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.


A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Diane,

Here I am sitting down with a cup of tea and relishing every moment of this post and admiring all the books in your personal library. I feel very privileged and honoured to be invited to browse the superb collection of the books. The books tell so much about us and our individual taste and personality far more than any other objects in the house. I know and love all the bookshops (in England) that you mention and they are on my top priority list whenever I go to visit London. The ones that are based in America, I shall note them down for future references.

I love all the books (extremely erudite and eclectic collection you have, Diane) in this post. One book that particularly draws my attention is the last image before "Longitude Books". You have "First Love and other stories" by Ivan Turgenev exactly the same copy I have on my shelf. How delightful it is to discover when one's friend likes to read the same sort of books! Turgenev's "First Love" is one of my all time favourite stories. I have two copies (one from Modern Library and the other one is a gorgeous Folio edition) of this selection of short stories at home.

Happy new year to you too, Diane and thank you once again for giving us a taste of your literary world. For a book lover, it's simply intoxicating experience by reading this post. It's just like entering The Bodleian Library for the first time.

With best wishes,
G xx

Michael Hampton said...

Dearest Diane,

Thank you for providing us with a another glimpse into your extraordinary library! It makes mine seem almost minuscule in comparison! I could easily make myself right at home! You mentioned many of my cherished book stores and so many that I had not heard of before.



Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Super Dilettante-

You were one of the very first of the first readers of THE STYLE SALONISTE…almost 7 years ago.

It is a great pleasure to hear from you.

I wish you well…and love your personal blog.

I wish you happiness--and happy reading. Please pick up THE LEOPARD…which is exceptionally beautiful, rich, emotional and surprising in every word. BEST--DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

hello, Michael-

How wonderful to hear from you.

Yes…I jump from a favorite topic--INDIA FOR EXAMPLE--to another--ENGLISH LITERATURE--and travel and style and obscure artists and designers. I most likely…well I do…buy at least one book a day…so this collection presented this week is a …corner…shall we say.
I did not show my own produced books…except SEASIDE STYLE…and have a serious collection of design books in other shelves…

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Friends-

I love hearing from you.

Here's an email from a dear reader in Canada:

Thank you so much for sharing your posting. Absolutely wonderful so much information.
Very inspiring and new destinations are on my list of places to visit.
Ellen de Man

CashmereLibrarian said...

Delicious. And although I might have written this in an earlier comment, I wanted to let you know that your book, Jean-Louis Denoit, is truly one of my favorites in my library and I find it endlessly inspirational.

Reviving Charm said...

Such a fabulous post! A great glimpse inside your library and resource of wonderful shops. Thanks for sharing.