Comedian, presenter, writer, actor – it seems there are few things Russell Kane can’t do.


Latest on a long list of talents (and luckily one of the few occupations which lends itself to pandemic-induced working from home), is podcaster.

Each episode of his BBC Radio 4 show Evil Genius delves into a different character from history, covering everyone from Father Christmas to Mother Theresa, including authors such as Charles Dickens and Enid Blyton.

Here, Kane discusses all the authors and books which have influenced his life and career and selects his final Fantasy Bookshelf line up. Kane shares his top tear-jerking recommendation, reveals which books have changed the way he thinks and divulges what he’d really like to steal from author Dan Brown.

My Fantasy Bookshelf Logo

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Probably Madame Bovary. I reread it every few years anyway. I love Flaubert’s writing. He makes fun of everyone, and yet has such depth, compassion and lyricism.

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Which character from a book do you wish you could be like?

Obviously Mr Darcy [of Pride and Prejudice]. Handsome, wealthy and a man of few words. I can’t stop talking and I’m only 5 foot 10. Oh well.

Which character from a book would you say you were most like as a child?

Matilda. I even did a DNA check to make sure I belonged in that nest. Turns out I was an alien.

Which book has made you think about something differently?

So many. Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. There is a reason there are so few plane crashes – they learn from their mistakes. This book is that philosophy for excellence.

The Village Effect by Susan Pinker taught me the health benefits of staying in touch with friends and family. Also, Bulletproof by Dave Asprey changed the way I eat forever. I’ve taken years off!

What was the last book you couldn’t put down?

The Porcupine by Julian Barnes. A nasty, brilliant little political courtroom slanging match.

Russell Kane

Which writer has had the biggest influence on your career?

I would say Dorothea Brande [for] becoming a writer. It’s the start of my journey and I have never ceased with my foot to the floor.

If you could go back in time and convince an author to do one thing differently, what would it be?

I would get Dan Brown to bin his manuscript. Then I would fish the manuscript out of the bin and steal it. Millions!

If you could narrate the voice of any character in an audiobook, who would you choose?

Claude and Sir Bobblysock, but Simon Callow already does it. So that’s the end of that.

Do have a favourite line or quote from a book which has resonated with you?

“We colour according to our mood, the objects we survey.” Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes.

Who are your top author recommendations?

I love Ian McEwan, all of Anne Tyler and if you want to cry, try Kit de Waal. If you want a nasty little thriller, but beautifully written, try Leïla Slimani.

What’s next on your reading list?

Dickens. There are new unabridged audiobooks out [such as] Bleak House. 43 hours of Audio read by Miriam Margoyles. Surely this will get me over my boredom with Dickens? I have tried many times.


Russell Kane's BBC Radio 4 podcast Evil Genius is available now on BBC Sounds.

Read Russell Kane’s Fantasy Bookshelf

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success by Matthew Syed

The Village Effect: Why Face-To-Face Contact Matters by Susan Pinker

The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

The Porcupine by Juian Barnes

Robert Langdon Series Collection by Dan Brown

Claude on Holiday by Alex T Smith, narrated by Simon Callow

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

Adele by Leila Slimani

Bleak House by Charles Dickens, narrated by Miriam Margoyles