Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

3 of 7
567 pages; Oxford University Press
This hefty masterpiece about the plight of French miners in the 1860s "made me realize that when books are considered 'classics,' most of the time they're actually very readable and exciting," Daniel Radcliffe says. "It amazes me how deftly Zola captures the idiosyncrasy, the mundanity, and the scale of life among all these different classes of people. Every character feels fully formed and real. And once I learned more about Zola's involvement in the Dreyfus affair"—the infamous turn-of-the-century case in which Zola, citing anti-Semitism, publicly accused the French army of wrongfully convicting a Jewish captain of treason—"and how he advocated for individual freedom, I just thought, I love this man. He must have been an incredible person to know."
— As told to Naomi Barr