By Leo Tolstoy
This taught me a lot about acting. You start out thinking Kitty is an idiot or Lévin is naive or Anna's husband is dead inside—and then you see them crack: Each is both a good guy and a bad guy, capable and not capable, makes mistakes and saves people and saves themselves. That's what I believe every character in a movie should be, and I hope that the people I play who are easy to judge—the ones that make you think, I'm nothing like that—by the end, you have some insight into them.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
By Joan Didion
I read a lot of Joan Didion when I first graduated from college. Like her, I'm from California and was transplanted to New York. Didion is unflinching, but even though she's observing us from an intellectual place and writing without embellishment, her observations are so clear and so right-on that they end up having an emotional effect on us.
By James Baldwin
This novel is what you fantasize New York was like decades ago and what the cool people—singers and writers—were doing then. Baldwin effortlessly mixes a little philosophy with descriptions of what's happening with his characters. These are people trying to break out of the constricting shell they've been put in, because that's what their hearts are telling them to do.