“I used to read on the tour bus to keep from missing my family,” says the country music star, whose new book is “Me & Patsy Kickin’ Up Dust,” about her friendship with Patsy Cline. “Now I read at night. I live way out and it gets real quiet.”
What books are on your nightstand?
My family Bible. My husband, Doolittle, gave it to me in 1966. I treasure that gift.
What’s the last great book you read?
I am loving those audiobooks. The older you get, the worse your eyesight becomes. My new favorite book is “The Shack,” by William Paul Young. It’s a good story and it shows how our ideas about God can be too narrow. When it first came out, it made a lot of people mad. Preachers were preaching against it and everything. I know a thing or two about controversy.
Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
Doesn’t the Bible count here?
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I used to read on the tour bus to keep from missing my family. I’d keep a notepad close by and scribble down the best lines. Now I read at night. I live way out and it gets real quiet. Books and stories are like friends that keep me company.
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Johnny Cash’s “Man in White.” It’s a historical fiction book about the life of Paul.
You were married before high school and never received a formal education, but you went on to write iconic country songs and several autobiographies. Have any books influenced your development as a writer or musician?
As a songwriter and writer it’s about information. Books are like photographs: They take you away to lands and open senses for you. You go to places you’ve never been, and meet people you may never have known. The biggest influence on my writing has been story songs. Mommy used to sing those and I thought they were great. The best songs I ever wrote tell a story.
Who are your favorite musician-writers? Your favorite memoir by a musician?
I love Bob Dylan. I love how he writes. “The Lyrics: 1961-2012.” I always loved Merle Haggard’s writing too. Both are great storytellers. Merle’s “My House of Memories” tells his story.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
I like learning about American history, especially the struggles of Native Americans. We mistreated them so bad. I want to read “The Round House,” by Louise Erdrich.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
I can’t say, but I know it when I see it. For me, I want to go somewhere different, feel something new and learn something I didn’t know. And if my friend Reese Witherspoon recommends a book, I know it’s gonna be good.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I can read anything, but I like to learn something new. We used to have a house in Mexico where I’d go read and think. Then I could come back home and see things fresh.
How do you organize your books?
Heck if I know. They’re all over the place. You should see my writing room. I’m not good at organizing.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Gwyneth Paltrow’s “The Clean Plate: Eat, Reset, Heal.” I’m not one to go for all that vegetarian stuff, but Gwyneth is a friend and it’s a real pretty book.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift? And the most inappropriate book you’ve ever received?
The best book I ever got was my family Bible my husband Doo gave me in 1966. It means the world to me. My daughter downloaded a dang vampire book on my iPad. It was nasty as heck and rated X. I made her remove it.
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?
I really don’t have one.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?
At our little schoolhouse in Kentucky we had all the basic storybooks. “Red Riding Hood” and things like that.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I wouldn’t. You build up people in your mind. I want to keep the stories as is and not know the ins and outs of their work.
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Self-help books make me crazy. Seems like everyone wants a quick fix. My advice is go outside, hug your child, and thank God you got to see another sunrise!
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
So many, but mainly “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” by Willie Nelson. Willie’s a good friend and I hear it’s a really good book. He wrote great songs, like my good friend Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” I will get to them someday, I hope.
What do you plan to read next?
“The Dutch House,” by Ann Patchett. My girls tell me it’s great. Ann’s a famous writer who lives right here in Nashville. She started this little bookstore called Parnassus Books. Everybody knows that place now. It’s famous. Now that my new book is coming out, I hope to meet her.