André Leon Talley

Critic; Curator; Writer; Editor; Lecturer; Executive / Fashion Design / United States / Numéro Russia; Vogue

Books Are a Man’s Best Friend

I remember the first book I read and loved as a child: Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Then I read Germinal. I was around ten years old. Of course by the time I was in my early teens I was more fascinated by reading articles in magazines and newspapers like Vogue and the New York Times, which I did every Sunday afternoon.

I don’t have any critera for selecting reading matter. 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.

In high school I would walk the stalls of the library and read the titles on the book spines. What struck my eye is what I selected. Today, I’ll make a spontaneous selection at a bookstore or if I read an article by Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times—I run to buy anything she reviews.  I never read on an electronic device; I tried a Kindle—it just didn't make it for me. I need to crack open a book and turn a page.

To borrow from “Diamonds are a girl's best friend,” books are a man’s best friend.

6 books
Translated by Robert Alter

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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