When Amy Poehler was a girl, she turned to books to feel less alone:
Reading was a way to make friends or enemies, a way to discover how all these different people exist in the world and to rub shoulders with them. The ability to feel as if you’ve met someone, as if that person exists in flesh and blood and that you relate to them somehow, makes you feel a lot less lonely.
More than that, Poehler expands in a piece for O Magazine, they make you feel brave. By spending time with complex characters who hit crossroads in their lives, readers are challenged to question their own character, reflecting on how they themselves would handle tough situations.
In a list of 6 books that made a difference in her life, many of Poehler’s picks deal with the dichotomies of life: dark and light, honor and deception, good and evil. From Charles Dickens to John Irving, find a list of Amy Poehler’s favorite books below.
I Like You by Amy Sedaris
“Full disclosure: Amy is a friend, and I have tasted her cupcakes. They’re really, really good. (And that is not a euphemism.) I Like You is a spin on those 1960s cookbooks about how to make a nice home and how to entertain. I picked it because I love the character Amy plays: a hostess from the ’60s, in cheap hosiery, wigs, and crazy costumes. But it’s also got recipes for a delicious meatloaf and advice on how to deal with drunk guests. My favorite tip is that when you’re having a party, you should fill your medicine cabinet with marbles—so that when people are snooping, they get caught. I know that Amy really does like to entertain that way. Sometimes she’ll charge people 25 cents to take a picture with a stuffed rabbit. The book is hilarious, beautifully designed, and captures Amy in so many ways.” -AP
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
The autobiographical essays in this collection cover faith and family, booze, men, and self-love. They’re full of the small moments in Lamott’s life, the observations that make you laugh really hard and make you bawl really fast—two of my favorite activities. She talks about how the most popular prayers are ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ I’ve read all her work, and she continually surprises me and speaks to me. One of the lines from this book that I love is: ‘All you can do is show up for someone in crisis. Your there-ness…can be life giving, because often everyone else is in hiding.’ That’s just killer.” -AP
“When stories become iconic, you sometimes forget what made them so special in the first place. They can become the punch line to a joke. But A Tale of Two Cities not only has the best first line ever written—’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’—it’s got everything! The novel has wine, guillotines, revolution! It has the storming of the Bastille! It has Madame Defarge, one of the best villains in any literary novel. At the end, it’s got a little romantic switcheroo: One man stands in the place of another and dies for the woman he loves. The first line is fitting right now. It’s a very have and have-not time. It’s certainly the most hopeful period for our country but also a very bleak one for a lot of people.” -AP
Away by Amy Bloom
“This is the story of Lillian Leyb, a Russian immigrant making her way in a new land, traveling through America in the mid-1920s. Her daughter was taken away from her during a pogrom in Russia, and she feels this unbelievable mother’s pull to search for her child that keeps her going—literally—through woods and snow and over mountains. From minute one, you root for Lillian’s success because she’s this plucky heroine. I felt as if I were on the journey with her, so there were a couple of moments when I would just want to throw the book across the room and yell, ‘Amy Bloom, if you make Lillian suffer anymore, I am going to kill you!’ This is a sweeping story of someone new to America who runs into the best and worst of people. The kindness—and the harshness—Lillian finds along the way represents, I think, the real experience of our country.” -AP
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
“This is a strange book, but it’s strange because it’s packed with so many great characters. It’s the story of a little boy, Owen Meany, who has a peculiar voice and believes he is an instrument of God. He and his friend Johnny are on a Little League team when Owen hits a foul ball that kills Johnny’s mother. From that moment, the boys’ lives are intertwined. I could picture and smell and hear what Owen Meany was like. Irving captures the innocence of youth, of people growing up together and figuring out who they want to be, and discovering the pain of separation—that made the book great for me. It’s about faith and fate, and how you don’t know who the messenger is going to be.” -AP
(via O Magazine)