The English actress serves up a great booklist—from Beatrix Potter to Virginia Woolf.
When I got the directive to choose seven books, I practically had a nervous breakdown. I'm an addictive reader, and I just couldn't manage to limit myself. Finally, I thought to attach each selection to a particular time in my life. Even though I'm not 49 yet, I did seven lots of seven. I tend to think things go in sevens in life anyway—don't they say Saturn returns at the age of 28? Not that I'm particularly into astrology, but seven-year turnarounds do seem to be very powerful. It was interesting, actually, to examine what books fell into what period of my life—when I was most obsessed with story, and when I was most obsessed with nonfiction.
I think books are like people, in the sense that they'll turn up in your life when you most need them. After my father died, the book that sort of saved my life was Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude . Because of that experience, I firmly believe there are books whose greatness actually enables you to live, to do something.
And sometimes, human beings need story and narrative more than they need nourishment and food.