Monday, January 25, 2016

For the Love of Books and Reading: A Journey Around My Library

Happy New Year. I wish all of my dear Readers inspired reading and exciting books.

This week, it’s all about books. I was inspired by recent passionate conversations with friends about the books they’ve been reading. I’ve been re-reading and loving ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (inspiration for the Visconti film). I'm in the middle of 'The Garden of the Finzi-Continis' and then onward to Dorothy L. Sayers and 'Gaudy Night'. Then more research on India.

This week we’re taking a private visit to my library. I photographed some of my favorites. There are books on India from Bahrison's in Delhi, as well as Mr. Jain's bookshops in Jaipur, India, as well as art and design books, reference, fiction, books by friends, photography volumes, biographies, and stack of Persephone Books volumes

I propose that you make a pot of tea (green or Darjeeling). Or chill a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and pour a glass or two. This is longform, with lots of detail. If you’re in a hurry, please bookmark.

Below I have an extensive list of my favorite book sources, online newspapers with great book sections, and sites with essential information on new books, authors, upcoming books, catalogs, rare books, and special interest books. Yes, I’m obsessed with books.

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you. –W. Somerset Maugham

Heywood Hill

I want to introduce you to the great Heywood Hill book shop in London—and it’s great programs of ‘A Year in Books’, ‘Expat Selections’. Those who love books and love to find new books will be happy for this discovery. Over the holidays I ordered a Heywood Hill book selection by author/potter Edmund de Waal. Above are the books that arrived…some unwrapped and some still in the Haywood meticulous be-ribboned packages.

Some Recent Favorite Books, Trusted Book Sources, Inspiration, and New Authors to Discover

I’ve gathered a fantastic collection of bookshops, book websites, book review magazines, catalogs, and vivid sources for information on books.

Yes, I love They sell lots of my books—and I reciprocate by ordering many books from Amazon (often at midnight before I turn off my computer). I love the idea of ordering months in advance on Amazon—and anticipating.

Every day I read and research trusted sources—The New York Times, NPR, The Guardian (which has a fantastic books section and blog and newsletter), New York magazine, The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the Financial Times and many opinionated international publications. And NPR is a fantastic source for new books of compelling interest.

In San Francisco, I love Browser Books (my neighborhood bookshop), as well as Russian Hill Books. And no week passes without a stop at the greater-than-great Green Apple bookshops on Clement Street in the Richmond. 

I often stop in late in the evening at City Lights in North Beach to find their latest picks, or paperbacks or arcane beat and culture books. The ghosts of Ginsberg and Kerouac hover.

In Paris, I stop in every day at the oldest European bookshop, Gallignani on rue de Rivoli, to peruse art and design books (they always have copies of my books there), as well as an amazing collection on international royalty, fashion, French literature and English literature. If you’re lucky, Karl Lagerfeld will dash in and scoop up all the new books (with his bodyguard to carry the bags).

In the summer, I walk over to Shakespeare & Company, and there’s often a reading, a signing, a lauded poet to meet. Head upstairs and someone night be playing the piano, or snoozing on an old sofa. The book selection charges through English and French literature, history, culture, and poetry. A must.

I discovered historic Bertrand in Lisbon, Powell’s City of Books in Portland (chaotic and fantastic). One of the most beautiful is Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, with its Art Nouveau interiors and romantic mood. And in Italy, a chic stop must be made to Corso Como Bookshop in Milan, for definitive volumes on fashion, style and design.

Book Sources I Love

Rizzoli Bookstore
1133 Broadway (in NoMad), near Madison Square Park, New York

I’m delighted to say that Rizzoli is my publisher—so I’m a little bit biased. I love Rizzoli, and was so happy when this chic and elegant new bookstore opened last year. Specializes in an international host of illustrated subjects – fashion, interior design, art, architecture, photography, design – and literature, in Italian, French, Spanish, and English. All subjects of general interest and many publishers are represented, along with European magazines and newspapers. Be sure to pick up a copy of my latest book, ‘Jean-Louis Deniot Interiors’ for inspiration.

Heywood Hill
10 Curzon Street, Mayfair, London

I recently stayed at The Beaumont hotel in Mayfair—and discovered that the astonishing collections of books in each suite had been curated by Heywood Hill. Bookshop specialists work closely with hotelier Jeremy King to find vintage books on London history, and definitive books on chic Londoners. And if you’re not in London, you can order signed books, but also ‘A Year in Books’ (a fantastic gift), as well as recommendations from trusted ‘readers’ like Jayne Wrightsman who last August recommended ‘Napoleon the Great’ by Andrew Roberts. Stoker Devonshire recommends ‘The Ash Tree’ by Oliver Rackham. David Mlinaric proposes ‘Noisy at the Wrong Times’ by Michael Volpe.

The last time I visited Heywood Hill, I glanced at shelves of neatly wrapped books adjacent to the biographies section, and noted labels such as ‘Haslam’, Astor, and ‘Buccleuch’, and ‘Devonshire’ and ‘Blenheim’. It happens they’d all been paid for by these notables, who, I was told, would eventually come and pick them up. I love London, and I adore Heywood Hill.

Persephone Books
59 Lamb's Conduit St, London (Bloomsbury)

Founded by Nicola Beauman to publish mid-century women writers, Persephone Books offers 115 volumes, beautifully presented with exclusive endpapers. I propose: email Francesca Beauman and ask her to send a sample of her top ten bestsellers. Below are some of her recent recommendations.

Notes from Francesca Beauman: — Persephone Books highlights:

The Home-Maker (1924) by Dorothy Canfield Fisher: One of the best-selling books of the 1920s, this ahead-of-its-time novel is about a New England husband and wife who swap roles so that he stays at home and she goes out to work, and the positive effects this has on their children.

To Bed with Grand Music (1946) by Marghanita Laski. A novel about sex during wartime. This near-harlot’s tale shows a completely different side of the Second World War to anything you’ve read before. The endpaper is taken from a Jacqmar scarf, c.1940, in a private collection.

The Blank Wall (1947) by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. A thriller by “The top suspense writer of them all” (Raymond Chandler) about a mother is accused of murdering her daughter’s lover.

How To Run Your Home Without Help (1949) by Kay Smallshaw. A housework manual which tells the newly servantless housewife what to do and is a perfect gift for the newly-wed in need of some guidance or the son or daughter who has just left home; a fascinating and at times hilarious historical document.

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven (1945) by Mollie Panter-Downes. Short stories written for the New Yorker between 1939 and 1945 about domestic life during the war. The endpaper is a 1941 fabric called ‘Coupons’, which shows women’s clothes against a repeat of '66', the number of clothes coupons allowed a year when clothes rationing was in force.

Longitude Books

Longitude specializes in a very diverse range of books on travel, geography and biography. I always check their catalog or website before a research trip and find in-depth offerings including history, culture, the arts, specialist guides and maps. Highly recommended.

John Sandoe Books
10 Blacklands Terrace (off Kings Road) London

I’ve shopped and browsed and slunk around this legendary bookseller since I first arrived in London as a young student and journalist.

The Maharani of Jaipur was a longtime customer and I often saw her here (her London townhouse on Draycott Gardens was nearby).

What to look for: Eland books on travel, plus travel guides, biographies, superbly edited literature, English history, colonial history, always avoiding ‘commercial hits’. You can linger and browse and chat and read here for hours. They also ship books everywhere.

(Since 1797)
187 Piccadilly, London

Hatchard’s is usually my first stop when I arrive in London (it’s a twenty minute walk from The Beaumont, where I stay) and it’s handily adjacent to The Wolseley, Jeremy King’s brilliant all-day-all-night restaurant/social meeting place.

Hatchard’s has an excellent online catalog, and offers a fine selection of signed books. Send a note to Mark Hammett, the mail order manager, at and ask him to direct you to available signed books. Or send a note to to enquire about a custom annual subscription of books. Great for inspired gifts.

Biographies: I ordered signed copies of all recent Mitford/Devonshire books from Hatchard’s. And I ordered Patrick Leigh Fermor books, signed by Paddy until months before he died. I treasure them all. Be sure to visit when in London, and look for recently signed books.

I hope you enjoy these singular book sources as much as I do. I hope you discover new books, new ideas, new authors, and all of these excellent online sources from which you can order books at any time.

Let me know. 


All photographs of Diane’s books and library and study were photographed by Diane Dorrans Saeks with her iPad.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tutu Divine

This week, the illustrious San Francisco Ballet launches its season with a grand opening night gala on Thursday January 21 at the San Francisco Opera House—and then the beauty of Programs 1 and 2.

Season highlights include the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s elegant ‘Pas/Parts’.

San Francisco Ballet is the oldest professional ballet company in America and the company has a traditional of introducing and presenting young dancers and choreographers. 

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake. (© Erik Tomasson)

I’m very excited about the new works by the young choreographer Justin Peck, who will create his first work for the company. And as well there will be a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, a brilliant choreographer and artist. And I’m looking forward to classic works by Balanchine, Cranko, Morris, Possokhov, Ratmansky, Robbins, Tomasson and Wheeldon, who all create magic and grace on-stage.

Special highlights for me among the eight very varied programs include Program 1 ‘Pas/Parts’, and ‘Magrittomania’.

For full-on swooning, there’s the full-length program ‘Swan Lake’ and at the very end of the season, the glorious and moving and utterly romantic ‘Onegin’.

I am looking forward to seeing the new programs—that are being perfected and practiced and polished in the ballet studios as we speak. Naturally, there are no images yet. You’ll just have to come and see them

Below I’ve selected images of highlights of the season—and listings of each program through May 2016.

Levitation and Catching Air—as Done by San Francisco Ballet Dancers. Highlights from the 2016 Season

Stella Abrera and Christine Shevchenko in Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas. (© Rosalie O'Connor. Courtesy American Ballet Theatre)

Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson's Swan Lake. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian in Balanchine's Coppélia. (© Erik Tomasson)

Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Magrittomania. (© Erik Tomasson)

Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

“This season is particularly exciting because of the incredible diversity of choreographers represented,” said SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “In addition to legendary choreographers such as George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, I’ve programmed works by some of the most exciting contemporary choreographers working today, including Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon and of course Scarlett and Peck—and we are lucky to have such rich relationships with each of them.”

How to Choose

If I were going to see only four, I’d propose Programs 1, 3 (‘Swan Lake’) and 7, and 8 (‘Onegin’). But of course I also want to see each program. The San Francisco Ballet orchestra accompanies each performance.


Yuan Yuan Tan in Possokhov's Magrittomania. (© Erik Tomasson)

Yuan Yuan Tan And Tiit Helimets in Tomasson's 7 for Eight. (© Chris Hardy)

Dores André and Joan Boada in Tomasson's 7 for Eight. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian and Gennadi Nedvigin in Tomasson's 7 for Eight. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 1 opens Sunday, January 24 and includes Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov’s Magrittomania, and the North American premiere of William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts. Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, set to four keyboard concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Possokhov’s Magrittomania premiered in 2000 as part of the Company’s Discovery Program. The whimsical work, reprised most recently in 2006, was inspired by the work of Belgian surrealist René Magritte. The music, by Thom Willems, is comprised of 20 sections of styles from jazzy to orchestral. The work is rarely seen and SF Ballet’s presentation will be a North American premiere.


San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Continuum©. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Rubies. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Rubies. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 2 opens on Wednesday, January 27 with Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum©, a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, and Balanchine’s “Rubies.” Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum©, set to the music of György Ligeti, premiered during the 2002 Season. The work for four couples is a dazzling realization of Ligeti’s piano music.

Set to music by Igor Stravinsky, Balanchine’s “Rubies” is the middle piece in a full evening-length ballet, Jewels. Created in 1967 for New York City Ballet, the ballet in three parts (“Emeralds,” “Rubies,” “Diamonds”) was inspired by the jewelry of Van Cleef and Arpels and is distinct in mood and style.


Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan in Tomasson's Swan Lake. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian in Tomasson's Swan Lake. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake. (© Chris Hardy)

Program 3 opens on Friday, February 19 with Helgi Tomasson’s full-length Swan Lake. Tomasson choreographed his first production of Swan Lake for SF Ballet in 1988 and in 2009, he created a new version, featuring scenery and costume design by Jonathan Fensom; lighting design by Jennifer Tipton; projection and video design by Sven Ortel; and hair, wig, and makeup design by Michael Ward. 


Vanessa Zahorian in Balanchine's Coppélia. (© Erik Tomasson)

Gennadi Nedvigin in Balanchine's Coppélia. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 4 opens on Tuesday, March 8 with George Balanchine’s Coppélia. The popular comedic ballet, set to a score by Léo Delibes, was first performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1870, with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon. This new production of Alexandra Danilova and Balanchine’s Coppélia from 1974, includes commissioned scenic and costume design by Roberta Guidi di Bagno, with lighting design by Randall G. Chiarelli.


Maria Kochetkova, Vanessa Zahorian, and Dores André in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Possokhov’s Swimmer. (© Erik Tomasson)

Taras Domitro in Possokhov’s Swimmer. (© Erik Tomasson)

Maria Kochetkova and Tiit Helimets in Possokhov’s Swimmer. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 5 opens on Wednesday, March 16 with Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer. Dances at a Gathering, set to music by Frédéric Chopin, is widely considered a masterpiece. Created in 1969 for New York City Ballet, the hour-long work, set to 18 piano pieces, features ten dancers.

Possokhov’s Swimmer, inspired by the John Cheever story entitled “The Swimmer,” pays homage to American art of all types—literature, film, fine art and music—that has inspired Possokhov in some way. The multi-media work features music by Shinji Eshima, Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, and Gavin Bryars.


Vanessa Zahorian and Hansuke Yamamoto in Tomasson's Prism. (© Chris Hardy)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Prism. (© Erik Tomasson)

Taras Domitro in Tomasson's Prism. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon's Rush©. (© Chris Hardy)

Frances Chung and Gennadi Nedvigin in Wheeldon's Rush©. (© Erik Tomasson)

Frances Chung and Clara Blanco in Wheeldon's Rush©. (© Erik Tomasson)

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo in Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas. (© Rosalie O'Connor. Courtesy American Ballet Theatre)

Program 6 opens Tuesday, April 5 with Helgi Tomasson’s Prism, the SF Ballet premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush©. Tomasson’s Prism, set to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, features costume design by Martin Pakledinaz and lighting design by Mark Stanley.

Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, an SF Ballet premiere, is set to music by Domenico Scarlatti, with costume design by Holly Hynes, and lighting design by Brad Fields.

Wheeldon’s Rush©, set to Bohuslav Martinů’s Sinfonietta La Jolla, was premiered by SF Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004. 


San Francisco Ballet in Morris' Drink To Me With Only Thine Eyes. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Morris' Drink To Me With Only Thine Eyes. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan in Balanchine's Theme and Variations. (© Erik Tomasson)

Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Theme and Variations. (© Erik Tomasson)

Hansuke Yamamoto and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Theme and Variations. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 7 opens Thursday, April 7 with Mark Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, a world premiere by Justin Peck, and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. Morris’ Drink to Me… was premiered in 1988 by American Ballet Theatre. The work for 12 dancers is set to music by Virgil Thomson, with costume design by Santo Loquasto and lighting design by Michael Chybowski.

Balanchine’s Theme and Variations for 26 dancers, was created in 1947 for Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre). The work is set to the final movement of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s third orchestral suite, consisting of 12 variations. 


Sarah Van Patten in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Luke Ingham in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Program 8 opens Saturday, April 30 and features the return of John Cranko’s Onegin. Last performed by SF Ballet in 2013, this dramatic full-length production is based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin, set to a score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. The ballet features scenic and costume design by award-winning designer Santo Loquasto.

Connecting with SF Ballet’s Online Communities

Follow @sfballet. SF Ballet has a rich digital presence offering numerous ways to connect with the artists of the Company. There’s a Facebook community ( And Twitter (

To experience a backstage photographic journey from the perspective of the SF Ballet dancers on Instagram ( And for behind-the-scenes perspectives read short essays and interviews on our blog ( And best of all—there’s a YouTube page to see SF Ballet in motion (

Subscription Tickets
Three, five, and eight program subscription packages to SF Ballet’s 2016 Repertory Season range in price from $75. For information, 415.865.200o or visit

About San Francisco Ballet

As America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia.

San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, William and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world.

For more information and tickets: