Style

18 Absolutely Essential Summer Fashion Beach Reads

Replete with eating disorders, backstabbing, and cat drawings. Here’s how to make the most of your summer lounging, including suggested cocktail pairings.

1. The Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements

This isn’t out til July 1, but most definitely worth a pre-order. Clements, an ex-Vogue Australia editor, was fired after a 13-year tenure at the magazine, and therefore has no need to spare any gruesome details about the disturbing reality of fashion. “The only way [models] can get that thin is to stop eating. They eat tissue paper to stave off the hunger pangs – literally ball it up and eat it,” she writes. She also recalls asking one model how she was getting along with her roommate. The model replied, “Fine,” adding, “She’s a fit model so she is mostly in hospital on a drip.”

Suggested cocktail pairing: mudslide, to make up for all the calories those poor models don’t get to enjoy.

2. Alek: My Life From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel by Alek Wek

Model Alek Wek writes about how her family fled Sudan in the middle of a civil war, ended up in London, got discovered on the street one day, and then went on to become the face of Coach, Michael Kors, Nars, and lots of other major brands.

One Amazon reviewer says, “I’m not a fan of reading. I really only picked up Alek Wek’s book because she came to a book singing at my school… I sat the book down for several months, but, when I did pick it up over the Christmas break it gripped me.”

Suggested cocktail pairing: virgin Diet Coke — sobering like Wek’s story.

3. Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

The much anticipated sequel to this generation’s defining book about the hellish weirdness of a fashion career, Revenge Wears Prada checks in with Anne Hathaway Andy Sachs ten years after ditching Miranda Priestly. She’s running a high-end bridal magazine called The Plunge, marrying a male socialite, and dealing with Priestly’s grand re-entrance into her life — which occurs on a yacht during a party for a yacht magazine. What else could chick lit desire? Nothing.

Suggested cocktail pairing: margarita, because they appear more than once in the book and they sound so good every time.

4. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

If you haven’t read the original or just haven’t read it since it came out a decade ago, pick it up again! It goes by so fast you can read the whole thing in the time it takes to get a tan, anyway.

Suggested cocktail pairing: straight scotch. What would you want at the end of a day Miranda Priestly spent torturing you?

5. Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves by Crystal Renn

Plus-size model Crystal Renn delivers a first-person account of her estrangement from her parents as a child, move to New York to pursue modeling, and the ugly eating disorders that haunted her until an agent suggested she let herself gain weight and become a plus-size model — at which point her career completely takes off.

Suggested cocktail pairing: Champagne, to toast Renn’s happy ending.

6. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington

I recommend buying the physical copy of this just to own and the ebook so you can easily take it to the beach. It’s a brick of a thing, but beautifully illustrated with Coddington’s drawings, many of them cats. Notable chapters include the one on her boss, Anna Wintour, and the one about her cats. Yes, that’s a whole chapter devoted to cats. Apparently one would always jump on her lap when she was on the toilet. Who can’t relate to that?

Suggested cocktail pairing: rum punch, to go with her stories about fashion shoots in the Caribbean.

7. D.V. by Diana Vreeland

The legendary Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor’s breathless account of her life, complete with random stories about random celebrities (e.g. Jack Nicholson). It opens with the wonderful line, “I loathe nostalgia.”

Suggested cocktail pairing: Old fashioned. Because Diana Vreeland was ____.

8. The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

I wholeheartedly agree with The New Yorker — this is definitely the best book on Princess Diana (who’s not a pure-bred fashion person, per se, but a fashion icon worthy of inclusion on this list anyway). It’s incredibly well-researched and grippingly written. I couldn’t put it down.

Suggested cocktail pairing: iced tea spiked with vodka. Because who wants hot tea on the beach? Especially hot tea spiked with vodka because gross.

9. The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior

Seriously, this book will take you five minutes to read. It’s basically a pamphlet disguised as a book with a hard, fabric-wrapped cover. The text itself is a compilation of a bunch of fashion terms with Dior’s eminently quotable pronouncements about those things. From his entry on “Age,” for instance: “I would not advise anyone to wear big jewels and expensive furs before marriage.”

Suggested cocktail pairing: anything, so long as you take it to the beach in your vintage silver-plated Christian Dior flask. Admit it, you never get enough use out of yours anyway.

10. Gay Men Don’t Get Fat by Simon Doonan

Lots of fashion books have something to do with food/eating/dieting but this isn’t REALLY about averting food so much as the defining qualities of gay men like Doonan, which he riffs on as breezily and hilariously as he’d shun a straight bro at a BBQ in a terrible Tommy Bahama man-blouse.

Suggested cocktail pairing: virgin iced tea, in honor of the British Doonan’s alcohol-free lifestyle.

11. Front Row: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief by Jerry Oppenheimer

This is one of those books you can’t read enough times. The stories about Anna Wintour ditching her childhood friend, having no sense of humor, and going to afternoon luncheons wearing all black leather tickle the brain in the most delightful way. (Anna did not cooperate with Oppenheimer on this, but I have to think that made the book better because then he could say whatever he wanted.)

Suggested cocktail pairing: appletini, because Anna used to eat green apples for lunch as a schoolgirl.

12. Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton

This biography of Edie Sedgwick is told through the people who knew her, and includes detailed accounts of Andy Warhol’s bizarre Factory, of which Edie was once a treasured member. Again, this isn’t a pure fashion book but Edie is a fashion icon, and that aspect of her persona is interestingly explored.

Suggested cocktail pairing: vodka soda with lime, your standard NYC nightclub party girl drink.

13. Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion by Lauren Goldstein Crowe

One of the most influential fashion editors of her generation, Blow discovered genius designers Alexander McQueen and milliner Philip Treacy, the latter of whom helped the author with this book — the compilation of more than a hundred interviews, with plenty of quotes by Issie herself.

Suggested cocktail pairing: water. The hats alone will leave you feeling drunk.

14. House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival by Deborah Ball

If the photo of a young Donatella on the cover isn’t enough to make you want to quit life and read this immediately, well, what kind of person are you?

Ball tells the story of the iconic label through interviews with some of fashion’s most famous personalities, like Anna Wintour and Naomi Campbell. So put on something tight and uncomfortable and relax with this and…

Suggested cocktail pairing: a nice glass of Campari and tonic.

15. The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

This book traces the history of the Gucci label, which Guccio Gucci started in the 1890s, focusing on the family’s in-fighting and the murder of Guccio’s grandson that would plague the fashion dynasty for decades.

Suggested cocktail pairing: limoncello, in keeping with the Italian theme.

16. Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women by Michael Gross

If you’re in the mood for a mid-nineties tale of sex and drug scandals involving models — and who isn’t? — this book is for you.

Suggested cocktail pairing: cosmopolitan. Because if that’s not a chic ’90s drink, nothing is.

17. Modelland by Tyra Banks

Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one but my co-editor Alex Rees describes it as “the perfect novel for people who felt Harry Potter made too much sense.”

Suggested cocktail pairing: tequila shots, because there’s no logic to be had in this experience anyway.

18. Swan by Naomi Campbell

Full disclosure part two: I haven’t read this either but I fail to see how one could argue with the premise “five girls, and a dream to die for” that doubles as “the ultimate insider’s guide to what is hot with the supermodel sisterhood.” I just can’t work out why Naomi isn’t known for this seminal work of literature as much as she is for throwing phones at people.

Suggested cocktail pairing: dirty martini, because I’m guessing — WINK WINK — these girls don’t play clean.

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