Fashion Literati Spill On Their Favorite Books

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Fashion’s most respected designers, editors, and stylists have one special thing in common: They are total bookworms. You’ll often find them (much like us) absorbed in a good story whenever the opportunity strikes — be it a new page-turner or a classic that’s just as moving the 10th time around. But, while it may not take a French Literature degree or love of Tolstoy tomes to win a CFDA award or have a successful modeling career, this list may prove it helps

So, naturally, with summer reading lists on the brain, we tapped the creative minds of fashion’s literati to find out which titles you’ll find on their nightstands and which dream literary legends these influencers would want to pen their biographies some day. If only Shakespeare were alive…


Stephanie LaCava — writer, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris

What’s your all-time favorite book? 
“I have so many. All-time might be Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. I think the others are ever changing as an adult.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“A.M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven; Geoff Dyer, Paris Trance; Karen Russell short story; and excited for the new James Salter.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“I like reading in the bath best.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Françoise Sagan? Marguerite Duras?”

Photographed by Bek Andersen; May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes, $15.98, available at Amazon; Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, $7.92, available at Amazon.


Fern Mallis — host of Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis at New York’s 92nd Street Y andFashion Insiders with Fern Mallis on Sirius XMradio; former executive director of the CFDA; former senior VP of IMG Fashion

What’s your all-time favorite book?
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. It’s a surprising story that is riveting, and I love the parts for women — it will make a great movie!”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“I am now reading The Hare With Amber Eyesby Edmund de Waal. I enjoy biographies, fun scandalous books, which lightly veil the subjects, and Linda Fairstein’s books. There are numerous bookshelves in my country home waiting for me to tackle!”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“The fireplace in my country home is my favorite, but it generally puts me right in nap mode! Honestly, I don’t read as many books as I would like to since I read ton of newspapers and magazines every day!”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“I would’ve loved Nora Ephron to write it.”

Photographed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, $10.98, available at Amazon; The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal, $22.47, available at Amazon.


Simon Doonan — creative ambassador at large, Barneys New York

What’s your all-time favorite book?
“I love good trash like Scruples and Valley of The Dolls, but if I had to pick one book, I am going to go with something darker and more litereary like Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky by Patrick Hamilton.

It is one of the most dismal, poignant books on earth. After reading it, you can only feel fabulous and positive about your life. It comprises of three interconnected stories, which are centered on the lives of Brits who are struggling to survive in pre-war England and boozing far too much.

Patrick Hamilton was a major writer and a major drunk. He wrote another great book called Hangover Square, as well as several [other] books; he wrote the screenplays forRope and Gaslight, which are incredible and bizarre movies.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“I am so ancient that I have read every book that was ever written, almost. However, I have never read War and Peace. That should keep me busy for a decade or two.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“I try not to get too comfy, otherwise I fall asleep and wake up drooling. I love reading on planes. I get totally into the zone because there is nothing else to do.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“I have already written extensively about my life in Confessions of a Window Dresser andBeautiful People. This fall my next book comes out. It’s a fashion memoir entitled THE ASYLUM. So, I’m not sure there is much left for any potential biographer.”

Photographed by Mindy Best; Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: A London Trilogy by Patrick Hamilton, $14, available at Amazon; Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, $11.02, available at Amazon.


Sophie Buhai & Lisa Mayock — cofounders and designers, Vena Cava

What’s your all time favorite book?
SB: “I was going to say Hollywood Babylon but really it’s Anna Karenina. You can’t mess with it. A complicated female character, a love story, a hate story, Russian aristocracy, betrayal, and passion. Nothing I have read since comes close to it’s girth. I love soap operas both low brow and high brow….ifHollywood Babylon is my low, Anna Kareninais my high.”
LM: “The Magus by John Fowles is such a well-written game. Once you make your way into it, it’s impossible to tell reality from fantasy — it’s confusing, scary, difficult — I envy anyone who gets to read it for the first time.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
SB: “Mortality, Christopher Hitchens; Miss America, Howard Stern; The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West; The Woman Destroyed, Simone de Beauvoir; Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon.”
LM: “1Q84Hallucinations, and finally finishing2666.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
SB: “Big Sur’s Esalen…perched in the natural hot springs overlooking the ocean. Naked with other weird hippies. OR, in my backyard on the crochet hammock, with a cheap Mexican beer, palm trees in the sky, and my neighbors pop radio blaring.”
LM: “My ideal reading scenario is more of a zone I get into when I’m really attached to something. Not sleeping, forgetting to eat, leaving a great party because the book I’m reading is so compelling I can’t put it down for more than a few hours — that’s the best.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
SB: “My favorite writer, my father, who has not written since the late ’80s. Let’s bring ’80s screwball comedies back!”
LM: “Murakami. He’s the master of mixing the fantastic with the banal. I love the scenes in his books that are five full pages of cooking and eating some eggs or using the bathroom.”

Photo: Courtesy of Vena Cava; Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood’s Darkest and Best Kept Secrets by Kenneth Anger, $8.09, available at Amazon; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, $17.80, available at Amazon; The Magus by John Fowles, $7.19, available at Amazon; IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, $13.98, available at Amazon.


Caroline Issa — publisher and fashion director, Tank

What’s your all-time favorite book? 
“Hmmmm — really love Perfume by Daniel Susskind, but also Beloved by Toni Morrison — both leave you with emotional aftermath that stay forever, and both are written in a way that makes your breath draw in sharp intakes, thinking ‘how do they do that?'”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“How long is a piece of string? Too many to mention!”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“My ideal reading scenario probably takes place near a fireplace with a huge teapot of Earl Grey tea, quiet and cold outside. This usually happens during the Christmas holiday when I’m back home in Montreal and snowed in (e.g. 40 cm in one day) — all you can do is sit back and read copious amounts.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Zadie Smith. She brings to life minute details that seem so obvious but need to be teased out through turn of phrase. Or Virginie Mouzat for her sharp wit and amazing prose.”

Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Issa; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, $8.15, available at Amazon; Beloved by Toni Morrison, $12.03, available at Amazon.


Kate Young — stylist and upcoming Targetdesigner collaborator

What’s your all time favorite book? 
Great Expectations — I love to read, and my favorites change all the time, but this is the book I always come back to as my very favorite. I love that good prevails over evil in the end. It has everything though — love and heartbreak…a rich, old spinster, an orphan, the lovely estella…. In terms of fashion though — I think the best classic book is The Beautiful and The Damned. It just makes you want to buy a fur coat and go out drinking and dancing.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet? 
“Here’s the list of books waiting to be read on my iPad now: The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (recommended by a friend), The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (read a good review of it), Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (embarrassed to admit I’ve never read it and just watched the ‘makers’ documentary and realized I better get to it), Black Dahlia & White Rose by Joyce Carol Oates (because I like her other books).”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“I’m happy reading just about anywhere — but it’s probably best when my kids are asleep or otherwise occupied because they interrupt incessantly.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Victor Bockris is who I’d like to have write my biography. He’s good at it, and I’d like to be in the company of his other subjects.”

Photographed by Maia Harms; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, $3.43, available at Amazon; The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, $9.88, available at Amazon.


Eddie Borgo — designer, Eddie Borgo

What’s your all-time favorite book?
Edie by George Plimpton. It’s such great insight into life in the ’60s in NYC.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“I’m finishing up Fire In The Belly: The Life And Times Of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr — it was a great gift from a friend. Next up is I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“Alone at the beach.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“I have a lot of friends who are writers — it would be fun to work with one of them. There’s not much to write at this point though!”

Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Borgo; Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr, $20.58, available at Amazon; Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein, $9.96, available at Amazon.


Lauren Santo Domingo — cofounder and creative director, Moda Operandi

What’s your all-time favorite book and why? 
“That is like asking someone which is their favorite pair of shoes! Impossible. But I could safely say that The Fountainhead is at the top of the list. That Dominique Francon is an evil genius, and I love her.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith andThe God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“I like to have one or two various books going at once. I can become very attached to certain characters, and it makes the endings easier to bear.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Antonia Fraser or Amanda Foreman. A girl can dream.”

Photographed by Stewart Shining; The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, $15.78, available at Amazon; Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith, $17.85, available at Amazon.


Leandra Medine — blogger, The Man Repeller

What’s your all-time favorite book? 
The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir, because every time I read it, the three protagonists in her three stories become completely different women.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“Patti Smith’s biography, David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed In Flames (I am a huge fan), and the When Harry Met Sally screenplay.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“If you’d believe it, I am most comfortable reading on my kitchen counter. (No, really, on it. Sprawled across it.)”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“I’d love George Saunders to write it. I bet he’d rip me a new one but I think I could take it in favor of his outrageously on-point sense of humor.”

Photographed by Mark Iantosca; When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, $11.75, available at Amazon; The Woman Destroyed by Simone De Beauvoir, $12.95, available at Amazon.


Jessica Morgan & Heather Cocks — founders, Go Fug Yourself

What’s your all-time favorite book?
JM: “It is hard for me to pick just one. I read a lot and I reread a lot — I must have read theHarry Potter series 15 times by now. I guess if I had to pick one singular book that I’ve read over, and over again, and still love and count as a singular friend, it would be Little Women. I also love Harriet the Spy, the Anastasia Krupnik books, and the aforementioned Harry Potter. If we’re talking books that you wouldn’t find on the Young Adult shelf, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of my very, very favorites.”
HC: “I don’t deal very well in absolutes! I feel right now the way I used to feel walking into a record store: so overwhelmed by choice that everything flies out of my head and I don’t know where to go. Harry Potter is one of the big mainstream things that’s actually earned it — those books back up the hype and then some. So, I unabashedly love those, and whenever I’m sick, that’s what I lie in bed and reread. I also reread Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series all the time. They’re not for everyone, and occasionally they’re almost overwhelmingly teeming with ideas to the point where the plot becomes a bit beside the point, but that’s not always a bad thing. He’s incredibly punny and funny and creative; I have severe imagination envy of him and I pick up something new every time I re-read. And, when I was a kid I devoured all the Enid Blyton boarding-school series, and of course The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. She was great at mischievous, clever kids, which I always wanted to be but never quite managed.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
JM: “I am knocking them off this week, actually. I just finished John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, which was funny and moving and wonderful, and then Gone Girl, which was funny and brilliant and weird and wonderful, and now I am reading Going Clear, the Lawrence Wright exposé of Scientology. After that, I am FINALLY going to read Perks Of Being A Wallflower.”
HC: “I almost never have time to read, which makes me sad. So, when I do read, usually I am on the elliptical and, therefore, need something that doesn’t require much focus. I have The Art of Fielding sitting on my nightstand, along with two non-fiction books, one of which is Operation Mincemeat about British spies during WWII — they used a corpse armed with false intel to trick the Germans, which sounds deliciously like a combination of Argo and Weekend at Bernie’s— and the other of which is Sex on the Moon, about the people who stole moon rocks from a high-tech vault. I am trying not to read any Young Adult right now because we’re working on some new stuff and I don’t want my head cluttered, or to get book envy, which happens.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
JM: “Well, I am a person who once, as a child, used to take her books into the shower. (In my defense, showering is very boring.) So, clearly, I can read basically anywhere, happily. But I am quite fond of the ‘curled up on the sofa rainy day read,’ as well as the ‘tropical beach read.'”
HC: “Yeah, I like gray day/rainy day/snowy day, myself. If I had a comfortable window seat on a day like that, I would be set. I find the beach in theory is a nice place to read, but when I’m actually THERE, I’d rather be focusing on nothing at all, or on the big drink next to me, or splashing around in the water. Give me winter, a giant warm sweater, a mug of something, and a book. I went to high school in Calgary, and two out of the four winters we lived there, our boiler broke. We’d layer up and huddle by the fireplace, buried under anything warm we could find because it was minus 35 outside, and laugh at how insane it was to put on outerwear as preparations for going to bed. But they were cozy times to read, and I look back on them surprisingly fondly considering an interior wall of my house froze.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
JM: “I want Judith Krantz to come out of retirement to write mine, because she’ll make me much more glamorous, far better dressed, way richer, and in possession of a much more exciting love life.”
HC: “I am torn. John Green would make me both funnier and deeper, and thus more intriguing, than I actually am; Roald Dahl would have twisted my life into something deliciously dark and weird and wonderful; and Shel Silverstein could’ve made such wicked verses about not just me, but the other awesome characters in my life. The poems he could’ve written about my twins alone… “

Photo: Courtesy of Fug Girls; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, $13.10, available at Amazon; Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, $6.29, available at Amazon; Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, $10.37, available at Amazon; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, $6.15, available at Amazon.


Jenna Sauers — writer, Jezebel; model; holds degrees in English and French Lit.

What’s your all-time favorite book?
“I don’t know if I could pick just one. I turn to different books at different times, for different reasons — some books are seasonal, and you may no more want to curl up with, say, The Berlin Stories at certain times of the year than you would want to wear a sweater in July. I love The Berlin Stories, though. Speaking of novels, I don’t think there’s much that anyone can do in fiction that Thomas Hardy didn’t do in Tess of the D’urbervilles. Normally there’s a three-drink minimum before I start making categorical statements about literature like that, but it’s how I feel. In the category of essays, Joan Didion is an automatic winner — The White AlbumSlouching Towards Bethlehem, the book-length essay Salvador,MiamiWhere I Was FromPolitical Fictions,After Henry. None of her nonfiction books (with the possible exceptions of her two recent memoirs) is a dud. Her body of work is just incredible. But the books that I read recently, say, within the past year that I loved the most were Heroines by Kate Zambreno and How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“I’m still reading Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. I love it so much it’s painful. Also, last summer, I attempted to read Infinite Jest with a group of friends — I got about 400 pages in before I started to lose my mind (and got sick of lugging it around on the subway). I would like to return to it, perhaps this summer.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“Reading at the beach sounds great in theory, but I find it’s difficult in practice — there’s a longshore breeze always threatening to riffle your pages and lose your place, it’s bright out, the white page is bright, you want to go swimming anyway, and then you have to put your books back in a tote bag with your damp towels. I’m much more about reading on a quiet, sunny deck or by a window in the summertime, or curled up in bed on a cold night with a hot cup of tea. Reading in bed was how I started to love reading. I haven’t really gotten behind e-readers, but my favorite way to read The New Yorker lately is via its great iPhone app.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Me, of course!”

Photo: Courtesy of Jenna Sauers; The White Album: Essays by Joan Didion, $11.02, available at Amazon; The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, $12.57, available at Amazon.


John Jannuzzi — editor, Lucky; blogger,Textbook

What’s your all-time favorite book?
“It’s cliché, I know, but Catcher in the Rye will always be my favorite. Salinger’s writing style is smooth, despite his tendencies to go off on tangents. That was the first book I read and thought, ‘Oh shit, this is good.’ And back in my high school days, it took a lot for me to think that about anything, let alone a book.”

Which books are on your must-read list that you haven’t gotten to yet?
“On a recent vacation, I was recommendedSocial Q’s by The New York Times‘ Philip Galanes. It’s basically a guide for surviving life’s situations with a little bit of grace. If it’s half as witty as I think it will be, it’ll be well worth it. Also, I’ve heard really good things about The Road and I love a good post-apocalyptic story. You know, because of the fashion.”

Describe your completely ideal reading scenario.
“Ha, people get so caught up in that ‘curled up by a fireplace with a Pendleton blanket and a cup of tumblr coffee next to my wise old cat’ thing, don’t they? I don’t really care where. I’ll read anything as long as the writing is good and there’s a reasonably comfortable chair and/or couch for me.”

If anyone could write the story of your life, who would you want to be the author?
“Probably Salinger. But I wouldn’t mind seeing what Shakespeare would put together.”

Photographed by Jamie Beck; Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today by Philip Galanes, $11.20, available at Amazon; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, $9.73, available at Amazon.

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1 Comment

  1. gina,
    I too devoured a lot of Encomment_ID Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven and most of her boarding school series. Thus, my fascination with Encomment_ID Blyton and her books would eventually lead me to write and publish a book on her, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage ( Stephen isabirye

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