taylor comfortably reading

 Elvis, library-browsing

Somewhere over the rainbow...Judy Garland entranced by a book 

 Marlon Brando, intense as always 

 Jackie O enjoying Jack Keroauc's 'On the Road' on a plane

Brando again, he once said: 'I had to read Wuthering Heights for English and I never enjoyed a book in all my life as much as that one.'

 Elegant as always, Audrey Hepburn 

Johnny Cash was a big reader

Dustin Hoffman, mid-read on New York apartment steps

Jennifer Lawrence, making use of spare time on the set of The Hunger Games, to read

Jake Gyllenhaal, submerged in his book on the subway

 Johnny Depp reading 'Hell's Angels'

 Natalie Portman, reading a newspaper in a park. Impeccable taste in fiction, it was her rave review of 'Cloud Atlas' to the Wachowski brothers that influenced it becoming a movie.

Robert Pattinson arriving at LAX, carrying his reading material

 Who said reading isn't fashionable? Sarah Jessica Parker snapped with her latest read

Nathan Fillion living up to his on-screen personage, novelist & book lover extraordinaire Richard Castle

Even Superman reads. Enough said.


  1. Excellent! I'm a high school teacher in the UK and I am definitely using some of these for my classroom. Thanks very much!

    1. That's so great to hear! I hope it works a treat!


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