Playwright and director David Hare has written for Broadway, film, and the London stage since 1970. His screenplay for The Reader has just been nominated for an Academy Award.
Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny (Vintage, $25). I think this is one of the most important books ever written, and certainly on one of the greatest themes: a Mephistophelean account of how Speer was flattered and corrupted into collaboration in Hitler’s crimes—and how he later denied it.
The Easter Parade by Richard Yates (Picador, $14) Revolutionary Road is better known and has been made into a major film, but The Easter Parade, which describes the separate destinies of two sisters born in the 1920s, is, if anything, even more desolating and powerful.
The Third Man by Graham Greene—the screenplay, not the subsequent novella (out of print). Anyone who wants to write films or plays for a living is advised to commit this screenplay to memory, because the rhythm and drive of its glorious dialogue and structure are so compelling.
The People’s War by Angus Calder (out of print). The rejection of Winston Churchill by British voters in 1945 was not the anomaly it’s usually painted as. Rather, it was the logical outcome of the radicalization of the British working class through war. This is the book with the most influence on my own writing. Wholly original scholarship.
The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown, $20) I adore thrillers, especially by Henning Mankell and Harlan Coben. And Connelly has a great detective in Harry Bosch, who sets out in this book to explore the mysteries of his own mother’s past.
Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig (New York Review Books, $17). Zweig is the greatest European writer who is unfamiliar to most British and American readers. The elegance of this novella is the elegance of complete lucidity, of a writer who knows what he wants to do and who gets there by the shortest route. Alone, he can look Chekhov in the eye.