Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Books 2013: Let's Do This Thing

Here you go.
My top ten most stylish books of 2013. 
All picked with you and the people on your holiday list in mind.
And all still deliverable by Christmas if you act promptly.



A few facts about Lucien Freud:

1. He loved paint and sex and Earl Grey tea. 
2. He was ruthless and destructive and utterly charming.
3. He guarded his private life so jealously that he stopped two biographies from being published during his lifetime (the latter incident involved East End gangsters).

Well, now it's all here in intimate eye-popping detail. Over the last ten years of Freud's life, journalist Geordie Greig had breakfast with him regularly and Freud gradually opened up to him, allowing him to tape their conversations, interview his friends and family, and gain intimate access to all facets of his life. The result is a warts-and-all glimpse at a man who until the very end of his life kept everyone guessing.
(Available HERE.) 

(Lucian with daughter Bella, 1985. Photo by Bruce Bernard.)


What makes this book so effervescently magical is not just the apartment with all of its swoon-worthy luxury but the personal warmth of the owner and author, Howard Slatkin. 
In cheerful down-to-earth prose, he welcomes you into his home as if you were a dear friend and, room by room, reveals all the little details that can help transform an ordinary room into a cozy sanctuary. 

Admittedly, not many people have the resources to create a palace like his, but as Howard points out, it's not how much an object costs, it's about how it fits into your life. Every page is filled with tips and ideas to increase the comfort and style of your home, whether it be exalted or humble. Among my favorites is knowing that a thirty-inch-high coffee table is the perfect height for serving meals and playing board games -- Howard, I'm getting right on that.
(Available HERE.) 

(How genius is the miniature theater curtain on that painting?)


Ivan shot my upcoming design book so I have an extra-special fondness for everything he does. This book, an exclusive collection of photo essays shot over the past twenty years, grants the reader access into the intimate worlds of fashion designers and shows you how they really live--soulfully, poetically, and surrounded by inspiration. 

Maxime de la Falaise's New York apartment is a riot of color and coziness. Nicole Farhi's London garden is a portrait in shaggy chic. Coco Chanel's Paris home (yes, he went there!) is fifty shades of beige and a million kinds of elegant. From the décor to the works of art to the fascinating personal collections of these designers, these aren't just photographs, they're visual explorations in living authentically.

As Ivan says, " I have tried to capture the spirit of the homes of these great fashion designers because first of all they are true artists and as such whatever they touch, they do it with all their heart and skill. Their homes are where they find inspiration, nourish their creativity, nurse their doubts. It is the less public face of their world, it speaks eloquently of who they are when alone."  
(Available HERE.) 

(Manolo Blahnik's home in Bath, England.)

(Maxime de la Falaise's apartment in New York.)

(Nicole Farhi's London home.)


Derry Moore (a.k.a The Earl of Drogheda) has photographed some of England's most beloved celebrities in their favorite spaces, and the result is a fascinating testament to essence of the English room. In introductory essays, each subject explains their particular spot: for Jeannette Winterson, it's the magical history of Paris' legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop. For Alan Bennett, it's the rumpled coziness of his flat in Primrose Hill. And for Benedict Cumberbatch, it's the library at the members-only Garrick Club where his father used to take him as a little boy. 

Editor's Note: Check out Derry Moore's earlier series on English rooms (The Englishman's Room, The Englishwoman's Room and others) available at used bookstores  and online sites like Alibris. I have them all and still refer to them all the time. From Diana Cooper's bedroom in Little Venice to Dirk Bogarde's living room in Provence, they're an enduring paean to the distinctive qualities of an English room. 
(Available HERE.)

(Tino Zervudachi's vacation home in Hydra.)

( Jeannette Winterson's pick, Shakespeare and Company, Paris.)

(Cressida Bell's kitchen.)


"My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets. Streets to define you and streets to confine you, with no sign of motorway, freeway or highway. Somewhere beyond hides the treat of the countryside, for hour-less days when rains and reins lift, permitting us to be among people who live surrounded by space and are irked by our faces."

And so it begins. Wave upon wave of lyricism, hurtling you past a dreary childhood into the glittering heights and depths of rock stardom and beyond. Morrissey is devastatingly eloquent. His prose burns itself into your brain and smolders there. Whether you're a fan or not, this book is a stunner: it's a soul-baring look into a poetic man in a world that (to him) is devoid of poetry.
(US version available HERE. More explicit UK version available HERE.) 


This celebrated book has been on my wish list for a while, so when it was re-published a few months ago in a smaller softcover format, I jumped at it.  

Lovingly photographed by Simon Brown, these farmhouses, manors and grand estates are fertile ground for design inspiration. A dark red room pulses with warmth despite the gray winter sun. Tattered rugs and peeling wallpaper radiate a delicious shabby elegance. In this land, beauty doesn't fade with age, it intensifies...and if that's your primary takeaway from the book, I consider that more than enough.
 (Available HERE.) 


7. TRANSFORM YOUR HOME INTO A PLACE YOU LOVE THAT FITS THE WAY YOU LIVE. is one of my favorite design blogs and this handbook is filled with all the genius tips, how-to's and suggestions that I've come to treasure from them. In the opening pages, Julie Carlson and her team lay out their "Ten Rules to Live By" manifesto and then take the reader on a detailed tour of twelve very different houses that each embrace their pared-down aesthetic. (The chapter on building the ultimate IKEA kitchen is a revelation. Just saying.)

This is a book that really trains your eye to notice what works, what doesn't and why. Their obsession with details pays off big-time for the reader: I love their suggestion of using painters tape and see-through plastic covers to create a cool informal art display on a wall. And their "Remodelista 100", a list of their all-time favorite objects, should become the gold standard for every wedding registry.
 (Available HERE.) 


Jennifer Boles, the wunderkind behind the blog The Peak of Chic, has exhaustively researched the vintage rooms of legendary decorators to give us 100 of the leading design essentials behind  classic style. I love the way this book is laid out in dictionary format, making it brilliantly simple to find everything at once. What you immediately realize is that these objects and details have endured for very good reasons: Painted ceilings can add as much life to a room as a sunny sky. Sisal matting takes the edge off a room that's in danger of becoming too precious. Slipper chairs are the chairs that keep on giving--they add extra seating in a pinch and take up very little room. And as for the entry on "Evening Rooms", a civilized space designed to soothe nerves after a long day out in the world's glare, well, it'll make you want to create one in your own house ASAP.
(Available HERE.) 



Cult book designer Chip Kidd (you've seen his TED talk, haven't you?) has written an utterly charming guide for children on the basic principles of graphic design. Form, color, use of white space, and why type fonts matter, plus lots of fun projects like designing your own logo  -- it's all there. My friend bought it for her 11-year-old son and he insisted on bringing it in the car to read on the way to school. My son wants to read it too and he will -- as soon as he's able to pry it out of my hands (I'm almost done).
(Available HERE.) 


Originally published 65 years ago, "Exercises in Style" has been blowing people's minds ever since. Ostensibly an ode to creativity, the book's premise is breathtakingly simple: author Raymond Queneau takes an anecdote of the utmost banality and proceeds to tell it in ninety-nine different ways.  
(Available HERE.) 

Here's the original anecdote (most of it anyway):

And here are just a few variations:

Crazy amazing, right? 
Buy it for anyone who's ever said, "I'm plumb out of ideas."
Or "There's no other way to do it."
Or "I have writer's blah."
(Which includes me, by the way.)

This special anniversary edition includes homages by contemporary authors like Jonathan Leshem, Lynn Tillman and others.


Simple Good Beautiful said...

Thank you for the recommendations Lisa, I just ordered Queneau's book! My best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and an even better new year!


Lily said...

It's the perfect time of year for these books as we garland and ribbon our way around the house, playing dress up with corners of rooms that lie in shadow most of the year... I've got that one eyed squint surveying the dollhouse going on right now and your list of stylish gurus and their creations is so inspirational! And the fact that you get to pen a sentence like, "Ivan shot my upcoming design book..." is just too fabulous, talk about a Merry Christmas indeed!!
xx, Lily

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Simple Good Beautiful:
You will love the Queneau book. And happy holidays to you as well! xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Your words are pure poetry. May your holidays be the same. xx

Terra said...

These books sound fascinating, especially the one about English rooms and the out of print ones you mention about English women's rooms.

Frances said...

I am reading Breakfast with Lucian right now and thoroughly enjoying learning a bit more about one of my most favorite artists.

Thank you very much for the mentions of the other books. I am taking note!

Best wishes.

Howard Slatkin said...

Thank you so much Lisa for your praise of my book, I am hugely flattered and honored. Your blog is one of my longtime favorites, full of beauty, inspiration and wisdom so to have you include me in a post is the best possible Christmas present , thank you! Howard

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to next year when a certain design book by a certain blogger will certainly top my list! :) (Hint: her initials are LBG)

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Terra: Those old Derry Moore books really are the s***, pardon my language. There's also one called "The Englishwoman's Kitchen" that's not photographed by him but is filled with gems like Tamasin Day Lewis' country kitchen and photos of various baronesses of huge estates having strawberries on their endless lawn. I might have to do a future post on it, actually!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Frances: I hope you're reading it with Earl Grey tea! :)
Happiest of holidays to you, xxLisa

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Howard Slatkin:
The feeling is mutual! Your book is utterly inspiring. xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

klesterbacon: Aw shucks. :) xx

dervla kelly said...

welcome back! And thanks for this book list, i had several on my list, but not all ... can't wait for yours :))

vicki archer said...

Fantastic list Lisa... off to order... hopefully in time!
HAppy Christmas... xv

laura Madalene said...

I will definitely buy the magazine. Your topics are amazing and so well cared for. They are your babies. The photos are wonderful and so stylish. Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!
Christmas decoration ideas

sonia said...

Just read the review of the Morrissey book in the NYT today. I have to say, it was quite biting!

Helen James said...

Love that list have promptly ordered numbers 1,3 and 9. Already own 6&7.
Others on my wish list
Happy new year Lisa and look forward to all your amazing offerings in 2014

24 Corners said...

I'd like to be sitting in a Romantic Irish Home right about now reading number 10...a creative boost and some cozy Irish ambience would start the year off perfectly.
Thank you for continually providing your own 'excercises in style', that are always a joy to read.
Wishing you and your family a New Year full of every good and great thing
xo J~

katy gilmore said...

Thank you Lisa for all these wonderful suggestions - just ordered two as a new year's gift. And I, too, am looking forward to the simple list next year with lots of your book for many! xo

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