This holiday season, make her laugh, make her cry or make her think. But certainly make her curl up with a great book.
“High priestess of fashion” Diana Vreeland may have transformed Vogue into the bible of contemporary American style, but she is also known for her way with words. In Diana Vreeland Memos, Vreeland’s grandson Alexander has collected more than 250 memos and letters from her nine years as Vogue editor-in-chief to reveal the woman through her own voice. Nine chapters focus on Vreeland’s strengths and passions, from her management style to her vision of the future. Each chapter opens with notes from Vogue editors who worked with Vreeland, and images from Vogue complement the text. There is humor here, as in one particularly concerned note: “The sticky situation with fringe is, of course, extremely serious.” There is poetry as well, as in a short memo on the world’s “hidden anger,” manifesting itself on our skin and in our hearts. Who would have thought that glorified Post-Its would be this interesting? Memos is surprisingly appealing as an intimate look into the frivolity, vision and creativity of Vreeland’s Vogue.
NOT SUGAR AND SPICE
From the “shiny happy ladies” of Jezebel.com comes The Book of Jezebel, an encyclopedic guide to “lady things,” providing insightful and hilarious commentary on pop culture, politics, history and just about everything relating to women. This A-to-Z compendium of feminist “fact and opinion” contains more than a thousand entries ranging from abortion rights to zits, and is accompanied by funny, often shameless photographs and illustrations. There are also full-page taxonomies of nice guys and famous spinsters, the Periodic Table for your period, a brief history of pants and quite possibly the most accurate depiction of a tube top in all of recorded history. This book is serious fun, whether you’re flipping quickly for a snort-worthy one-liner (from the definition for librarian: “[I]n popular culture, a quiet brunette with glasses, hiding a slammin’ body and a libido set to eleven under that cardigan and tweed skirt”) or want to dig into the bio of a fearless performance artist.
Knitting is no longer Granny’s game. Writes Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and editor of Knitting Yarns: “Knitting is hot, and shows no signs of cooling.” During a period of great loss, Hood found a way to cope with her grief through knitting’s calming, steady rhythm. But that’s only Hood’s story, and in Knitting Yarns, she has collected original essays (and one poem) from 27 best-selling and beloved writers. Some are practical, like Sue Grafton’s “Teaching a Child to Knit,” while others tell stories of pain and hope, like Ann Patchett’s “How Knitting Saved My Life. Twice.” Others trace the bonds between mothers and daughters, as with Joyce Maynard’s “Straw into Gold.” And after reading, you can knit some super-cute fingerless gloves using one of the six knitting patterns included in the book.
LADIES OF LITERATURE
We all remember the first time we read about Catherine Earnshaw falling irreparably in love in Wuthering Heights or about Edna Pontellier approaching the water in The Awakening. We remember how our favorite female characters transformed us, terrified us and enchanted us. Painter Samantha Hahn shares her own vision of 50 of literature’s most beloved heroines in Well-Read Women. Hahn’s watercolor paintings, each accompanied by hand-lettered quotations, evoke the tragedy, fierceness or innocence of characters ranging from Anna Karenina to Jane Eyre. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables holds the reader’s gaze, while Little Women’s Jo March couldn’t be bothered to put her shoes on. Other women nearly vanish into the soft bleed of watercolor, as with Middlemarch’s Dorothea Brooke, who is little more than the silhouette of her chin and one clever eye. Both a collection of striking artwork and classic quotations, Well-Read Women is a visual and literary delight.
AT HOME WITH LAUDER
Luxury and comfort blend perfectly in the gorgeous Beauty at Home. Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of Estée, takes readers into her office and her homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons to share classic inspiration from every inch of her life. Books this beautiful often feel dominated by the fantasy—who has the time or the money? But with Beauty at Home, Lauder tempers her extravagance with down-to-earth suggestions for mac’n’cheese and hostess gifts. Her boys’ rooms look refreshingly livable, with their artwork proudly displayed on the walls. After all, Lauder is a working mom, and while she clearly lives in a dream world, she still provides readers with the sense that clean simplicity can be incorporated into any woman’s life, no matter how busy. Lauder is as inspiring and savvy as her grandmother, but with a contemporary twist.
The original bad girls of psychological suspense come together in Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, an anthology of 14 short stories edited by Sarah Weinman. From the 1940s through the ’70s, long before thriller fans fell in love with haunting tales by Gillian Flynn and Tana French, a generation of now-unknown female writers turned the male-dominated crime fiction genre into a stomping ground for stifled wives exploring their desperate domestic situations. Weinman introduces the stories with a fascinating history of female mystery writers and their connections to both the feminist movement and the evolution of the genre. These writers transformed ordinary life and “pesky women’s issues” into slow-burning thrillers that not only entertained but also announced a voice for the women of the mid-20th century.