Recommended Reading for Villains

Old timey villain

A book can change your life. But can it change your character? To exercise the theory—that the right dose of literary wisdom can save a person from their worst instincts—here are 8 books that could very well have changed the course of some very twisted lives. In case you’re stuck doing supervillain Secret Santa AGAIN this year, here are my picks for all the maladjusteds on your list:

Cruella de Vil: Forks Over Knives. We’re not expecting you to go full vegan, Cruella, but a little more appreciation for the sanctity of animal life might get you down to, say, a 7 on the nefarious scale.

Miss Hannigan: Little Women. This heartwarming ode to sisterly love may remind this child-hating orphanage headmistress that little girls have their good points, too.

Miss Havisham: He’s Just Not that Into YouThrow away the wedding cake, change into some slacks, and for god’s sake, girl, open a window. No scoundrel who’d ditch you at the altar is worth throwing your life away.

Tom Ripley: Eat, Pray, LoveFiction’s most adaptable sociopath is a magpie of human behavior, stealing the bits he can use to “pass” in whatever company he’s running with. But who’s the real Ripley? I’m hoping this book will send him on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.

Mrs. Danvers: How to Be a Woman. See what happens when you live vicariously through your employer? You light things on fire and attempt to lure perfectly nice young women to their death. This cautionary tale might have been avoided, if only Mrs. Danvers had read the funny, empowering essays of Caitlin Moran.

Captain Hook: In Search of Lost TimeThis blue-eyed, hot-blooded pirate/lover of the finer things is prone to fits of melancholy, and may find solace in the sensitive, introspective Marcel Proust. What would Hook’s madeleine be? A fine aged rum, perhaps, drunk from the skull of a vanquished enemy.

VoldemortChicken Soup for the Wizard’s Soul. If anything’s going to convince Voldy that a soul is a thing to be treasured—not broken up into 7 pieces and embedded in creepy artifacts—it’s a collection of pithy, heartfelt essays celebrating the kinder side of wizard nature.

Mr. Wickham: Anna Karenina. Caddish, self-pitying Wickham needs to learn a thing or two about the price a woman pays for an ill-fated affair, and this book is a good place to start. (Side note to Mr. Collins: We hope nothing ever happens to Charlotte, but you might want to read this one before your next wife-hunting expedition.)

What’s your pick for your favorite villain’s rehabilitation read?

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