At the beginning of the year we asked some of our Ladies for the books that they found most helpful and inspirational in their lives—what they would recommend to someone who was looking for a little guidance in life. In our own flurry of resolutions and dramatic changes at the start of the year somehow these recommendations were misplaced but now seem especially worth revisiting as we approach the halfway point of 2017. The answers to the questions in our lives often come from the most unexpected places: not the #1 best-selling productivity book, but the novel you come across at a beach rental; not the diet book every magazine recommends, but the memoir you pick up for fun. - LMH
Fabiola Alondra, Gallery Owner & Bookmaker
Cosmos by Carl Sagan (1980)
Cosmos by Carl Sagan puts it all into perspective. Reading it makes me feel connected to the wonders and mysteries of the universe. I like thinking about the vast scale of the cosmos and realizing that we are not as special as we think we are. We are specks of dust floating in a vast and endless cosmic ocean. I find comfort knowing that we are insignificant in the grand scale of things.
It's a beautiful thing.
Maayan Silberman, Candymaker at Sweet Saba
Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson (1980)
When I was a kid, my Mom and her sisters each got a copy of this book and it sat on our coffee table as a life handbook for years. Color Me Beautiful is a system built to help you find your "season" or color palette, which would in turn direct you to the right outfits, makeup, career, and lifestyle. Finding out at such a young age that I was a deeply rooted Winter helped me make decisions as I grew up, gave me security in style choices, and reassured women in my family that regardless of trends or fashion, you have to go with what makes you stand tall with your head up. Rereading this kitschy book as a grown woman is funny, but I can see very clearly that I owe much of my confidence and success to the lessons I learned from Ms. Jackson.
Jenna Sauers, Writer
Heroines by Kate Zambrano (2012)
I have loved Kate Zambreno's Heroines since it was first published several years ago, but it took on special meaning to me this year, because it was the book I found myself returning to while I was working on my MFA thesis at the University of Iowa. In fact, for many months Heroines was the only book, other than those I was consuming for my research, that I felt any inclination to read. Heroines is a hybrid, almost unclassifiable nonfiction text—a sprawling, essayistic, polemical, biographical project that focuses on women like Zelda Fitzgerald and Vivienne Eliot, who contributed enormously to Modernism—but were silenced, dismissed, pathologized, reduced to "muse" or "wife-of" status, and mostly forgotten. I think what led me again and again to the pages of Heroines in those very dreary months when I was working on my thesis, was the singularity and fierceness of Zambreno's relationship to her female subjects—how protective she is of them, how she manages to be so partial and yet so unsparing, and how she never shies away from questioning and implicating herself and her role, either. Any time I needed to clear the brush away in my own head, I would pick up Heroines, open it to a random chapter, and read a few pages. It helped.
Laura McLaws Helms, Fashion & Cultural Historian
Blood Memory by Martha Graham (1991)
After a difficult year that left me creatively bewildered and uninspired, I was gifted this by my mentor. Graham’s depth of understanding about the creative process, particularly for a woman, is unsurpassed. She’s intense, passionate, disciplined—she exists completely in the present, in the movement of the body. As a writer it is very easy for me to get lost completely in my head and disassociate from my body, yet through Graham’s words (dictated before her death in 1991) I have rediscovered the importance of existing in my body and allowing my creativity to bloom outwards through that. The emphasis on strict practice (of dance, of writing, of life) tempered with passion has created a new locus in my days; less of my head, more of my heart and body. “All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living.”
Fiorella Valdesolo, EOC of Gather Magazine
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron (1992)
One of my art teachers in high school first gave me Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way and it's something I've returned to again and again over the years for guidance. Her notion of the weekly "artist date" (a solo outing to explore anything that sparks your interest with the goal of feeding your creative well) is something I continue to practice and have found hugely helpful.
Lisa Mayock, Fashion designer for Monogram
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (1974)
I read Where the Sidewalk Ends—a poem collection by Shel Silverstein—with frequency to my children and I always find both the words and drawings so uplifting. They underscore the importance of being silly and the therapeutic feeling of getting out of your own head for a while. Silverstein himself was also a singer, satirist, screenwriter... he reminds me that the world is wide open and there are an infinite number of paths to take.
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