The star of Mad Men (and a self-professed science guy) is happy to log off YouTube and delve into a primer on string theory, a play about the history of physics, or a novel by one of his generation's finest writers.
I know that reading isn't as easy to do as turning on a television or getting on the Internet or twittering or whatever else you have to do in this modern society, but it's way more rewarding. It's calming. It's edifying, and even as it has become less popular as the options have grown for instant-gratification entertainment, most of the books that appeal to me—the ones I've chosen for this list—take a while to have their effect. Once you give them that time, it's paid back times a million.

I really like my generation of novelists—Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Jonathan Franzen—and the way they can tell a story and make it interesting, make it deep, make it funny and yet incredibly touching.

I read a lot of nonfiction, too. I'm a big math and science person. It's fascinating to me to think, "How do things work? Why does this do that?" And when you've got 500 pages to explore something, you're going to go deeper into it than if you've got 23 minutes and commercial breaks.

—As told to M Healey


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