Besides the obvious inspirational religious or faith-based books that most people read, such as the Bible, or the Upanishads, or the Bhagavad Gita, there are so many other books I've loved and read dozens of times, which I wanted to post as recommendations, for your reading pleasure! These are my favorite books that truly changed my life! I get so many people writing me asking me for advice about being an actor or artist who's Christian, or just plain spiritual-minded, and I realize that some of the best advice I can offer, actually comes out of these books. In them is so much of what inspires ME, and I also admit that much of what's in these books goes even way beyond my own personal faith.
The messages within each of these books are the same. They are all about being. Simply being. Being present
Embracing the now. Noticing the sublime and beautiful and even terrifying in each and every moment of your living, breathing life, and really recognizing it, and cherishing it.
This list reflects my TOP FIVE favorite books of all time. Each of these books I quote to my students extensively, and none of them are actually about acting. The acting book that I wish was out there, which would be about the spiritual side of acting, the love of connecting with humanity, and love, and chaos, and other cultures and times, about the love of language, and feeling, and emotions... well, that book has not been written yet. Maybe I'll have to be the one to write it some day. Or maybe this post will encourage some of you to start writing that book!
I do want to mention here, Jane Fonda's, My Life So Far, as one of my favorite books recently, that talks about the trials and tribulations of being a beautiful woman in the world of acting, fame, and fortune. It's heartbreaking, and quite uplifting as well, especially since Jane found a strong faith in the last few years, and she talks about it a bit in the end of this book. I sobbed my heart out while reading this book and it really made me think about my own life so much. It's funny and uplifting and brutally honest, and I highly recommend it, especially to girls who think they have to be something perfect and thin and beautiful, when they don't feel perfect and thin and beautiful. It's a great book about the perfectionist in all of us, and it helps you forgive yourself and learn how to let go, and just be happy with you who are. It also discusses eating disorders. It's fantastic!
Here's my favorite inspirational books for actors and artists of all faiths!
Letters to a Young Poet
by Ranier Maria Rilke
This book changed my life because it inspired me to start writing. It's a small book, a compilation of letters that Rilke wrote to a poet who was depressed. It encourages him to never ever look at criticism, and to start by thinking about his past, and his childhood, and to start really writing about his first memories. It really changed my life, and it's small enough, and short enough, to read bits and pieces of, here and there, and still get very inspired!
The Cloister Walk
by Kathleen Norris
Norris's book is like a precious meditation on daily living, and it's based on her time living with monks, and then her experiences in her past in Hawaii, and living on a farm (I think -- been a few years). That being said, she writes just about daily life, looks at passages from the Bible, and inspiration from the monastic life she experienced, and intertwines all of these stories, until just being alive makes you feel like the most profound and spiritual experience. She sees God everywhere she looks, and her words are so full of Grace, you will be astounded. Great reading if you're feeling depressed, or needing a calm short story to read before going to bed. Again, written in short story form, some stories only a few pages long. If you like her, I might also recommend getting Wendel Berry's poetry -- any of his books will do!
The Artist's Way
by Julia Cameron
I could write fifty separate posts about this book, but won't. Every actor, actress, filmmaker, writer, director, painter, poet, or wanna be artist who feels dead inside, or unappreciated, or blocked, or just bored by their dreary life, will find this book so life changing, and profound, that they'll wonder why they never picked it up! It's a work book. You can read one chapter at a time, do the exercises in them, put it down, and then read another chapter a few weeks later. She looks at Artists like recovering addicts. Her advice is to start writing, anything and everything, and to start walking, and to start taking care of yourself first, and stop taking care of everyone else. Her book gave me permission to be me! It truly changed my life forever, and I've probably given over twenty copies of this to friends and past students as gifts, and even made students read chapters of this book as home-work assignments. It's hilarious and uplifting and spiritual, and I LOVE IT! Enough said!
Women Who Run With The Wolves
by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
As a trained Anthropologist, this book changed my life in that it made me see that all of life is about story-telling, and about cultural mythological traditions. It made me see my life in a series of fairy tale type sagas, and allowed me to get that life is going to always be up and down, and back and forth, and that I must learn to breathe and accept the suffering with the joy. Each chapter tells a famous fairy tale, analyzes the history of that story, and then applies it to your real life. It's unbelievably well researched and written. It helped me be a stronger woman, and I recommend it highly for high school and college age girls who have the nerve to finish it! Don't let its size scare you off. You can read one chapter at a time. I personally love the chapter called, Skeleton Woman. It taught me that you must embrace the bad stuff about people you love as much as the good stuff -- that it's all the same "stuff"!
Sit, Walk, Stand
by Watchman Nee
A serious, and tender, tiny, jewel of a book, which is really a long Christian essay or treatise on Ephesians. Written by a Chinese Christian who was jailed for his faith, this book teaches us the various stages of faith, and thus, the various stages of life, and growing older. It's a beautiful book that will inspire you from the opening page.
And one final thought. Although this is a list of books, I wanted to include one video series that also changed my life forever. And that would be the six part PBS TV series about Joseph Campbell, interviewed by Bill Moyers, called The Power of Myth. This series explains that everything we know comes from some kind of story about the hero's quest. It helped me decide to become an actress, because Joseph Campbell, a famous author and professor (now passed away), always encouraged his students to "follow their bliss". This phrase changed my life, as I'd never really thought what my "bliss" was until this video interview, and Campbell, encouraged me to even think about it! It had ALWAYS been acting, but I'd always studied everything but! It's what took me to USC, to Los Angeles, and get into acting professionally. I encourage everyone to buy the DVD box set! I'm sure they still sell it on-line. Ignore the corny music, and settle in for some life changing story-telling, and soul searching thoughts about life!
Hope you enjoy this list, and go out and get these books! I promise you, they very much could change your life!