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13 of André Leon Talley’s favorite books.

Emily Temple

January 19, 2022, 10:37am

Legendary fashion icon and outsize personality André Leon Talley died this week at the age of 73. But Talley, of course, was not just a force in the fashion world, but also a a journalist, editor, and author in his own right—notably of a bestselling 2020 memoir, The Chiffon Trenches—as well as a prodigious reader.

“I don’t have any criteria for selecting reading matter,” Talley wrote at Designers & Books. “I learned early that to read is to be illuminated. To read is to be empowered. Knowledge is power. Therefore I will choose any book on any subject (except perhaps natural sciences, chemistry, or psychology)—history, biographies, novels, great authors—it does not matter. . . . To borrow from ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,’ books are a man’s best friend.”

When he dressed the windows of a new Rizzoli store in Manhattan in 2015, he was inspired by his own home library, with books stacked “in neat piles on the floor, in corners, in chairs, and on ceramic elephants, as well as on ottomans covered in antique kilims,” and to “convey a love of book-hoarding, and to create the sense of warmth and comfort that stacks of books give to an individual.” If you’re trying to cultivate your own hoarding habit, you could do worse than to pick up a few of the great man’s beloved books. Here are the books he mentions as his favorites at Designers & Books:

Robert Alter, tr., Book of Psalms

“This is the best motivational reading to me. I grew up on the Bible in Sunday School. When I feel vulnerable I turn to the Bible and can find words of healing, and inspiration, especially in any of the Psalms.”

Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

“This is one of my favorite books, I always read it as a young boy at Christmas and loved the simple narrative of Aunt Sook. It so reminded me of my home, and my life with my grandmother: the prepping of fruit cake for the holidays, the intimate bonding of a young child to an older adult—friends between the generational divide. It’s a great, great masterpiece.”

Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way

“This is my favorite Proust volume. I can’t say that all of A La Recherche du temps perdu speaks to me, but The Guermantes Way does. I am not going to be pretentious and tell you I read Proust in French. I try, but I always have an English translation at the ready.”

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

“I travel with this book to remind me of the history of my race, and the struggle of the African-American journey, and how one can overcome adversity and evolve into greatness.”

Nancy Mitford, The Sun King

“I learned everything about the history, style, and magnificence of the French court from this incredible book. It might seem like a superficial choice but the research is strong, rich, and powerful. It is one of my favorite books.”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“I can’t say anything more than that it doesn’t get better than this. Here is an author who creates characters with every human quality one might encounter. This vast and sweeping saga is thrilling and Tolstoy’s sense of visual extravagance is without parallel.”

And here are a few more he has mentioned as favorites here and there:

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Émile Zola, Germinal
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Andy Cohen, Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture
Andy Cohen, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year

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