11 Celebrities on Their Favorite Books
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By David Mitchell
"This was the present I gave everyone I knew for three years. It's six different stories told in different time periods and genres: One is historical fiction, another is a '70s thriller mystery, the sixth is a post¬apocalyptic story. It's one of the most beautiful, entertaining, challenging books—something that takes all your attention. I think the stories are meditations on violence, specifically the necessity of violence. The book ends with a beautiful exchange: '...only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops.'"
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By Jamaica Kincaid
"My heritage is Caribbean, and I'd never read anything that really breaks down Caribbean culture politically, historically, socially, and in terms of gender. Lucy did that—it called out to me, to the kind of life I had and the kind of person I am. One thing I love about the book is how painfully honest Kincaid is about Lucy's issues with her mother. Lucy is fueled by pride and rebellion and pain, but the emotions guiding her at first aren't the ones driving her at the end of the story. She realizes she needs to make peace with the fact that no matter how far she might go in the world, she will never stop being her mother's daughter."
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By Mikhail Bulgakov
"I was reading Louis de Bernières's trilogy on Latin America and this book came up [on amazon.com] as something I might like, so I bought it. It's now my favorite novel—it's just the greatest explosion of imagination, craziness, satire, humor, and heart." The fantastical work so captured Radcliffe that for his 21st birthday, he traveled to Russia to visit the author's apartment in Moscow. "There are passages that have become everyday Russian sayings. For instance, 'Manuscripts don't burn.' If it had ever come out that this book was being written, Bulgakov would likely have disappeared permanently. That phrase stands for the fact that nothing is more powerful or more indestructible than the written word."
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By David Sedaris
"It's not often that a writer makes me laugh out loud, but Sedaris does. He brings me to tears. It's to the point where I can't read his writing in public because people think I'm having some kind of meltdown. In this collection of essays, he has a way of finding humor in the strangest and most painful moments, like a week with a creepy babysitter or the death of his mother. He lands in ridiculous situations—befriending a town outcast, for one—and his writing acknowledges the difficulty of getting through the day. I take myself too seriously sometimes, and Sedaris's books are such a revelation about how you can celebrate life's strangeness and idiosyncrasies."
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By Tom Stoppard
"I love reading plays. Part of the reason I became an actor was that I would read one and think, 'Ah, it'd be fun to be in that.' Arcadia is about the discovery of certain theories of physics and math, but it's also a love story—a sad love story—infused with ideas of early feminism and the Industrial Revolution. The action bounces back and forth between the early 1800s and modern times stylistically and smoothly. And the words are just beautiful. Stoppard has an amazing command of the English language. He moves the plot along in such a way that if you're not paying close attention, you won't catch the five or six things that are going on. This is probably my favorite play—it's got this weird combination of excellent dramatic writing and math and science. It sounds kind of nerdy, but there you go."
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By J. California Cooper
"My fifth-grade teacher, who has since become one of my best friends, is a strong, powerful black woman. One day she said, 'Instead of calling and asking me for advice, try reading J. California Cooper.' The stories in this collection follow common folk dealing with everyday issues. They're good people who sometimes make evil choices, and you see them suffer as a result. While many of the stories start off dark and depressing, ultimately, they are incredibly inspirational."
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By J.D. Salinger
When she was 14, Lawrence traveled to New York City to start her career, so Salinger's tales of the quintessential New York family—the brilliant, sophisticated, doomed Glasses—have a special place in her heart. "I'm so drawn to Salinger's view of society back then, and to his sarcasm. I read Catcher in the Rye first, then this one. I don't think there's ever been anything like these characters in American literature."
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By Truman Capote
This novel is about a young woman who carries on a doomed affair with a parking lot attendant. Johansson loved Capote's reflective portrayal of "two people desperately in love in that frenzied first-love kind of way. Maybe because Capote struggled with his own identity early on, he developed more perspective on growing up."
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By William Faulkner
"My father gave me this book when I was getting into trouble in high school," says Franco, whose story collection, Palo Alto, focuses on several delinquent teens, including one on probation for drunk driving. "I was spending a lot of time alone at home," he continues, "and that's when I really started reading." First published in 1930, Faulkner's fifth novel follows the corpse of Addie Bundren as her family hauls her coffin on an arduous journey across Mississippi for burial near her relatives in Jefferson. Franco, who is working on a film adaptation of the book, has read it several times and is drawn to the nontraditional style and multivoiced narration: "Essentially, the book is a bunch of smaller, linked episodes. I really love the interior lives of the characters and the multiple perspectives—they have inspired my own stories."
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By Henry James
A lover of James's layered prose, Holmes says she was moved by this 1880 tale of a difficult father-daughter relationship. "I didn't see myself in any of the characters in particular," she says, "but I loved the setting and the way James writes about people." The very busy actor also appreciated the book's relatively short length. "I do most of my reading in bursts, at night after everyone's asleep."
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By Amy Sedaris
"Full disclosure: Amy is a friend, and I have tasted her cupcakes. They're really, really good. (And that is not a euphemism.) I Like You is a spin on those 1960s cookbooks about how to make a nice home and how to entertain. I picked it because I love the character Amy plays: a hostess from the '60s, in cheap hosiery, wigs, and crazy costumes. But it's also got recipes for a delicious meatloaf and advice on how to deal with drunk guests. My favorite tip is that when you're having a party, you should fill your medicine cabinet with marbles—so that when people are snooping, they get caught. I know that Amy really does like to entertain that way. Sometimes she'll charge people 25 cents to take a picture with a stuffed rabbit. The book is hilarious, beautifully designed, and captures Amy in so many ways."
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