It is cosy to curl up with a good book, but hearing your favourite celebrity read one aloud can be even better.
In the past few months, many stars such as actors Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy and former footballer David Beckham have done readings to help comfort both children and adults in these trying times.
The Sunday Times picks out eight celebrity readings for various literary tastes – from Harry Potter to Shakespeare to children’s bedtime stories.
1 FOR FANS OF THE BARD
Celebrity: Patrick Stewart
Literature: Shakespeare’s sonnets
Go to: bit.ly/3cLOEJq
To many, he is better known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek franchise (1987 to present) and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men movies (2000 to 2017), but acclaimed British thespian Patrick Stewart spent his early career with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In March, the 79-year-old went back to his roots and uploaded a video of himself reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 on Twitter to help raise spirits during the global pandemic. Buoyed by the positive response – the clip drew 1.5 million views – he decided to read one sonnet a day.
He tweeted: “When I was a child in the 1940s, my mother would cut up slices of fruit for me (there wasn’t much) and as she put it in front of me, she would say, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ How about, ‘A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away’?”
On May 17, he enlisted fellow Star Trek actor Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander William T. Riker in the series, to join him in the readings.
Stewart announced a “brief hiatus” after reading Sonnet 63 on May 22.
2 FOR POTTERHEADS
Celebrities: Daniel Radcliffe, David Tennant, David Beckham and more
Book: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Go to: bit.ly/3hkvTjB
With the aim of introducing younger children to the rich fantasy world of the Harry Potter franchise, a host of celebrities is taking turns to read all 17 chapters from the first book published in 1997, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.
British actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the titular character in the films (2001 to 2011), kicked off the series in early May.
The latest reading, of Chapter 11, is by Scottish actor David Tennant, who played wizard Barty Crouch Jr, and soccer star David Beckham.
Other celebrities reading include Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne and Whoopi Goldberg.
To watch the videos, viewers have to register for an account on the Wizarding World, the official website for fans of Harry Potter and the spin-off film series Fantastic Beasts (2016 and 2018). Audio versions are available on music streaming service Spotify.
3 FOR FANS OF HUNKY ACTOR TOM HARDY
Celebrity: Tom Hardy
Books: There’s A Tiger In The Garden by Lizzy Stewart and more
Go to: bit.ly/2MK3OEu
British actor Tom Hardy has made his name playing many tough yet complicated characters, so it was a bit of a surprise when the BBC’s pre-school CBeebies channel got him to read bedtime stories.
What is not so unexpected is that Glamour magazine’s Sexiest Man of The Year 2018 is pulling in not just the kids, but also adults who find his voice both sensuous and calming.
BBC said his CBeebies debut in 2016 was viewed one million times, making him the channel’s most popular storyteller.
In April this year, to entertain fans during the pandemic, the network brought the 42-year-old actor back for a new round of children’s stories, including Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo and There’s A Tiger In The Garden by Lizzy Stewart.
4 FOR ROALD DAHL FANS
Celebrities: Taika Waititi, Chris Hemsworth, Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch and more
Book: James And The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Go to: bit.ly/2UxSRdr
Oscar-winning film-maker Taika Waititi leads a slew of marquee names in a reading of one of British author Roald Dahl’s most famous books, James And The Giant Peach.
In the first episode uploaded on May 18, he ropes in actor brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth, who voice the characters Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, to read chapters one to four.
Subsequent episodes feature other famous names including actress Meryl Streep, American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
The ongoing initiative, which will end with the 10th episode, raises funds for American non-profit group Partners In Health’s Covid-19 relief efforts.
Waititi, whose film credits include Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok (2017), will helm two new Netflix series based on characters from Dahl’s 1964 novel, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
5 FOR J.R.R. TOLKIEN FANS
Celebrity: Andy Serkis
Book: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Go to: bit.ly/37m4KIC
Early last month, British actor Andy Serkis embarked on a Hobbitathon, spending 11 hours reading almost non-stop the whole of Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy classic, The Hobbit.
The 56-year-old is best known for playing Gollum, one of the key characters in The Lord Of The Rings (2001 to 2003) and The Hobbit (2012 to 2014) film trilogies.
The live reading session raised £301,558 (S$529,000) for Best Beginnings and NHS Charities Together, two British charity organisations involved in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
6 FOR R-RATED LAUGHS
Celebrity: Samuel L. Jackson
Book: Stay The F**k At Home by Adam Mansbach
Go to: bit.ly/2Yo0zb1
In 2011, American author Adam Mansbach scored a hit with his expletive-laden children’s book parody, Go The F**k To Sleep, which topped the Amazon charts and went into multiple reprints.
The audiobook version was aptly read by American actor Samuel L. Jackson. A recent report by research group Buzz Bingo found that the prolific actor has sworn 301 times in the 132 films he has acted in.
In March, Jackson, 71, read an updated version of Mansbach’s story on the Jimmy Kimmel Live talk show. Retitled Stay The F**k At Home, Mansbach described it as a public service announcement to encourage social distancing.
Parents, fret not. The expletives have been bleeped out in the video.
7 FOR INSTAGRAM USERS
Celebrities: Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams, Meghan Markle and more
Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and more
Go to: bit.ly/3cOY9HT
In March, actresses Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams teamed up for a charity reading initiative that raises funds for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, two organisations that feed and educate children during school shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hosted on Instagram, the SaveWithStories page now features more than 270 personalities ranging from actors and sportsmen to doctors and firefighters.
They include talk-show host Jimmy Fallon, who reads his own children’s book, This Is Baby; and basketball star Jeremy Lin, who reads The World Needs More Purple People by Benjamin Hart and Kristen Bell.
With her husband Prince Harry filming the video, Meghan Markle also reads Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld’s Duck! Rabbit! to her toddler son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
8 FOR THOSE WHO LOVE CHILDREN’S CLASSICS
Celebrities: Michelle Obama, Kristen Bell and more
Books: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, and more
Go to: bit.ly/30vRVKr American public broadcaster PBS’ weekly series of reading videos, PBS Kids Read-Alongs, features a star-studded cast and line-up of much-loved kids’ books.
Recent episodes feature guests such as former United States first lady Michelle Obama, who read classics such as The Gruffalo, the 1999 book by Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. Her video on May 19 also has a cameo from her husband, Mr Barack Obama.
Other famous personalities in the series include Frozen (2013) actress Kristen Bell, who reads books such as Goodnight, Daniel Tiger by Angela C. Santomero.