Laura Linney: TOP TEN BOOKS

Time Stands Still

Laura Linney photographed by Joan Marcus

A true character actress, Laura Linney has garnered nominations and awards for her work on stage, film, and television — four Emmys (for Wild Iris, Frasier, John Adams, and The Big C), three Oscar nominations, and three Tony nominations. Her first Academy Award nomination came for her first lead role in the 2000 film You Can Count On Me, but she has brought a wonderful screen charisma to projects as diverse as the celebrated PBS adaptation of Tales of the City and her small but perfect scene in Tom Ford’s sophomore movie, Nocturnal Animals. Linney, who became a mother at the age of 49, worries about a Facebook-dominated world in which “there’s no time to think and people aren’t making their own opinions,” as she lamented in an interview with The Guardian. “What’s going to happen in time, with a generation of people who have that kind of ADD?” Solution: read these books.

Below are Laura Linney’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


The Iliad of Homer

translated by Richard Latimore
May I cheat and add "The Odyssey" and count them as one? I had an invaluable and inspiring high school teacher, Robert Cooley, who introduced me to both “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” during my senior year. It was my first experience with the power of drama and poetry combined. Little did I know that I would spend the rest of my life (especially professionally) searching for experiences that would be as satisfying. The fact that I fell in love for the first time with the guy sitting next to me didn’t hurt my journey through those books either.
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A.S. Byatt
This challenging, deeply satisfying read is also a wonderful reread. High in erudition and packed with mystery, it is a romance that takes your heart and mind on a suspenseful and rigorous adventure.
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East of Eden

John Steinbeck
I read the great American “East of Eden,” strangely enough, during my first rail trip across Europe. After I completed each chapter I would rip the pages in a chunk from my paper back and leave them in whatever train car I was departing to lighten my load. There was something very comforting having something so American with me while being so far from home. The beauty of Steinbeck's language stays with you for years if not decades.
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The Artist as Citizen

Joseph W. Polisi
Joseph Polisi is the President of the Juilliard School and one of the men I admire most. His beautiful book is a call to arms for all artists, and those who love the arts, to use their talents for the larger good of our culture, our communities, and our world. A must read for anyone in the arts.
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John Logan
John Logan's stunning play about Mark Rothko testing and teaching his young assistant resulted in one of the best evenings I have ever had in the theatre. I keep the script on my iPad to dip into for inspiration and lessons of conviction.
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You Learn by Living

Eleanor Roosevelt
Though at times dated, this uplifting “manual," written by one of the most interesting and significant women of the past century, is filled with the insight and advice I'd like to give to everyone.
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Hug Machine

Scott Campbell
Motherhood has come to me later in life. I really thought it had passed me by, but as fate would have it, I now get to read this heartwarming book to my son several times a week. I don't think either of us will ever grow tired of it.
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Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy
There is a section in “Anna Karenina” where Levin goes into the fields to assist the peasants with his harvest. It is hard work, at first awkward and frustrating. The labor requires strength, patience and a centered connection to one's self before productivity and pleasure are possible. This passage has always stuck with me as an example of the level of commitment it takes to do anything well in life. I try to remind myself of Levin when life or work feels overwhelming. The rest of the book, of course, is just a big, fat masterpiece.
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Tales of the City

Armistead Maupin
This is a book that literally changed my life. It gave me my career when I played Maryann Singleton in the miniseries. It has given me friendships that have elevated my understanding of love. And it has given me a connection to Armistead, an author and political activist whose character is so solid and profoundly good that I named my son after him.
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The Complete Plays

Anton Chekhov
Most theatre actors learn to act doing Chekhov. His plays are a rite of passage. Fanatically popular, they are very hard to do well (in fact it rarely happens) but when you do hit a moment right in Chekhov's world, it brings you as close to the heart of humanity and beauty as you may ever get. “The Cherry Orchard” is a particular favorite.
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