I have a lot of time to read when I'm on a movie set, and I've been really lucky to have been given some great literary works over the past several years. I have the issue of Poetry magazine in which "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot was first published, and I have first editions of the works of J. D. Salinger. But one of the best gifts came from Ethan Hawke when we were shooting Great Expectations. I was having a hard time because my first big movie, Emma, had just been released, and everything started to change. I had my first crisis. I found myself asking, "What's happening to my world? To my life?"
In the middle of all this, I went into work one day and found that Ethan had left me a big cardboard box full of his favorite books: The Stranger by Albert Camus, Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard, The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, to name a few. Isn't that the best present? He gave the books to me with the intention of taking me outside myself and having me connect with poetry and literature—things he thought would give me perspective and make me feel better. It was such a generous gesture.
I remembered his gift last year when I had a birthday party. I told my friends that I didn't want fancy presents—just for each of them to bring me a copy of their favorite book and to write on the first page why it's so special to them. It was a wonderful night, and I had so much fun discovering what my friends thought about each book. In a way, that's what I've done here: On the following page, I've listed seven of my favorite novels and the reasons I love them.