Amy Poehler's Favorite Books Include Shockingly Dramatic Reads

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Amy Poehler's iconic performances at the highly acclaimed "Saturday Night Live" have left many of us laughing out loud (some with tears). Her role as Leslie Knope in the sitcom "Parks and Recreation" further branded her fame as an established actor and comedian. After 17 nominations, Poehler finally won an Emmy in 2016. Since her name has been associated with everything funny and comedic, it comes as a surprise that some of her favorite books are actually dramatic reads.

Indeed, Poehler is an enthusiastic reader, and while growing up, she felt that reading books was her way of experiencing new things and dealing with loneliness. As she told O Magazine, "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."

Poehler sometimes shares her favorite books on social media or in interviews and features. Contrary to what one might expect, some (though not all!) of her favorite books are not light comic reads but rather deal with the bigger issues of life, deep themes like good vs. evil, and the difficult decisions we are forced to make when life calls for it. From Anne Lamott's autobiographical essays to Amy Bloom's "Away," Poehler's favorite reads might just make it to your reading list too, especially if you're pursuing a reading goal.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Amy Poehler is a voracious reader who also ventured into the literary world with her memoir "Yes, Please." She used "Just Kids" by Patti Smith, which she describes as "beautiful and poetic," as the high standard that inspired her, but of which her own attempts might fall short, as she admits in the book's preamble.

Truth be told, Smith gave the world a good memoir that landed in Poehler's recommended reads, and quite justifiably so. Smith's memoir won the 2010 National Book Award in the Non-Fiction category and, since its publication, has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful memoirs of all time. 

The book follows Smith's romantic relationship with the rising artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the bustling New York City of the '60s. A love story at its core, the memoir also recounts the couple's struggles as they rise to fame and success. As they navigate their way to stardom, Mapplethorpe and Smith rub shoulders with several famous and infamous figures of the art scene of those times. Smith does an excellent job of bringing alive the unconventional fringe of the '60s era — the period that gave the world legendary figures such as the Beatles and Andy Warhol. 

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

"Traveling Mercies" is a collection of autobiographical essays by author Anne Lamott. In it, Lamott candidly discusses her experiences with faith, motherhood, and self-growth. "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," Amy Poehler revealed to O Magazine.

Although it is a national bestseller, it is easy to slip through your radar as not many people discuss "Traveling Mercies" on BookTok and social media. In her book, Lamott discusses the topic of faith. Still, unlike other "self-help" books, Lamott's essays do not make you feel disconnected or subpar or like you are being preached to. Far from that, "Lamott is so open and funny and honest about her own shortcomings and insecurities that you feel connected. She takes away the mystery of things like writing or religion or motherhood and makes you feel included in a very human way," Poehler admitted.

Even though this is a book about faith, it appeals to believers and non-believers alike precisely because it helps readers connect with her and her brutal honesty about life's greatest struggles. Lamott's faith does not imply that God is the answer to everything. She faced several struggles and found her faith despite of them — not because she hoped that God was the solution. And in the process, she also restored her faith in herself and her ability to lead a good and meaningful life.

Away by Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom's "Away" is an epic road trip in the vast terrains of the USA unlike any other. Set in 1924, Lillian Leyb is forced to flee Russia and seek refuge in New York after a pogrom has butchered her entire family. An orphan, a widow, and a mother of a child she assumes to be dead, Lillian struggles to survive, doing anything and everything it takes. She has already been through hell and back, so nothing compares to what she experienced in Russia. And then she discovers that her daughter might be alive, and travels from New York to Chicago and Alaska, sometimes smuggled on trains, sometimes hidden on ships and sometimes on foot.

Throughout her journey, Lillian meets the characters that make Bloom's book fascinating and the story so riveting. From sketchy individuals to Yiddish bosses to correctional facility residents, we follow the heroine's desperate attempts to find her daughter and the group of misfits that makes their reunion possible. 

As Amy Poehler told O Magazine, "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."

Mr. Pine's Purple House by Leonard P. Kessler

Amy Poehler is a very busy woman indeed, but she always finds time to connect with her children. One of the ways she does this is by reading to them every night. "We read all the time. They love books. It's really important, as you guys know, to read books. It's fun to read them. Especially when you're a working mother, it feels like a really good [way] to connect at the end of the night, to talk to them without forcing them to talk to you," she told 5 Minutes for Mom.

More specifically, she loves reading to them her favorite book, "Mr. Pine's Purple House" by Leonard P. Kessler. "My favorite kids' book is called 'Mr. Pine's Purple House.' It's a book about a guy who paints his house purple, and everybody else copies him in the neighborhood, and he gets all mad about it," Poehler shared with the website. "I think I just liked it for personal reasons." We can only assume what the actor's personal reasons are, but this is a book that has touched the hearts of many kids and adults alike. Although not on the list of the best new books you may have missed (it was published in 1965!), it is certainly a book you must read no matter how old you are.