Hello Dress Down readers!
In the immortal words of Johnny Mathis (and no fewer than 23 other recording artists as per Wikipedia), “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”!!! Not only is it time to hang out with the fam and head to some holiday parties, it’s also time to watch Elf and Love Actually obsessively (though Carolyn does not share my love of the latter), and eat chocolate every day (bless you, Advent calendar). On top of all of that, it’s a time for books, books and more books!
Publishers go into overdrive in the last few months of the year, pumping out prestige titles with big name authors, announcing literary awards, and dropping some big, beautiful books that are just perfect for gift giving. If you’re a last minute shopper like me, no worries! You’ve still got two weeks, and maybe a couple of these titles will fit the bill for someone on your list. If you’ve done your shopping already, maybe you’ll spot something on here that you can buy to Treat Yo’ Self…
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
Amy is one of my favourite people on this planet, and Parks and Recreation is my favourite show (if you’re not watching, I don’t want to know about it!). I could not contain my excitement when I learned she had a book coming out, and it truly did not disappoint. She drops enough backstage tidbits from her time with Upright Citizens Brigade, Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec to keep pop culture junkies happy, while also doling out some real life lessons. Stories of her friendship with comedian Seth Meyers are so sweet they made me cry, and her relationship with Tina Fey and how much they support and admire each other is aspirational. Amy is so smart, warm and funny, all I know for sure is: I want to be Amy Poehler when I grow up.
Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
It is an understatement to say Lena is polarizing, and people seem to love her or hate her. No matter what controversies get thrown at her, this stands as one of my favourite books of the year. Lena shows the same honesty and wit that is on display in her writing for her HBO show, Girls. When that started, I found every character hateful, and Lena herself eye-roll inducing. Somewhere along the way though, I have grown to love her, and not just for bringing Adam Driver into my life! She seems like a thoughtful person who is just trying to grow up and figure her shit out like everyone else, and she writes so frankly about her relationships with her loved ones, her body, and her mental health, that I cannot recommend this highly enough.
The Little World of Liz Climo, by… you guessed it, Liz Climo
Climo’s cartoons of various creatures from the animal world with very human observations are laugh out loud funny and punny.
This Charlotte’s Web cartoon is my personal favourite, and if you’re on my wavelength, you’ll love her wit.
I’ll Drink to That: A Life In Style, With a Twist, by Betty Halbreich
“There are two things nobody wants to face: their closet and their mirror.”
Words of wisdom from Betty, a true broad who, at 86, is telling the tales of her almost 40 years as the first personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. A young bride, she split from her husband after 20 years of his infidelities, hit rock bottom, and started life over. She became a legend, helping stars and socialites to find the perfect outfits, and dispensing witheringly honest life advice along the way. She stole the show in the documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs, and I only hope I can rock a turtleneck cape like a boss when I’m 86!
Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography, by Meryle Secrest
This book is beautiful. It’s so pink! In her heyday, Elsa Schiaparelli was as famous as Coco Chanel, who shaded her as “that Italian artist who makes dresses”. Schiaparelli was an innovator, using creative fabrics (otter fur bathing suit anyone?), and working with many famous collaborators, like Salvador Dali, who painted the Lobster Dress famously worn by Wallis Simpson.
Saying “I like to amuse myself, if I didn’t I would die.”, Elsa was an original multi-tasker, designing clothes, jewelry, perfume and shoes to name a few. Her life story is told, from growing up in luxury in Rome, to leaving that life behind for design, and escaping Europe for the US during World War II.
Vogue And The Metropolitan Museum Of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People, by Hamish Bowles
If you look forward to examining every detail of the extreme fashions of the annual Met Gala like I do, this book is for you. It chronicles the last 13 years in Met Gala history, combining photos from the exhibitions, with Vogue shoots and behind the scenes snaps from the ball; it’s full of beautiful ball gowns, and even more beautiful people.
For Pop Culture Junkies:
Scandals Of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, And Drama From The Golden Age Of American Cinema, by Anne Helen Petersen
I mean, doesn’t that subtitle alone sell it to you? Who doesn’t want to read about sex, deviance and drama from classic movie stars? I adore Anne Helen Petersen. She wrote her PhD dissertation on the history of the gossip industry, and writes so intelligently about Hollywood culture in her new-ish job as a long-form writer for Buzzfeed.
Scandals of Classic Hollywood was an engrossing series of columns Anne wrote for The Hairpin, and now there’s a whole book of intriguing, mostly new material.
Harry Potter: The Creature Vault, by Jody Revensen
If you, like me, never want to let Harry Potter go, and miss having new movies almost as much as the books, you should check out the Creature Vault.
It’s a behind the scenes look at how they brought all the cool and creepy creatures to life in the movies. From mandrakes, to mer-people, to Dobby!!! I am having a major nerd moment over this book.
Magic Colour Flair: The World of Mary Blair, by John Canemaker and Mary Blair
This book came out earlier this year, but I just flipped through it for the first time today, and these designs are gorgeous!
Mary Blair worked as an animator for Disney, creating concept art for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan in the ’50s. She also came up with the colourful and whimsical concepts for the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland. A must for animation and illustration fans.
Young Adults of All Ages:
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Twins Jude and Noah are closer than close until they reach age 13; then something happens to tear them apart. That something is the mystery that the book works towards revealing from their alternate perspectives. Noah tells the story when they are 13, when all he wants to do is draw and hang out with the new boy across the street. Jude’s perspective is told when they are 16. She’s a reformed wild child, and meets a boy who might just draw her out of her shell. The book covers love, loss and art in the most beautiful ways, and I had to read it slowly to savour it.
My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins
If you love a sweet, cornball holiday romance (and I do, I really do), you will adore this collection of short stories from 12 renowned young adult authors. There are so many great contributors, including Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park), David Levithan (Everyday), Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone), and editor Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss) for a start. From Christmas ghosts to humans and elves fraternizing at the North Pole; from a meet-cute in a Christmas Tree lot on Winter Solstice, to waiting years for a New Year’s kiss from that special someone, this collection is really sweet.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
This book is at or near the top of every year-end best of books list I’ve read so far, so pretty soon everyone will be asking if you’ve read it.
I’ve been trying to write a good synopsis, but Emily herself says it best: “My fourth novel is about a traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-￼￼￼￼apocalyptic North America. It’s also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, comic books, and knife-throwing.” Check out her site for more.
Us, by David Nicholls
I love his previous book One Day, so I was excited to read this and it didn’t disappoint. Connie tells Douglas she might want to split up their 25 year marriage just before they are set to take their 17 year old son Albie on a month long tour of Europe to see the great works of art. Connie and Albie are the artists in the family, and Douglas’s scientific mind doesn’t always mesh with their sensibilities. Needless to say, tensions are high at times during the trip, but there is a lot of humour along the way. Douglas chronicles the trip and also looks back at how his relationship with Connie started, and his challenging relationship with his son.