There are so many books on my nightstand. One of them is The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. He's the guy who did "The Alchemist." He's written some wonderful books called "Veronica Decided to Die" and "By the River Piedra I Sat and Wept." "The Zahir," I think, is slightly nonfictional. [It's] about him writing all these books and becoming successful, and his wife disappears. I'm only 40 pages into it, so I don't know what happened! I love his work, always have. It's so grounded but deals with such heavy topics. I'm also reading Beyond Words by Carol-Lynne Moore and Kaoru Yamamoto. It's a book I think I got when I was going to school at UCLA, one of those college books I never read when I was supposed to. I'm huge into kinesthetic awareness as a choreographer, dancer, and now judge on the show. It's about movement, observation, and analysis. When I lived in Japan when I was 18, I learned about body language because I learned I could so easily communicate with people even though I didn't speak the language at the time. It's all about the universal language of nonverbal communication. A book I just read, and recommend, is A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I read it in a day. Whether it's true or not, it doesn't matter. I didn't know that he claimed it as truth so I didn't come at it with any point of view. It was so uplifting and so engaging. The message is fantastic: "If you decide to do something, you can do it."
... Listening to?
I just got this new guy, [John Legend], who sings the song "Ordinary People." He's R&B. He's fantastic. My all-time favorite, I might have to say, is "Innocence" by Erasure. It's the one that has "A Little Respect," and "Chains of Love." That CD is my happy CD. If I just am having a day off and it's a beautiful day out and I want to clean my house ... that's what I listen to. Unhappy music? I listen to Damien Rice and I love Annie Lennox. I personally love dancing to music that has a very strong bassline, like Prodigy. I really don't think that I create movement as much as I find another melody and that's what the movements are for me. I'm kind of adding my own music line when I choreograph.
My three favorite films: Baraka, by a director named Ron Fricke. It's a nonverbal video or visual essay. It's a peek around the world, from sunsets to Buddhist monks praying to incense burning to people in Bali doing Kecak, the shoulder dance. It's a beautiful look at humanity. Then Whale Rider. My really closest friends told me to watch that movie. They said, "There's this movie and the little girl is just like you." I wished I was like her. My last favorite movie is Titus by Julie Taymor. It's like a choreographer's dream. Her aesthetic is amazing. It's a weird strange mix of history and pop ideals. She really understands camera movement, lighting movement, people's movement.
• Carrie Ann Inaba is one of Hollywood's leading choreographers. ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' airs Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m., EST.