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.
Gwyneth Paltrow was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of noted producer and director Bruce Paltrow and Tony award-winning actress Blythe Danner. Her father's family was Ashkenazi Jewish, while her mother has German, and some English and Irish, ancestry. When Gwyneth was eleven, the family moved to Massachusetts, where her father began working in summer stock productions in the Berkshires. It was here that she received her early acting training under the tutelage of her parents. After graduating from the all-girls Spence School in New York City, she moved to California where she attended the University of California in Santa Barbara, majoring in Art History. She soon quit, realizing it was not her passion. In 1990 she made her stage debut in the Williamstown Theatre play, "Picnic". In 1991 she appeared in her first film, Shout (1991), with John Travolta. That same year she met Steven Spielberg, who gave her a small part in his film Hook (1991).
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.
Featuring a new introduction written by Erica Jong, the classic 1847 novel traces the doomed love affair between an orphaned, independent-minded governess and her brooding employer, Mr. Rochester. Reprint." Primarily of the bildungsroman genre, Jane Eyre follows the emotions and experiences of its title character, including her growth to adulthood, and her love for Mr. Rochester, the byronic master of fictitious Thornfield Hall. Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
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.
Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. It is the second of Dostoyevsky's full-length novels following his return from ten years of exile in Siberia. Crime and Punishment is considered the first great novel of his "mature" period of writing. Through the story of the brilliant but conflicted young Raskolnikov and the murder he commits, Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering. Crime and Punishment put Dostoevsky at the forefront of Russian writers when it appeared in 1866 and is now one of the most famous and influential novels in world literature.
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.
The Sheltering Sky is a 1949 novel of post-colonial alienation and existential despair by American writer and composer Paul Bowles. The Sheltering Sky is a landmark of twentieth-century literature. In this intensely fascinating story, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans' incomprehension of alien cultures leads to the ultimate destruction of those cultures. A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.
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.
The short story, "Franny", takes place in an unnamed college town and tells the tale of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her. The novella, Zooey, is named for Zooey Glass, the second-youngest member of the Glass family. As his younger sister, Franny, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in her parents' Manhattan living room -- leaving Bessie, her mother, deeply concerned -- Zooey comes to her aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.
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.'
Also recommended by: Michelle Obama
In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. "Goodnight room, goodnight moon." And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room--to the picture of the three little bears sitting in chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one--he says goodnight. In this classic of modern children's literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day. A young bunny rabbit goes through his bedtime routine, bidding goodnight to all of the familiar objects and characters in his room. As the time for going to sleep comes near the room grows darker and quieter, until all we can see is the glow of the fire and the light of the stars and moon.
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.
The Catcher in the Rye 1951 novel J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The novel also deals with complex issues of identity, belonging, loss, connection, and alienation. The novel was included on Time 's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.