My mother, who is this brilliant actress [Blythe Danner], started reading Jane Eyre to me when I was probably 9 or 10 years old. It was the first adult book that I got lost in. There's one scene when Jane is a child living with her relatives, and an older cousin begins to torture her. She fights back, but ends up getting locked away in a room as punishment. I so felt her frustration. When I read it again later in school, I connected to different parts of the book—especially the scenes with Jane as a young governess, new to Rochester's house and rather unsure of herself.
Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoevsky
One of my all-time favorite novels is Crime and Punishment. I read it in high school, and for some terrifying reason, I really identified with Raskolnikov. It's so funny, because he sort of behaves amorally, but he has an incredible sense of right and wrong. Obviously, I couldn't identify with him as a killer, but I could understand what it means to know that something's wrong but do it anyway. I was 17 when I read it, and the feeling of having betrayed one's sense of right and wrong—and then living with the consequences—was something that I could completely identify with.
The Sheltering Sky By Paul Bowles
This is one of the most visual books I've ever read. I just felt as if I was witnessing every scene firsthand, and my imagination was painting the most colorful pictures of North Africa, the cafés and the desert. I remember that when I read it, I was completely taken away from my life. Actually, I think this was one of the books Ethan [Hawke] gave me.
Franny and Zooey By J. D. Salinger
The whole family dynamic in Franny and Zooey is fascinating. But for me, this book is all about the end, when Franny comes apart in the bedroom. The delicacy of someone that intelligent being so close to falling to pieces is intriguing to me.
Goodnight Moon By Margaret Wise Brown
My mom, who has this very rich voice, would read this book to me when I was really little. I would lie there in bed, and she'd say, 'Goodnight moon,' and do the whole thing. So I associate this book with safety and love. My parents got me the French translation for Christmas a few years ago (I've always been a bit of a Francophile), and I keep it by my bed. I just love the idea of blessing everything that's near and dear to you before you go to sleep with a simple 'Goodnight.'
The Catcher in the Rye By J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye was assigned reading for me in seventh grade. I think the reason everybody in the world connects with this book is because it's about being isolated—just slightly outside of what you perceive to be the norm. It's the ultimate story of being a little bit on the outside, and I think everybody sort of regards themselves as being that way. And the language! It was the first book I ever read that made me laugh out loud.
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, December 4, 2013