must reads: april

Friends, I have such a tremendous stack of Must Reads for you this spring! Truly, I haven’t seen this many amazing new titles cross my desk in a very, very long time. I’ll have more for you in a few weeks, but so far, these are the stories I can’t put down.

Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me – Patricia Volk’s new memoir has a strange premise, and I was skeptical. But I ended up utterly entranced. As a child, Volk recalls her father buying designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s perfume, Shocked, for her mother every year, remembering the bottle, the fragrance and the gift’s presentation in exquisite detail. She then stumbles upon a biography of Elsa and is taken by her approach to life, a completely different perspective from the one she receives from her mother. It’s a stunning portrait of her home life, interwoven with Elsa’s life, but the pieces I love best are the details about what it meant to be a woman of style in the 1950s. There’s a fantastic scene where Patricia and her mother go to have a fur coat made, and she details the entire experience: her mother teaching her how to choose pelts, all of the work and multiple fittings, but also how it felt, and what it clearly meant to her mother to go through the process. If you have any love of memoirs or curiosity about fashion the way your grandmother would have experienced it, it’s a must.

The Secretary – Most of you don’t know this, but besides my former lawyering, I had a brief fling with politics. It ended in a fiery crash of disaster suitable for a Lifetime movie, and I still develop a nervous tic when someone tries to talk shop with me, ten years later. But talk to me about Hillary Clinton, and my eyes will still light up like the idealistic ingenue I once was. I can’t get enough of her no-nonsense, balls-out approach to power, and I want to know more, more, more about this woman who can weather any storm and rise to any (almost…oh, so very close!) height. While wearing a scrunchie, even! Kim Ghattas’ new memoir of her time covering the Secretary of State’s tenure for the BBC is every bit the insider’s view I’d hoped it would be. Packed with details about every major event Clinton presided over, the whole thing is incredibly well-written and honest, yet respectful. Modern history buffs and fans of women in power, this one’s for you.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris. For some of you, that’s all you had to hear – you’re clicking to buy this very moment. But for me…Sedaris and I haven’t always gotten along. I find him funny, sure, but I always felt there was a lot of wading through minutiae to get to that great one-liner in each story. But not this time. I can’t tell if I’ve changed or if he has, but his latest is hilarious, for the most part, peppered with subtle jabs and full-blown, laugh-out-loud moments. He still didn’t get every laugh he wanted out of me, but we’re definitely on the right track. I’d suggest reading with a glass of wine in one hand, and a friend sitting nearby to whom you can read particularly hilarious passages aloud. Isn’t that what humor books are for?

As Sweet As Honey – If you’re looking for a novel to whisk you away to distant shores, Indira Ganesan’s latest is your ticket. Set on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, it paints stunning pictures of a slice of the world most of us aren’t likely to see, and a culture whose customs and colors are so bright, strong and full of life, you can’t help but be dazzled. As Sweet As Honey is the story of a woman who doesn’t quite fit into her native culture, trying to navigate a path between her family’s hyper-traditional expectations and a more progressive way of life. This is a character novel at its very best – by the second chapter, you can actually see every person that walks into the room in your mind’s eye.

What are you reading this month?

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