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Shelf Life: Brian Cox

The award-winning Succession star and author of Putting the Rabbit in the Hat takes our literary survey.

brian cox, putting the rabbit in the hat, succession, book recommendations
David Ho / Illustration by Yousra Attia

Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

Putting the Rabbit in the Hat

He’s mastered stage and screen, now Brian Cox turns to the page with his memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat (Grand Central Publishing), out next week.

He’s recognized for playing Waystar Royco media and entertainment magnate and dysfunctional-family patriarch Logan Roy on HBO’s Succession (renewed for a fourth season), but the Emmy- and Golden-Globe-winning actor and veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre has played hundreds of roles on television and in film, from blockbusters like X2: X-Men United and The Bourne Identity to indies including Rushmore and Adaptation. He’s currently filming The Independent with Jodie Turner-Smith.

The Scotland-born, New York-based Cox graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art; was supposed to be named Colin (he explains the story in the book); played Hannibal Lecktor first; rewatches The Court Jester every year; was supposed to be on two fated flights; has picked up swearing from Logan; and is constantly asked by fans to deliver Logan’s signature “Fuck off.” Likes: marijuana, Turner Classic Movies. Dislikes: Helicopters.

The book that:

…helped me through a breakup or loss:

Not so much a breakup/loss but for a crisis of the soul that may come from a loss or breakup, the book of choice is Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. A book that separates the facts from the fiction in the narrative of one's life.

…kept me up way too late:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. An exciting and absorbing story.

…that I recommend over and over again:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is a great introduction to classic literature. An active story that reveals the many facets of love through Heathcliff and Catherine.

…shaped my worldview:

In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky. It is the teaching of Eastern philosophies that urges self-development.

…I swear I will finish one day:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Someday...

…I read in one sitting, it was that good:

Damage by Josephine Hart. A story of a politician and a scandalous love affair. A great read.

…made me laugh out loud:

Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder by Kevin Lally. A great director with a great sense of humor.

…I would pass on to my kid:

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story looks at the folly of putting such a naive person (Prince Myshkin) at the center of the fights, feuds, and love of a worldly society.

…has the best title:

Bring on the Empty Horses by David Niven. A great biography. The title came from the Hungarian-born, many-faceted, multi-talented Michael Curtiz when working with Niven on The Charge of the Light Brigade. When Curtiz wanted the riderless horses he’d call out: “Bring on the empty horses!”

…I first bought:

Wuthering Heights.

…has the greatest ending:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton’s last line is one of the finest in all literature: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

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