Carrie Preston’s 10 Favorite Books

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Bookseller One Grand Books has asked literary celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is The Good Fight and Claws star Carrie Preston’s list. Preston will be joining Dianne Wiest and John Cameron Mitchell to read from her favorite books at NeueHouse in New York this evening at 6:30 p.m.

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Photo: Roger Kisby/Vulture

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Although I have been doing plays since I was 8 years old, it was only when I started doing Shakespeare at age 19 at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival that I felt like my career started. I learned from master teachers at the University of Evansville, at Juilliard, at Shakespeare festivals all over the country, eventually landing at Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. That show transferred, so I got to make my Broadway debut doing The Tempest with Patrick Stewart. I owe so much to Shakespeare. Nothing is more humbling and more exhilarating than taking ahold of those sacred words and riding them like a wave. If I could only take one book to the island, this one would do just fine.

The Oxford English Dictionary

If I’m going to be on a desert island with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, believe me, I’m going to need this book, too. The forest of his words is sometimes pretty thick, and having a dictionary helps illuminate your way. I use the dictionary all the time when I’m reading or working on scripts.

The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers

I’ve been fascinated by Frankie, the heroine of the book, ever since I was 14. McCullers really captures adolescence and, as Frankie puts it, that feeling of being “an unjoined person.” I would imagine on a desert island, I might want to be able to articulate those feelings of longing to belong.

Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger

This book never fails to intrigue me and touch me to my core. The characters, the philosophies, theories, and life lessons are abundant and stunningly simple, too. And the best gift literature could have given us actors is the concept of doing it “for the fat lady.”

Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood

This book, dark as it is, is an astute study of the cruelty that young girls perpetrate upon one another and how those experiences shape us as adults. It’s a real cautionary tale, but it’s beautifully done, and makes one think of one’s own past and the power of those formative experiences.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

This is the best novel that I have read that fulfills the desire I think many of us have to know exactly why we were put on the planet. When I get to the end of the book, I always have to read it through the blur of tears.

The Places That Scare You, Pema Chödrön

Pema Chödrön is my self-appointed guru. When I am feeling lost or ungrounded, I turn to her infinite wisdom. She makes Buddhism extremely accessible to the Western mentality. And she also has a wonderful sense of humor.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

I enjoy sci-fi thanks to my brother John’s passion for it, and this was the first sci-fi book to hit my radar. It touches on so many things: politics, religion, paganism, revivalism, psychokinesis — and it even introduced a couple of things that didn’t exist before, like the waterbed (which came out a few years after the book) and the word grok, which means “to understand something intuitively or by empathy.” There’s a lot to grok in this book.

Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

This books exists on a visceral level. It’s scary and enlightening and enigmatic. It stuns, shatters, and illuminates. Just when I think I have a handle on it, I see something else. And PS: No one gives awesome audiobook better than her.

A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor

The grandmama of southern Gothic literature, O’Connor unabashedly tackles faith and faithlessness head-on. Grotesque, funny, and oftentimes creepy, these stories draw a picture of a society on the brink of moral bankruptcy. I find them more relevant today than ever … even on a desert island.

Carrie Preston’s 10 Favorite Books