Summer Book Recommendations

I am leaving today for a long weekend at The Biltmore in North Carolina, and I of course am packing my Kindle with the hopes that I will have ample time to sit outdoors and read.  I am always looking for recommendations on what to read next and who better to dole out some then my own literary agent Kathryn Beaumont Murphy from Kneerim & Williams? A voracious reader, whenever she says “read this!”- I comply.  I have a few good ones to offer up myself (Me Before You, The Light Between Oceans, The Language of Flowers, Where’d You Go Bernadette and The Prince of Tides (if you’ve never read it).  So without further ado, a wise woman’s book offerings:

Nothing makes me happier than offering books suggestions to other rabid readers. While reading recommendations are of course entirely subjective, as a literary agent I not only read nonstop because I love books (duh) , but also because I kind of have to be aware of what is selling and what is popular. So here are a few books that have got me thinking this summer. I’ve chosen a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir — all are books I want others to read for the purpose of being able to discuss them. To get you through the rest of your summer, here are my curated suggestions, eight in all (you can do two books a week, right?)  Please weigh in, for me and others: what are you reading? What’s in the pile on your nightstand, on reserve at your library or in your Kindle queue?

Fiction:

1. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. This novel won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and if you think a suspense novel whose protagonist is a North Korean soldier is not for you, you would be like me until I finally picked it up and didn’t put it down until I finished it three days later. This book is astounding in its reporting, surprising in its narration, and infused with a sort of magical realism (which normally I do not go for). I cannot recommend this enough — all I want to do is talk about this book.

2. The Good House by Ann Leary. Set in a fictional town on Boston’s north shore, this novel follows realtor Hildy Goode’s high highs and low lows, as she sells antique homes in her sleepy town, with its history of both witches and lobstermen, to the hedge fund transplantees who flock to its idyllic setting. Though her grown daughters forced her to rehab two years earlier, Hildy is supposedly happy living her “sober” life, which includes just one or two glasses of wine per night — no more blackouts. This novel full of both affairs and true love, a layered sense of place, and a narrator whose relationship to alcohol is captivatingly complex.

3. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Can a widowed veteran find love with a Pakistani store clerk 10 years his junior in a sleepy English village? And does this premise sound too twee to bear? Please trust me that it’s not: this novel has not just an immensely warm love story at its core, but it is far from unpredictable and streaked with humor and witty insight (including the authors depiction of the village’s boorish American visitors!) I recommend this novel to everyone — it is not only a wonderful read for its premise, but the writing is lovely. You’ll think about this book for weeks after you finish.

4. The Robert B. Parker “Spenser” mysteries. You may remember the 80s TV series starring the late Robert Ulrich. You don’t? Good, then you can form your own image of Spenser (spelled with an “s”, after the English poet, of course), the ex-boxer, private eye who can not only cook and knock back single-malts but has an inner compass so principled that you cannot help but fall a little in love with him yourself. I discovered these mysteries in my teens, well before I had ever even visited Boston, but Parker infuses his novels with such precise details of Boston that I felt as if I sort of already knew the city when I moved here a decade ago. (Locke Ober restaurant? Ah yes, that’s where Spenser had steak lunches with this police contacts. Linnaean Street in Cambridge? That is where his girlfriend Susan Silverman lived…) I was devastated when Parker died a few years ago – no more Spenser. These are intelligent mysteries — well written, laced with references to Shakespeare and Auden, and firmly set in Boston, which is now my home too. (As an aside, are you watching the new Showtime series “Ray Donovan”? He kind of reminds me of Spenser. And thus I think Liv Schreiber should star in a remake of a Spenser series or movie!)

Nonfiction:

5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. You know what? Just read it. I was prepared to dislike Sandberg and everything she had to say about professional women and motherhood and my most hated phrase, “juggling”. But I came away from the book refreshed and inspired and devoted to the profession I love and the family I love. Whether you have children or not, or work or don’t or are a woman or a man, Sandberg is brave enough to write truthfully about what are, actually, the issues women in the workplace face (for example, women by and large do not negotiate salaries. I will never do that again!). For a long time — too long — I attributed the angst I felt about being a working mother to the duality of “working vs. not working”. When, in fact, the angst I feel is not that I feel guilty over not spending time with my children, but rather that I actually do love to work and it’s just difficult. And it’s OK to admit that it is difficult. Sandberg emboldened me to clarify this, and inspired me to make changes that fit my personal situation. I’m serious — just read it.

6. ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. I’ve never considered myself a reader of “business books”, but one of my clients, a business writer, recommended this book as a wonderful model of what a business book should be — and she was right. Each chapter just takes a page, and is thus easily digestible by a busy reader. And it inspires everyone to think of themselves as a business owner or entrepreneur, whether or not you work for yourself or within a large organization. I rethought my relationships with my clients, my colleagues, and my superiors and, just as Sandberg’s book reset my personal relationship with my profession, this book reset and reinvigorated the way I approach my job as a professional interacting with clients and striving to create the best product possible.

Memoir

7. My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor. Sotomayor is, as you probably know, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. This book is not about her jurisprudence but, rather, the journey she made from a poor, diabetic child in the Bronx to Princeton and then Yale Law and then to judge. The book reads like a novel, full of challenges and well developed characters. It’s amazing how one teacher can make a difference in the life of such a child and what doors education can open.

8. Looking for Palestine by Najla Said. Najla Said grew up in the Upper West Side home of one of the century’s most respected intellectuals, her late father, the Columbia Professor and Middle Eastern scholar and theorist Edward Said. Najla’s childhood was full of professors, summer camps, and tony private schools, but without really knowing it, this straddling of two cultures — her preppy New York life and her Palestinean and Lebanese roots — took their toll on her emotionally and physically. September 11, 2001 caused her to rethink her dual identities and to, finally, choose one. This is a brave and funny book and gives its readers and understanding of the modern Middle-Eastern American — like Najla, someone we probably all know but in all likelihood probably don’t truly understand.

Eloise Goes To Brooklyn

I love this little drawing by illustrator Joana Avillez which imagines the child lit darling Eloise ditching her Upper East Side lifestyle for hipster Brooklyn- specifically the Wythe Hotel. It’s hilarious.

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I know The Wythe has been blogged ad nauseum, but I actually am hoping to stay there soon as Andrew and I will be making a pilgrimage to the area to see some family and friends who have recently relocated there.  I am obsessed with these rooms. Marble, brick, wallpaper… what’s not to like?

S8L

Historic-Corner-King

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HCKbed

Minibar

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Reynard is the hotel’s restaurant, I love the graphics.

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Not to mention the decor…

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How about the outdoor patio??? AMAZING!  what a space for an event!

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And the interior private dining room… also charming.

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Get the look of the Wythe with these pieces:

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wallpaper//sconces//chandelier//mirror// chair

What A Year It’s Been (& A Big Announcement!)

This was one heck of a year for me.  A lot of milestones, both personally and professionally, punctuated 2012 making it one I will not soon forget. We bought our first real house in the burbs and as I write this our kitchen is being demolished making way for a clean, fresh (and stylish) start in 2013 for us in our new home we are working towards making our dream home.  I’m so glad I can share the steps with you on our journey and know that this year will be a big one for Casa Gates! Feeling settled (finally) in one place really is one of the most soothing things for me and leaves me one less thing to worry about this year.  That whole “where are we gonna live” conversation was getting really old.

A shot a few great magazine features in 2012 too- one for Better Homes & Gardens of our last apartment that will come out this spring that’s adorable and let’s not forget Oprah. Bucket list item #2 checked off- I MET OPRAH. I mean, that’s enough for one year right? But on top of that I got to experience an overwhelmingly “big time” photo shoot in NYC for O Magazine and IKEA (I’m in the February 2013 issue too!) and then go to LA for a week to shoot a commercial for IKEA (airing in February 2013 too!)   I will never forget pulling up to the set and seeing all the trailers and people and equipment and shaking my head in amazement.  And then getting to speak at and experience the O You! Conference was another mind-bender! Absolute insanity.

I got to work on some INCREDIBLE homes with even more incredible clients who make doing my job a pleasure.  So many new friends came into my life this way and I hope that they are as happy with their new spaces as I am to have been allowed to be a part of their lives in creating them.  You’ll be seeing more images of my designs for others in 2013 for sure, and I was “someone-please-pinch-me” level excited seeing my name and work in one of my all time favorite magazines, InStyle in January! Craziness!

I also could never have predicted the reaction I got to my post on beauty- nor that it would be bought and published by Ladies Home Journal!  I received so many beautiful, emotional and touching comments and e-mail about my story that it nearly brought me to tears.  I felt so overwhelmed to find out how not alone I am, and that I had the ability to help others feel not alone too.

And that leads me to the big one.  The announcement I’ve been waiting to share with you.

I capped of 2012 with one of the biggest accomplishments of my career thus far.  Something I have always dreamed of doing and something I could never have done without YOU.  My amazing, dedicated, fantastic readers who still surprise me everyday when you take time out of your busy lives to check in with me and see what I have to say.  Even nearly 6 years after starting this blog I am still in awe of that and I could never, ever truly express my gratitude to you fully. So I am beyond excited to tell you that right before Christmas I officially landed a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish a book in fall of 2014!!!!!

Can you even believe it? Because I sure can’t.

It’s going to be a new concept in an interior and style book in that it will be combination of inspiration and guidance along with a personal narrative- just like my blog tends to be.  Creating a home is such a reflection of our life stories, I want to make this book a strong reflection of that- approaching the process with humor, humility and a sense of fun.  I’d love to hear what you’d like out of the book as well, so please, PLEASE share!  I’m so thrilled to get working on it, especially with the truly incredible team at Simon & Schuster who are making this possible.

Thank you. All of you. You’ve helped make my dreams come true.

Love and laughter in 2013 to everyone.

Happy New Year,

Erin

 

 

Gift Guide 2012: Books!

Books are SUCH great gifts (unless you try to give them to my Dad who inevitably has already bought the exact one you have wrapped up).  There are quite a few books I’m keen to get this year, and here are some of my favorites!

Row 1: It’s currently on back-order but I really hope I can snag a copy of the new Miles Redd book- THE decorating book of the season// The much talked about Kate Moss book (she of flawless style) // Grace Coddington’s memoir, I know it’s on every gift guide this year but I really want to read this one! Plus she posted on Facebook once that she liked my blog, which almost gave me a stroke.

Row 2: For the girl obsessed with clothes- Style Book// For the blog reading chef-What Katie Ate// For the girl obsessed with Paris (ME!)

Row 3: For the fella in your life- The Art of Fixing Things- hey, it’ll help get things done around the house// For the bride to be-Vogue Weddings, Brides, Dresses, Designers // For the kids, the new Dave Egger’s version of Where the Wild Things Are with the coolest cover ever!

Row 4: I read this recently and it haunted me for days, it’s so good (but sad)- A Light Between Oceans// Would love this Claiborne Swanson book for my (new) coffee table- American Beauty// This is next up on Andrew’s reading list- Thomas Jefferson- The Art of Power.

Row 5:  For little designers to be-Draw Me A House/  For Audrey addicts, Audrey Hepburn Photographs/ For the stylish Francophile- Parisian Chic (* I want this one too)

Nate Berkus: Things That Matter

I love design books, but am rarely surprised by them.  There tends to be a formulaic way they are put together and when you pick up one by a famous designer it tends to be a volume of their own work and reminders of how awesome they are.  But yesterday I got a preview copy of Nate Berkus’ new book, Things That Matter, and I have to tell you I not only love it, but am impressed, intrigued and yes, surprised!  It begins with Nate’s own life story- which is much more tumultuous and deep then I expected, and explains how he not only fell in love with design but his personal belief that homes should be filled with things that matter to you on a deeper level than just because they are pretty. This is something I tell my clients (and myself) all the time but it’s sometimes hard to stick to.  Immediate gratification tends to prevail and houses become full of things you only “like”, and sometimes only kind of like, just so you have something new.  Looking at this book might help get you back to focusing on waiting for what you love!

The chapters that follow explore the homes of not only some of Nate’s clients, but people whose homes he simply admires for their personal touches and personalities.  I love how the book is laid out, the graphic design and how each chapter not only delights with gorgeous pictures of homes designed in varying styles, but also tells the stories of the unique pieces as well as the lives of those people who inhabit them. It’s truly lovely. A design book you actually want to READ.

Here are a couple snaps to whet your appetites for the release date of October 16th….

Each lead page features a close up of an element in the person’s home as a background- love this.

The portraits of each homeowner also display a quote about them, their home or their thoughts on design.

There are some surprising people included (her house is SO chic, actually!)

And wait until you see ALL of Nate’s New York apartment…. DIIIIIIEEEEEEE.

His closet is like female porn.

And then I was shocked when I turned the page and saw this….

And then this!

THAT wallpaper is one of the vintage ones I sell in my Etsy shop from my parent’s barn!!!!! The original printmaker left a stock of it to my dad when he passed. I could not believe it. And now I’m thinking- well, hell- maybe I should wallpaper my powder room in it if Nate thinks it’s amazing! :)

I framed another vintage paper of mine (that we have since sold out of sadly) for a client’s bedroom in a very similar way! Glad Nate and I think similarly! :)