Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is popular, talented, deeply committed to environmental causes… and still has time to be remarkably well-read. His taste in books is diverse, including classics, modern fiction, and nonfiction. Check out these five books that he particularly recommends, including their publishers’ descriptions below.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea, has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent 20th-century classic.
DiCaprio’s recommendation: “One of my favorites authors is Ernest Hemingway… he is not Spanish but he was in love with the Spanish culture. Many things I learn from your country [Spain] are through his eyes.”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, The Great Gatsby, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the “first step” American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised “the charm and beauty of the writing,” as well as Fitzgerald’s sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald’s “best work” thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, the New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of 20th-century literature.
DiCaprio’s recommendation: DiCaprio told TIME magazine he was attracted to playing the role of Gatsby because he liked “the idea of a man who came from absolutely nothing, who created himself solely from his own imagination.” He continued, “Gatsby’s one of those iconic characters because he can be interpreted in so many ways: a hopeless romantic, a completely obsessed wacko, or a dangerous gangster, clinging to wealth.”
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.
DiCaprio’s recommendation: “Richard Yates’s novel is a classic for a reason. The conversations that each character has in his or her head… While I’m sitting here kissing my wife and telling her how much I love her, and how everything is gonna be okay, there’s this inner voice that just detests her and detests my life and knows I’m lying about everything. That inner dialogue in the book was fabulous for all of us.”
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not — and cannot — fix the climate crisis, but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.
Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift — a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.
Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
DiCaprio’s recommendation: “I once was talking to Naomi Klein, who to me is one of the most powerful voices in the climate movement. She wrote a book called This Changes Everything, and it’s about capitalism versus the environment. And look, everyone loves money, I love money — we live in the United States. This is a capitalist country. But ultimately we’ve locked ourselves, through capitalism, into an addiction to oil that’s incredibly hard to reverse. I’m making a documentary about this.”
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann
While everything appears to be collapsing around us — ecodamage, genetic engineering, virulent diseases, the end of cheap oil, water shortages, global famine, wars — we can still do something about it and create a world that will work for us and for our children’s children. The inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio’s web movie Global Warning, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight details what is happening to our planet, the reasons for our culture’s blind behavior, and how we can fix the problem. Thom Hartmann’s comprehensive book, originally published in 1998, has become one of the fundamental handbooks of the environmental activist movement.
DiCaprio’s recommendation: This book is said to be one of the sources that inspired the actor to champion environmental causes. DiCaprio also featured author Thom Hartmann in his documentary, The 11th Hour.
What do you think of Leo’s picks? Tell us in the comments!
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