Raphael Rowe is an investigative broadcast journalist and currently hosts Netflix’s Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, having been wrongfully imprisoned himself for 12 years.


Below, Rowe opens up about the books which have impacted his perspectives and career path, and now earn a spot on his Fantasy Bookshelf. The journalist shares the book which kept him laughing in darker times, the quote which inspires him most and why he wishes he wrote the dictionary.

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As a child, which character from a book would you were say you were most like?

Tarzan, because he was free but engulfed by both man and beast.

If you could claim to be the author of any book, which would you choose?

The Dictionary. Understanding words creates powerful influence.

What is the best reading recommendation you’ve ever been given?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was one of the first books recommended to me during my time in prison and it took me from a mentally dark place to laughter and distraction.

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Which book has inspired your career path?

Charged by Emily Bazelon was a powerful reminder of the influence of journalism and how the American judicial system is unjust. Knowing the details can help propel your argument for change.

Raphael Rowe - Inside the World's Toughest Prisons
Raphael Rowe in Lesotho for Netflix's Inside the World's Toughest Prisons Netflix / KPPR

In your work you shine a light on experiences many people wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, for instance in prisons. Are there any types of stories you wish there were more books about?

I am inspired by the stories of people I have met during my work. Ordinary people's lives and the reasons they have done the things they have done would inspire others. I would like to see more of these kinds of books.

Which author’s audiobook are you looking forward to listening to?

This will be William Shakespeare, I’ve always wanted to know more about his work.

What’s the best line from a book which has changed how you think?

I was recently reading Andy Harrington's Passion into Profit. The line I liked that resonated with me was, “have you ever struggled for something for so long and finally succeeded and reached the summit? Only for you to realize it’s not the summit, and that there’s a whole new mountain to climb?”

What was the last book you read and would you read it again?

The Body by Bill Bryson is the last book I read. I wouldn’t read it again as I prefer to keep on discovering and now I know what is in it, I’d feel cheated.

If you could tell everyone in the world to read just one book, which would you choose?

I would recommend Notorious, my own autobiography, but that won’t be released until later this year. So, it would have to be The Communist Manifesto, not that I’ve ever been a communist, it’s just that from what I’ve read it’s a profound insight.

What’s next on your reading list?

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I enjoy nonfiction more than fiction and this is a book that will help my understanding of a certain history I’m keen to learn more about.


Series 4 of Inside the World's Toughest Prisons, hosted by Raphael Rowe, is available on Netflix now – check out our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide

Read Raphael Rowe’s Fantasy Bookshelf