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Books have always been my escape—where I go to bury my nose, hone my senses, or play the emotional tourist in a world of my own choosing. I'm a "head first" person, really. Words are my best expressive tool, my favorite shield, my point of entry. One of my first memories? Hunching in the car with Chariots of the Gods, waiting for my mother to drive me to school.

When I was growing up, books took me away from my life to a solitary place that didn't feel lonely. They celebrated the outcasts, people who sat on the margins of society contemplating their interiors. When adolescence got scary, I turned to books addictively: Franny and Zooey, The Magus, The Idiot—just 50 more pages and I'll call it a day; just 20 more pages and I can have dessert. Books were my cure for a romanticized unhappiness, for the anxiety of impending adulthood. They were all mine, private islands with secret passwords only the worthy could utter.

Jodie Foster's favorite books:

"This is a collection of letters that Rilke wrote to a poet who'd asked for his advice. It's clear that Rilke wants to encourage the younger man, yet he can't help betraying his own disillusionment with the world and his feelings of insignificance. I love how humble Rilke is—how beaten down by the creative process yet hopeful. I've given this book to a few directors and wrapped each copy in a silk scarf. When I feel like a failure or have doubts about my work, this is the sacred book I take off the shelf and unwrap, very delicately."

"In this collection of autobiographical essays, humanity's wicked little details are seen through the eyes of a truly strange man. Sedaris's observations are sometimes weirdly funny and unexpectedly moving—including his trip of self-discovery to a nudist camp. I read Naked in one sitting and then bought five copies to give to friends. "

"When I was about 13, I became very interested in classic Greek tragedies, and I think these represent the best of them. They combine what we'd identify as modern psychology with the concept of destiny. It's impossible to forget these characters—Medea, for instance, who kills her own beloved children when faced with her husband's betrayal. These are stories of such passion."

"Carver is the king of minimalism, and these short stories are some of his leanest. He writes characters who are completely unaware of their own motivations or the significance of their actions. They just live and don't ask why. As an actress and reader, I love the discipline of spare characterizations. You soak up the few details offered and do the work to figure out the characters yourself."

"I wrote my senior essay in college on this book, specifically Morrison's relationship to the African oral-narrative tradition. My favorite passage describes a water stain on a wood table—how that stain takes on new life and meaning with the passage of time and family history. I think Morrison has the most deeply poetic voice in contemporary American fiction, and I have never missed reading anything she's written."

"I went to the French lycée in Los Angeles, and, like every high school student in the French school system, I studied the work of 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire. At 15, the height of brooding and dark self-discovery, I recited his poems by heart and thrilled to the exotic language, filled with taboo ideas and strange metaphors involving death and decay. It's a must-read for any depressed adolescent."


Jodie Foster Who?

Having made a successful transition from child to adult star, Jodie Foster has also survived horrific treatment as a gang-rape victim in The Accused (1988) and encounters with Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), both of which garnered her Academy Awards for Best Actress. After that, her role in Flightplan (2005) as the mother of a daughter who goes missing during a transatlantic flight holds a different form of terror. Surely real-life Jodie can cope... After all, she's made more than a hundred television and film appearances since she was three years old (starting with the iconic "Coppertone Girl" ads in which Foster plugs the suntanning product when a playful pup tugs her swimsuit bottom to display the lotion's effects, and to include her controversial role as a preteen prostitute opposite Robert DeNiro in 1976's Taxi Driver), is an accomplished director and producer, has performed in French language films, and even been stalked by the would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.


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