1. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden (Penguin, $17).

Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskeyjack, the protagonists of Joseph Boyden's 2005 novel, are two Cree men who served as snipers in the Canadian army during World War I. I read the book in one sitting — literally could not put it down. It is a punch to the gut — an absolutely brilliant novel, not for the faint of heart.

2. The Collected Essex County by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf, $30).

This is my favorite graphic novel. The Essex County stories, which follow three generations of a farming family in Ontario, helped me understand that the possibilities of the graphic novel reach beyond anything I had ever imagined. Simple, human, touching, and funny.

3. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Riverhead, $16).

In McBride's National Book Award–winning novel, John Brown's plot to raid Harper's Ferry unfolds through the eyes of a young ex-slave who dresses himself as a girl to escape detection. Traveling "incog-negro," as he puts it, Henry Shackleford journeys with the militant abolitionist across the country. If you ask me, Mark Twain can kiss McBride's butt.

4. Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars by David Roberts (Touchstone, $25).

The story of the Apache Wars needs to be told again and again until the names Geronimo and Cochise are as familiar to young American ears as Washington and Lincoln. Indeh would have been impossible to write without the brilliant research and writing David Roberts poured into Once They Moved Like the Wind. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the Southwest.

5. Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco, $16).

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Patti Smith recently at the Tribeca Film Festival. If you have any doubts that the punk pioneer is also one of the greatest living American poets, this book will put them to rest.

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Oxford, $10).

I read Anna Karenina backstage during a 2006 Lincoln Center production of Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia, a nine-hour epic about mid-19th-century Russian radicals. So I read most of it in full Russian period costume. My advice is to re-create these circumstances whenever possible.

Ethan Hawke, Oscar-nominated for his roles in Boyhood and Training Day, has written four books, including a new graphic novel. Indeh, which tells the story of a young Apache brave who comes to be known as Geronimo, has just been published.