My Fantasy Bookshelf: Ben Aldridge shares the books which influenced his life and career

The Fleabag and Our Girl actor opens up about his favourite reads.

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Ben Aldridge My Fantasy Bookshelf

Ben Aldridge is an actor known for his roles in BBC One’s army series Our Girl and Phoebe-Waller Bridge’s Fleabag. He now stars in the Batman prequel Pennyworth, playing Thomas Wayne, the man who will one day become Bruce Wayne’s father.

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Below, the actor discusses the much loved books he’d choose to line up on his Fantasy Bookshelf. Aldridge shares the title he can’t wait to read next, the character he’d most like to play on screen and explains how he tried to get out of reading at school.

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

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. That was recommended to me and it’s one of my favourite books.

Is there a book which stands out in your memory from your childhood?

I didn’t really read when I was younger, I pretended to read all the time. We had to read for 10 minutes every day at school and I used to act as if I was reading really convincingly.

I remember my mum reading a book called The Very Worried Sparrow a lot and that was about a sparrow that was basically scared to do everything. I think it’s because she had to give me a little bit of an extra push to do things. In The Very Worried Sparrow he eventually plucks up the courage to fly.

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

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. He’s a therapist and each chapter is a client of his. It was the first time I’d really read about the benefits and intricacies of therapy.

It’s really satisfying to read because each chapter opens with the client and their issue. Then by the end of the chapter [Grosz] has cracked the problem and the person’s life has improved. It’s an interesting insight into that world inside a therapist’s room.

Ben Aldridge as Thomas Wayne in Pennyworth
Ben Aldridge as Thomas Wayne in Pennyworth
Warner Bros.

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

I wanted to do the audiobook for Lie with Me by Philippe Besson but it was already taken. It’s this queer love story between two teenage boys in France. One of them is an adult, reflecting back and finding out about where the other man is now because they never managed to make their love work. It’s just a really beautiful and painful book.

Is there anything you’ve read which has taught you something?

I’ve just read a book called How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones, which is a memoir. It’s him detailing his life growing up in America as a black, queer man and it opened up my perspective on those things. It’s also just a brilliant book and I’d recommend it to anyone. He’s a really talented writer.

Is there a character that you can see yourself in or becoming like?

Anyone you play, even though a character might be transformative, it has to exist within you somewhere. Acting is like turning the volume up and down on parts of you. Your only resource to play that character is yourself or your imagination, so it’s all there already.

If you could star in an adaptation as any character next, who would it be?

It would be A Little Life again. I would love to play either Jude or Willem.

What have you been reading during lockdown?

I read a book called Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski. It’s his debut novel and I loved it, I couldn’t get enough of it. I got a little bit obsessed.

It’s a queer love story in communist Poland, which is a country and era that I didn’t know very much about, and it’s this really beautiful, forbidden love story between two men.

What’s next on your reading list?

A friend of mine just gave me a book called Staring at the Sun by Irvin D. Yalom. It sounds really intense. It’s about reckoning death and the fact that we all know that’s where we’re headed and how much it affects our living lives.

Pennyworth: The Complete First Season is now available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Read Ben Aldridge’s Fantasy Bookshelf

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If you’re looking for more inspiration, we’ve also got lists of the best audiobooks on Audible and the best audiobooks for kids.