Andie Macdowell

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The face of L'Oréal Paris and costar of the upcoming movie Footloose appreciates books about strong women, chaotic families—and how we cope with the unbearable.

See 5 books that made a difference to Andie MacDowell
The Glass Castle book cover

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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
Life of Pi book cover

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Life of Pi
By Yann Martel

"God was going to love him, no matter what he had to do to survive. He was on the trip with him," says MacDowell of Martel's popular fable about a 16-year-old boy's harrowing journey on a lifeboat with a 450-pound tiger. "This book makes you wonder: Has Pi actually been on a fantastic adventure, or is the truth far more realistic?... My older sister wanted to believe the fantasy. I was kind of surprised by that, because she's so doggone bright. For me, there was no way the story could be real. It had to be a way to deal with something that was impossible to deal with. That's what this book does: It tells a painful story as a fantasy because the reality is too brutal."

MacDowell's next pick: Night by Elie Wiesel
Night book cover

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By Elie Wiesel

"The truth is that humans have the potential to be horrific. And I think being conscious of that is important," says MacDowell. She read the Nobel laureate's classic memoir of surviving Nazi death camps in anticipation of hearing him speak at an event. "It was a great opportunity to see him. He's used his life to educate people, and he's such a brilliant, brilliant man. This book opened up something in my mind that I couldn't fathom." As painful as it is to confront the Holocaust, MacDowell says the alternative is worse. "It's scary—and I'm sure it's really scary for Wiesel and other people who lived it—that there are people out there who don't want to believe it happened."

MacDowell's next pick: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Prodigal Summer book cover

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Prodigal Summer
By Barbara Kingsolver

"What I loved about this book in particular were the women. I really connected with them." Kingsolver's novel, set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, features earthy, sensual, self-sufficient female characters deeply in touch with nature—like MacDowell herself, an avid hiker. "I'm strong," she says. "I'm outspoken. I feel like I'm equal to men. I can walk in the woods just as much and as far as a man can. Yet I'm still female. I'm very female. And I loved her women because they were like that." MacDowell, who has also read the author's Poisonwood Bible, about a family of missionaries in Africa, says, "I think Kingsolver is a genius. For me the best part is the way she goes back and forth in different voices."

MacDowell's next pick: Jung's Map of the Soul by Murray Stein
Jung's Map of the Soul book cover

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Jung's Map of the Soul
By Murray Stein

"Carl Jung's work on being conscious is really relevant to me and my life right now." At 52, MacDowell says she has become more introspective and is drawn to the analyst's theories because "he has a spiritual side. And I love the way he analyzes dreams." This summary of Jung's most important ideas can be a heavy read, though. "I have sat down and actually tried to read it through all the way. But my brain starts to get exhausted. I can only take so much at a time. But as I'm reading it, I am more aware of myself, my dark side and my light side. I can make better choices. I'm more attuned to what's important. I think I've got a lot of work to do. I'm far from being finished."

Books That Made a Difference to...