Feminine Psychology and Neurosis and Human Growth by Karen Horney (Norton, $20 each). Where does a young Latina in the 1950s find a healthy feminine role model? Struggling to figure out who I was, I eagerly read an article by German psychoanalyst Karen Horney — later published in Neurosis and Human Growth — on what she called "the tyranny of the should." Her writings helped change the course of my life. Intentionally or not, Dr. Horney was a trailblazer of the feminist movement.

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm (Harper Perennial, $15). Hollywood heat and sexual attraction do not a lasting relationship make. Psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm made me realize that enduring love takes hard work and the committed discipline of a bodybuilder. Fromm distills the elements of true love: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge of the other person.

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan (Ballantine, $15). Usually it's impossible to understand the difficulty of cultural change unless you've lived it — in my case by leaving the island of Puerto Rico for the shores of big America. In this 2001 novel, Amy Tan shows how human experience differs in American and Chinese cultures, exposing the reader to a level of insight usually only known experientially. A must-read.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (Harper Perennial, $16). Hearing my late husband, Lenny, laugh out loud while reading this book made me so curious that I couldn't wait for him to finish. "Stop kvetching and buy your own copy," Lenny said. So I did. Michael Chabon's novel about an imaginary Jewish settlement in Alaska is infused with colorful detail, humor, and many surprises.

Ironweed by William Kennedy (Penguin, $15). The plight of the homeless and the disenfranchised of any society is troubling — especially in America, where these people are often nearly invisible. We might even step over them on the way to the grocery. Ironweed, though a hard read, exercises the soul and brings to life the themes of grace, empathy, and redemption.

— During a six-decade performing career, Rita Moreno has won an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy, and two Emmys. In Rita Moreno: A Memoir, she details her upbringing, her years in Hollywood, and her struggle to break barriers in art and life