When I was a girl, I always reached for these books. I so preferred the crazy adventures of this little monkey to princess stories. As an adult, I found out that when the author and his wife fled from France in 1940, they left with only a few of their possessions and the original Curious George manuscript. I love the idea that they weren't going to leave without it. Whenever someone I know is expecting a baby, I always give her the whole collection—seven books in all.
Ramona the Pest By Beverly Cleary
We moved from Texas to a rich community in Connecticut when I was in elementary school. We weren't well off, so I was a bit of an outcast. The kids voted me class pest. But I remember I loved the Ramona books so much that I took it as a compliment. Ramona marched to the beat of her own drummer, and I've always been able to relate to girls like that.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway By Susan Jeffers, PhD
About 14 years ago, I was in a car accident, so I went to Japan to do some commercials to make enough money to get a new car. I felt lonely, and I didn't have anyone to talk to—it was like a Lost in Translation experience. This book had been left at the apartment I was staying in. It's very nuts-and-bolts self-help; the theory is, if you have fear—and everybody does—you just need to walk through it. You can break your fear into parts, but you have to get past it, because your best opportunities are on the other side.
The Seat of the Soul By Gary Zukav
I loved the whole book, but especially the part about cause and effect. Zukav talks about getting to the bottom of what your motivations are. He says you should ask yourself what you're trying to get out of every interaction. I really responded to the notion of "dress rehearsal"—how some experiences are practice for what's to come. I remember auditioning for a woman I couldn't stand. I kept feeling depleted every time we met. The book reframed the situation for me.
I realized there was a reason I was going through this. Maybe I needed to learn that I didn't have to participate in this project or that it was a dress rehearsal for another level in my life where I choose not to work with abusive people.
The Artist's Way By Julia Cameron
When I first started doing the program Cameron outlines, I had been working for a while. Through the process, I realized I had to decide what kind of artist I was, what kind of woman I was, and what I was going to contribute to the business of Hollywood. The book helped me see that I had to create my own mold, that I had to choose what I believe to be right in my life and artistry. I have a friend who was resistant to reading The Artist's Way because it was "so L.A." I thought so, too. But if you do the program, suddenly, you're a better woman, a better actress, and a better friend.
I Know This Much Is True By Wally Lamb
The novel tells the story of identical twins one whom is schizophrenic. At first you think it's going to be mostly about the brother with the disorder, but Lamb puts the "normal" sibling under a microscope. A lot of us know someone who has an albatross around his neck, and Lamb shows that often the people closest to the patients step into weird roles, like "I'm a caretaker, that's what I do," and they carry those identities throughout their lives. No one ever says, "Yeah, but who are you?" The main character has to bust open everything he thinks is true to come up with an answer to that.