Allison Janney
Photo: Akira Suemori/AP
When I was in New York, trying to be an actor and not working at all, I needed something to anchor me to the world. At that time, I was bereft of any creativity. I read The Artist's Way , by Julia Cameron, and it gave me a schedule—something to do, to focus on. I have a mind that just doesn't quiet down, and the directive to write three pages each morning became almost meditative. I've fallen off the wagon for a while, but I'm back to it. I find that the exercise gets rid of all the junk in my head; it's written down, so I don't have to think about it all day. I can start the day fresh.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1999, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that when I was on The West Wing I didn't read a damn thing. That time was all about going through scripts or memorizing lines. Many of the books on my list I've come across in the past few years. I want this to be the reading phase of my life—books fill you with other people's stories and lives and ideas. They can help define who you are in some crucial way.

What's on Allison Janney's Bookshelf? Read more!