5 Life-Changing Books That Inspired Meryl Streep to Live Her Most Colorful Life
As one of the most renowned and respected American actresses, Meryl Streep’s long-lasting career is an inspiring and impressive one
As one of the most renowned and respected American actresses, Meryl Streep’s long-lasting career is an inspiring and impressive one at least. Because of her captivating ability to take on a vast variety of roles and adopt accents effectively, it’s no wonder she holds the record nomination for Academy Awards, with 21 under her belt, three of which, she took home. She’s also been nominated for 31 Golden Globes and won eight of them, more than any actor. All of these accolades have awarded her prestigious recognition—from the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award.
In general, Streep tends to keep her personal life just that, but has sometimes shared tidbits about those things that bring her joy. One of those is literature — especially since many written works inspire the films she acts so beautifully in. Though she hasn’t been quite as outspoken as other actors about what’s on her bookshelf, we were able to dig up some information to inspire your book-buying habits. After all, who doesn’t want to embody the wisdom of Streep?
The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
Streep is honest about how much she read of this timeless classic, sharing she didn’t quite finish the book since it’s not the type of thing she thought she’d be interested in. However, she was proven wrong when two legendary influences in the entertainment industry convinced her otherwise. While chatting about the experience of making this iconic novel into a movie in the documentary, ‘An Old Fashioned Love Story: Making ‘The Bridges of Madison County,’ she shared: “…Then my friend Carrie Fisher gave Clint Eastwood my home phone number and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It’s a book about their dreams — and they’re dreams not really meshing.”
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Infamous—and beloved—author and journalist Anna Quindlen has written many masterpieces, one of which Streep can’t get enough of. This story details the life of a successful magazine writer in New York City who finds out her mother is dying of cancer. To care for her, she leaves her high-paying gig and her fancy life to spend the last days with her family. For the first time, this writer feels connected to her mom who was more traditional than ambitious. The story takes twists and turns, and it’s one that Streep had to be part of. As she shared in the documentary ‘Making Of: One True Thing’: “When you have a favorite book, you feel like you own it in some way. When there was news that they were gonna make a film of it, I called my agent and said ‘find out about that.’”
You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins
If humor is your prefered genre of books, then you can steal this one from Streep’s collection that definitely gives a refreshing look at aging and the pressures females face from society. Streep thanked Nevins for writing an ‘honest story about women’: “Thank you to Sheila Nevins for putting all this down for posterity. Women need this kind of honest excavation of the process of living.” So what’s it about? As a famed documentary producer and president of HBO Documentary Films for more than 30 years, she—hilariously—goes through the types of issues every female professional faces. This includes dealing with men at the top level, what it feels like to be a working mother, how to stay relevant in a world that focuses on youth, and of course, marriage, feminism and children.
The Sign on Rosie’s Door by Maurice Sendak
On this author’s 80th birthday tribute, Streep proudly read an excerpt from this iconic book, detailing how powerful she found the pages. “There was a sign on Rosie’s door that said, ‘If you want to know a secret, knock three times.’ One day, Kathy, Rosie’s good friend, knocks three times and learns the secret—that Rosie is no longer Rosie, but Alinda, the lovely lady singer. What follows is the story of real children, playing as only children know how,” she raved. For a look into the world of children and how they experience life, Sendak says no one can quite capture their magic like Sendak, who masterfully weaves together sentences.
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
In this book, readers follow along the story of a young actress who goes through the difficult process of drug rehabilitation from a ‘drug hospital.’ Written by late actress Carrie Fisher, best known for her role in Star Wars, the story weaves through the world of Hollywood effortlessly. It’s one that Streep related to greatly, sharing with 92Y: “The book was so well written. Then the screenplay came and it was really sharp, amazing, and interesting, and filled with so many interesting illusions. I also that this [story] sounded like me.”
Morning Song by Sylvia Plath
Though she didn’t share her own perspective on this poem, she did choose it to read out loud at the Academy of American Poets annual Poetry & the Creative Mind. Perhaps something about this brilliant words of Plath touched Streep: “Love set you going like a fat gold watch. The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry. Took its place among the elements. Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. In a drafty museum, your nakedness Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. I’m no more your mother. Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow. Effacement at the wind’s hand. All night your moth-breath. Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen: A far sea moves in my ear. One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral In my Victorian nightgown. Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square. Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try. Your handful of notes; The clear vowels rise like balloons.” You can find the entire poem within the “Ariel” collection.
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