The Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls
"Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family. I don't know that anyone comes from a truly functional family," MacDowell says. One of her sisters—she has three—recommended she read Walls's memoir of being raised by well-meaning, loving, but disastrously irresponsible parents. "She jokingly said it would make me feel better about my own childhood.... My family was not as colorful as Walls's, but I loved her voice. I loved that she had a lot of compassion for her parents. There were pieces of her that thrived on the chaos, because it was hers. And that resonated with me. I think when you grow up like that you don't know how not to love it, because it's all you've got."
MacDowell's next pick: Life of Pi by Yann Martel