Everything you need to know about a person can be discovered by digging through their bookshelves. We read not only to reaffirm those parts of ourselves that we value but also to overcome the parts that we don’t. One of the reasons reading tablets haven’t done away with the humble bookshelf is that it has always been far more than a place of storage – rather, our shelves, whether they be packed with erudite literary novels or self-help books, are reflections of who we are as people. It was for this reason that Alanis Morissette was invited to sit down and discuss some of her favourite books of all time in a recent interview.
Speaking from her home, Morissette is framed by a gargantuan series of bookshelves, packed with so many tomes that the structure is practically quaking under the contained pressure. “I used to date someone who did not like the fact that I had this many books,” she begins, “So I used to hide all my books out of shame. And now, you might notice that I don’t have any shame and that I’m no longer with that person.”
Morissette begins by holding up a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s At Home in the World, an author she describes as “one of my favourite people in the entire world”. Thich Nhat Hanh is a peace activist and Zen Master, whose book is comprised of a collection of autobiographical teaching stories that span his life, from his childhood in war-torn Vietnam to his travels around the world. “Pretty much everything that comes out of Thich Nhat Hanh’s moth is pure inspiration for me,” says Morrissette.
Tossing the advice to never judge a book by its cover entirely out the window, the next book on Morissette’s list is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. “I was on tour in Australia and I remember walking into a book store, and I saw the cover and I put the book under my arm,” she says. “I was like ‘this cover is stunning, I don’t even know what the book is about.’ Anyway, I had an amazing time reading it.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with Gilbert’s story of self-discovery, it’s a book about a recently-divorced woman attempting to find the three things she feels are lacking in her life: pleasure, devotion and balance. It’s definitely one for the foodies.
More recently, Morissette has been reading a lot of critical theory and cultural analysis, especially that concerned with racial politics. Describing the importance of books like Sheila Wise Rowe’s Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience and Rhonda V. Magee’s The Inner Work of Racial Justice.
Speaking about her selections, Morissette said: “This is a time for learning and listening and research and learning about our history. I have been very clueless, to be perfectly honest, and these books have been very helpful in opening my eyes and opening my heart and filling me in on what’s really going on from a perspective that I need to know more about so that I can be an ally.”
Alanis Morissette’s favourite books:
- Thich Nhat Hanh – At Home in the World
- Thomas M. Campbell II and T. Colin Campbell – The China Study
- Pete Walker – Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving
- Elaine N. Aron – The Highly Sensitive Parent
- Dave Eggers – A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
- Harville Hendrix – Keeping the Love You Find
See Morissette discussing her chosen books, below.