Actor (and Debut Author) Sean Penn Recommends Some of His Favorite Books

Posted by Cybil on March 26, 2018
Double Academy Award-winning actor and filmmaker Sean Penn is the author of the debut novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. Goodreads asked Penn to tell us about his reading habits, his favorite book and authors, and the novel he's both re-reading and recommending to his friends.


Goodreads: Why did you decide to write a book?

Sean Penn: For me it was time to work alone. Film provides great opportunities for collaboration, but it also DEMANDS collaboration and a like-mindedness I’ve come to find elusive. I wanted to do something privately—complete it, then later share it.


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Goodreads: You've been described as an avid reader. Why is reading important to you?

Sean Penn: I have an odd relationship with reading. I've always struggled with retention. That has usually forced me to read in as close to a single sitting as a book's length, or density will allow. This means that when I keep company with a book, all outside that book is excluded.

At some point, my reading life became dominated by nonfiction, with the odd novel or volume of poetry slipping in only rarely. With nonfiction, I often binge on books that are specific to one region, or area of interest. When reading about a place that is connected to traveling the areas written about, those scents and smells and personalities supplement my retention deficit.

Goodreads: Tell us about some of your all-time favorite books.

SP: I loved reading You Can't Win by Jack Black. I could see his images and feel the rumble of the trains. I heard the language and felt urged to jump inside it. James Thurber also gave me giggles. Harry CrewsThe Knockout Artist, [Salman] Rushdie, [Christopher] Hitchens, [Douglas] Brinkley, Richard Ford, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy all gripped my attention, but, in the end, it was [Charles] Bukowski for me.

I'm also a gigantic fan of [Jon] Krakauer's books. All of them. He's an immersive nonfiction writer. Into The Wild is one book that defied my otherwise lackluster retention. I wrote the first draft of its screenplay ten years after having read it, and didn't re-read it until I'd completed the draft. Really stuck with me.

Goodreads: If you could require everyone to read one book, what would it be and why?

SP: D.T. Max's biography of David Foster Wallace. It's the most immersive read inside a contemporary man and author I've read. The periods of isolation and depression that separated him from the rest of life for so many years should be a cautionary tale for those who voluntarily distance themselves through a social media that is anything but social. I also love David Rabe's Recital of The Dog. If it comes down to just one book, I'd say Steve Coll's Ghost Wars. It adds context to where we are today.

Goodreads: What are you currently reading and what books are you recommending to friends?

SP: I've been re-reading Alejo Carpentier's The Lost Steps. Brilliant beautiful book…and, I recommend it.


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Comments Showing 1-50 of 53 (53 new)


message 1: by Barry (new)

Barry Pierce Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?


message 2: by Aurora (new)

Aurora Oh wow, i wanted to say the same thing @Barry


message 3: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Salisbury Goodreads there are a lot of non-abusers you could choose to showcase and it's distressing and disturbing that you chose to do so here.


message 4: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Van Parys I literally snorted - of course Bukowski


message 5: by Christian (last edited Mar 26, 2018 11:41AM) (new)

Christian Ekman Barry wrote: "Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?"
Aurora wrote: "Oh wow, i wanted to say the same thing @Barry"

My first reaction was to argue with you, to not make this into a gender debate unnecessarily, that tons of great authors were men and that it is completely possible to have one's favorite authors be men... But then I thought about what I myself would list, given the same number of books that Sean Penn listed... There are so many great female authors!!

He named 14 authors in this short interview. 14. Not a single woman on that list. The statistical probability must be pretty low for that to happen without any bias. Especially given how incredibly, mind-bogglingly amazing female authors there are. No way could I ever write a list this long without including women, as well as men. Thanks for making me take the time to think about this critically. It honestly didn't even cross my mind that all of the authors were men before you mentioned it in your comments.


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ Barry wrote: "Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?"

I was thinking the same thing. & no, not surprised.


message 7: by Janet (new)

Janet No women, no like.


message 8: by Aaa (new)

Aaa And the most predictable list of the year goes to...


All Cops Are Bastards Given his last name, it's about damn time he wrote a book.

Sorry. I'll show myself out.


message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim just a question: why does what books Sean Penn likes matter to anyone? sorry, but i just couldn't care less about what most people read, so why should his list matter to me? he's a "famous" actor and also a COMPLETE stranger to me. why not just get Random Person #17823467 and publish their list of likes? "starstruck" i am not.


message 11: by Lea (new)

Lea Next time, Goodreads, why don't you interview someone who DOESN'T support Latin American dictators. Nobody is interested in what this half-rotten orange reads


message 12: by James (new)

James Griffiths I look forward to upcoming Goodreads blog entries - "The books that make Mel Gibson smile in that disturbing antisemitic way we all so adore", "Bill Cosby's YA recommendations" and "Harvey Weinstein's best books to make friends and influence people".


message 13: by Charles (new)

Charles Fischer Lea wrote: "Next time, Goodreads, why don't you interview someone who DOESN'T support Latin American dictators. Nobody is interested in what this half-rotten orange reads"
"Nobody is interested," and yet here you are commenting on it.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Fischer James wrote: "just a question: why does what books Sean Penn likes matter to anyone? sorry, but i just couldn't care less about what most people read, so why should his list matter to me? he's a "famous" actor a..."

You don't care about what he reads, you say twice, and yet here you are commenting and ranting about it.


message 15: by Merel (new)

Merel Oh look why not give an abuser more time and space


message 16: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia Why are you giving this p.o.s. abuser publicity, Goodreads?


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Sean Penn is trash! Why are you giving this abuser the time of day?


message 18: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Bea Lea wrote: "Next time, Goodreads, why don't you interview someone who DOESN'T support Latin American dictators. Nobody is interested in what this half-rotten orange reads"

Well said


message 19: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Bea Charles wrote: "Lea wrote: "Next time, Goodreads, why don't you interview someone who DOESN'T support Latin American dictators. Nobody is interested in what this half-rotten orange reads"
"Nobody is interested," a..."


Sean is that you


message 20: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Lea wrote: "Next time, Goodreads, why don't you interview someone who DOESN'T support Latin American dictators. Nobody is interested in what this half-rotten orange reads"

This. Also, he's a POS abusive asshole. Don't care what he has to say, ever.


message 21: by Karin (new)

Karin I was going to point out that there are no women in this list, but several people already did :)
how hasn't sean penn figured out yet that women write books as well?


message 22: by Christy (new)

Christy who cares what this garbage reads thnx!


message 23: by Zohal (new)

Zohal Barry wrote: "Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?"

Agreed!


message 24: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Salisbury Amanda wrote: "I literally snorted - of course Bukowski"

Right? Good grief.


message 25: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Bad call here, Goodreads. There are plenty of new and upcoming authors that you could showcase that like, didn't beat Madonna with a baseball bat.


message 26: by Andrew (last edited Mar 26, 2018 07:34PM) (new)

Andrew Malia This was a pretty interesting list with some good stuff on it. Thanks for the article. As for his assault charge, it was dropped and retracted by his alleged victim. As for the lack of representation of women, anyone here is free to become a successful actor, director, and writer and make a deal with Goodreads to get their own list published. He was asked what books he likes and people are mad that he doesn't like the right ones? lol


message 27: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Did he even read the books? He doesn't seem like a reader to me.


message 28: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Featuring a man who has a history of abusing the women around him? READ THE ROOM Goodreads, ffs


message 29: by Meg (new)

Meg Ugh 😑


message 30: by Meg (new)

Meg The only Sean Penn needs to read is the room- then exit it


message 31: by Jayme (new)

Jayme Sean Penn is an abusive dumpster shart. I'm not sure why Goodreads thinks we have anything to learn from him except how to be a disgusting human being who has no respect for women.


message 32: by Mary (new)

Mary Maybee The Kite Runner


message 33: by Tima (new)

Tima Badly done, Goodreads. Badly done.


message 34: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Mary wrote: "The Kite Runner"

Brilliant book Mary. I have his other 2 novels to read sometime in the future.


message 35: by Sara (new)

Sara "Abuser (and Actual Garbage) Sean Penn Recommends a Bunch of White Male Authors in the Most Tone-Deaf Article Ever"

FTFY


message 36: by Lara (new)

Lara How many of the books are about abusing women? Because that's what Sean Penn does, and that is the first thing I associate with him--not acting, not reading.

If you're going to let him talk about books, I hope you plan to let Robin Wright talk about her favorite books sometime soon.


message 37: by Peter (last edited Mar 27, 2018 08:15AM) (new)

Peter Sara wrote: ""Abuser (and Actual Garbage) Sean Penn Recommends a Bunch of White Male Authors in the Most Tone-Deaf Article Ever"

FTFY"




"Alleged Abuser (and not Actual Garbage) Sean Penn Recommends a Bunch of great White Male Authors in not at all the Most Tone-Deaf Article Ever, like not even close."

FTFY


message 38: by Jim (new)

Jim love these comments! and love all the white males supporting an abuser and his all-male author choices... scared much, guys? the world is getting less white every day... and women are not just talking, but being heard... OH NO!


message 39: by Peter (new)

Peter James wrote: "love these comments! and love all the white males supporting an abuser and his all-male author choices... scared much, guys? the world is getting less white every day... and women are not just talk..."

Yes all of us white males in here, there's so many of us! Scared of what? Not judging authors based on their gender? We're not the ones with the archaic values and morals here, you should be looking in the mirror.

As for Sean Penn being an (alleged) abuser, what does that have to do with it?


message 40: by Charles (new)

Charles Fischer Andrew wrote: "This was a pretty interesting list with some good stuff on it. Thanks for the article. As for his assault charge, it was dropped and retracted by his alleged victim. As for the lack of representati..."

Thank you for this level-headed response. Not sure why all the viturperative anger and (unsubstantiated and denied) claims that he is a wife-beater, etc. He can read whatever he wants.


message 41: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Agudelo no one gives a fuck what this abusive piece of shit likes to read. ask madonna next time instead.


message 42: by Stevie (new)

Stevie Not interested in what a violent misogynist has to say.


message 43: by Meg (new)

Meg Charles wrote: "Andrew wrote: "This was a pretty interesting list with some good stuff on it. Thanks for the article. As for his assault charge, it was dropped and retracted by his alleged victim. As for the lack ..."

You’re right, he can read whatever he wants...doesn’t mean he needs a platform for it here. God forbid we don’t know what a white dude’s opinion is at any given moment (especially one who’s violent to women).


message 44: by Anna (new)

Anna Thanks for nothing Goodreads. All the amazing authors out there and this is who you choose to give publicity to? And as others have said as soon as the post came up in my reader, I knew there wouldn’t be a single female author. Complete fail on your part..


message 45: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer James wrote: "I look forward to upcoming Goodreads blog entries - "The books that make Mel Gibson smile in that disturbing antisemitic way we all so adore", "Bill Cosby's YA recommendations" and "Harvey Weinstei..."

Thanks for taking the edge off- cheers! ROTFL :D


message 46: by Claire (new)

Claire Christian wrote: "Barry wrote: "Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?"
Aurora wrote: "Oh wow, i wanted to say the same thing @Barry"

My first reaction was to argue with you, to not make thi..."


Well to be fair, female authors don't write in the same genre as male authors usually. Personnaly, my list of 14 favorite books would only feature To Kill A Mockingbird from a female author. There are not many women, that I know of, who write in the same genre as Dostoievsky or Kafka for exemple.


message 47: by Ana (new)

Ana Pascal Wow, this is very disappointing Goodreads.


message 48: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Malia Meg wrote: "Charles wrote: "Andrew wrote: "This was a pretty interesting list with some good stuff on it. Thanks for the article. As for his assault charge, it was dropped and retracted by his alleged victim. ..."

I'm glad I read his list. I'm sorry if the post doesn't appeal to you personally, but that's no reason to question the validity of it. I'm sure there are plenty of things you can read that do appeal to you. No doubt Goodreads would be happy to do a list in the future with any woman with a book coming out, provided she has the star power of Penn. Lastly, not sure how to respond to the mention of his race other than to dismiss it for the pointless racism it is.


message 49: by Christine (new)

Christine Good Lord. It feels like I'm on a Facebook thread.
At least I got some new books to check out.


message 50: by Aurora (new)

Aurora Claire wrote: "Christian wrote: "Barry wrote: "Honestly is anyone surprised that this list contains no women?"
Aurora wrote: "Oh wow, i wanted to say the same thing @Barry"

My first reaction was to argue with yo..."



For kafka try vegetarian by han kang


Dostoevsky closest might be is Anne Rice :D


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