Pride and Prejudice — Maggie Smith
Obviously, we’ve been influenced by Dame Maggie Smith’s recent performance as the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey, where she reminds us in every episode of her talent for both radiating and undercutting the snooty role of a “proper” upper class woman. But it’s not like this is the first such role for her — she’s a practiced talent at this kind of thing, and we think she’d read Austen’s classic tale of feminine wiles and marriage plots with just the right amount of exasperated sighs and arch tones.
The Catcher in the Rye — Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Though our feelings on Holden Caulfield might be mixed, if anyone can make us love him, it’s definitely Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with that winsome laugh and cautious cadences. Not to mention that the guy’s got serious acting chops, and can easily be tortured, strong, annoying and iconic in equal measure.
Blood Meridian — Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood’s gravelly voice would improve most things — novels, television shows, sports announcements — but we think he’s a perfect match for the gritty, bone-dry realism of McCarthy’s masterpiece. Or maybe it’s just that all our mental images of Eastwood are him glaring out from underneath a wide brim cowboy hat or handling a noose. Either way, we think it works.
Portnoy’s Complaint — Jesse Eisenberg
He may be a little on the wholesome side for any hot liver action, but Jesse Eisenberg definitely has the Jewish-mama’s-boy-hipster-geek market cornered. And we think he could do with a little sexing-up. Maybe some foul language. It can’t hurt.
Beloved — Viola Davis
We were blown away by Viola Davis’s strength and her complex performance in the film adaptation of The Help — so much so that we think she’d be perfect to read a novel containing another of the strongest and most complex characters in the literary canon. This is a novel that needs to be read with grace, restraint, and a building sense of power, and we think Davis has all those things in spades.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — Johnny Depp
This one may be a little too obvious, but Johnny Depp is one of the best celebrity voice actors in the business — goofy and layered and willing to go all out. Plus, it’s pretty safe to say he knows the book better than any other actor out there.
The House of Mirth — Meryl Streep
Since we pretty much want to be exactly like Meryl Streep when we grow up, we’d love to listen to her dulcet tones reading Wharton’s divine novel of manners. We have confidence that Meryl would be able to make Lily both perfectly frivolous and deadly serious all at once, as we know she must be.
The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing — Emma Stone
Who better to read Melissa Bank’s witty coming of age tales than Emma Stone, whose unusual voice and charming personality we just can’t get enough of? After all, Jane Rosenthal’s only a couple years behind Olive Penderghast in that huge literary high school in our heads.
Moby Dick — Christian Bale
For Melville’s epic, we didn’t want to go too gruff — it’s a little too strange and watery for a straight sailor to read to us — but we needed a man’s man that we could bear to listen to talk about whaling techniques for hours on end. We think we could handle 700 pages at sea with Christian Bale’s certain, rugged voice leading the way.
The Bell Jar — Cate Blanchett
This is a difficult book, but we’re of the opinion that Cate Blanchett can handle just about anything. But we think her cooly sensual tone, a mixture of strength and ethereality, would be particularly suited for the tortured, deep-hearted poet’s semi-autobiographical novel.