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TWE Reads

You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide by Jane Heller

Jane Heller's book on caregiving, You'd Better Not Die or I'll Kill YouON TWE RADIO MAR. 16-17: In You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You–A Caregiver’s Guide (Chronicle Books), Jane Heller shares her own experiences as a caregiver and offers advice from experts.  She learned firsthand about the subject from taking care of her husband, Michael, who is afflicted with Crohn’s disease and was a “frequent flier,” a patient who lands in the hospital often.

The book includes workout exercises, healthy recipes, and a candid, funny approach to a subject that can be deadly serious.

Jane spent a decade promoting best-selling authors and turned into one herself.  Now, with thirteen novels under her belt and nine of which sold to Hollywood, she is in a league of her own.


The Letter–My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life by Marie Tillman

The Letter by Marie Tillman

In The Letter (Grand Central Publishing, 2012),  Marie Tillman recounts how she rebuilt her life after her husband Pat’s untimely death in Afghanistan.  It’s also her tribute to him as she carries forth his legacy as co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

This moving and courageous book details her difficult journey to recovery after the “friendly fire” incident that killed this former professional football player who left the profession to join the Army.

Marie writes about how a letter she found on her dresser from Pat helped her to love again.  If you are looking to read an honest, open and inspirational book, The Letter would be a great choice.

You can listen to Marie talk about her life on this podcast of The Women’s Eye Radio Show with Stacey Gualandi.


My Far Away One by Sarah Greenough

Georgia O'Keeffe book "My Faraway One" for Women's Eye Sue's ReviewMy Far Away One by Sarah Greenough (Yale Press, 2011) is a compilation of 650 letters, chosen and annotated by leading photography scholar Sarah Greenough.   She is the photography curator of the National Gallery in Washington and was a friend of O’Keeffe’s. This is the first volume and includes the Stieglitz–O’Keeffe letters from 1915 to 1933.

Read the TWE Review by Sue Podbielski


Book Photo from IStock Photo (Paid For)

By Sue Podbielski/December 3, 2011

If you love to give books as holiday gifts (or just want a tome with which to spend your days off), here’s a year-end round-up of those that made my list for best books of the last six months.

1. George Harrison: Living in the Material World by Olivia Harrison

George Harrison BookFor the Beatle fan on your list, I recommend George Harrison: Living in the Material World, by George’s wife Olivia Harrison (Abrams, $40.00). This is an artfully arranged portrait of a truly enlightened man.

The book draws from Harrison’s own personal photos, letters, and diaries. Reminiscences from his many friends as well as his family (including his son Dhani) are weaved throughout the book.

But it is George’s unique, searching and sensitive voice which infuses every page and leaves you with the feeling of knowing him better.


2. Then Again by Diane Keaton

Further on the celebrity spectrum is a thoroughly delightful memoir by actress Diane Keaton, entitled Then Again (Random House, $26.00). Keaton has always been a complete original and an immensely talented actress. Now 65-years-old, she just keeps getting better even as she embraces the life of motherhood. (She adopted her daughter when she was 50 years old and later adopted a son.) This book is a look back, not only at her career and her relationships with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Al Pacino, but at her extraordinary mother, Dorothy Keaton Hall.

Diane Keaton bookThen Again is really a dialogue with her mother’s diaries which Keaton found after her mother’s death. It’s a poignant look at a mother-daughter relationship that was loving in a completely uncomplicated way.

It is this relationship and her mother’s absolutely unwavering support that Keaton says allowed her to have the success she ultimately attained, perhaps at the expense of her mother’s own aspirations. However, Keaton is a grateful daughter and her tribute to Dorothy in Then Again will make audiences love her even more.

3. Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine

The next choice is another kind of Hollywood star memoir. It’s Michael Caine’s new book, Elephant to Hollywood (St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.99) and filled with big names, exotic places, and hit movies . Caine is a darned good storyteller as he showed in his previous reminiscence, What’s It All About?

In Elephant, he tells what happened in his late fifties when the parts Hollywood was offering him were, to put it mildly, a big disappointment. Caine believed that he was washed up as an actor and felt it was time for him to retire. That’s until salvation came through the unlikely person of his old friend Jack Nicholson who showed him how acting in movies could be fun again.

Caine takes us from his humble beginnings in a poverty stricken neighborhood in London to his intoxicating stardom beginning with “Alfie,” and then on to what he believes have been the most fulfilling moments, an Oscar for “The Cider House Rules” and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth. Caine says that had he given up when he wanted to, these things would never have happened. To sum it up, Elephant to Hollywood is a good read about an amazing life.

4. Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz

annie Leibovitz bookIf you want to make a meaningful departure from the typical coffee table book, take a look at Annie Leibovitz’s new collection of photos, Pilgrimage (Random House, $50.00) The celebrated photog, who is renowned for her portraits, was granted access to historical sites that few of us ever get a chance to see: Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, Freud’s last office in London, and Georgia O’Keefe’s adobe house in New Mexico.

She also photographed simple objects that were part of history such as Lincoln’s blood stained gloves, Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, and Elvis’ Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This random visual diary of places and things brings together bits and pieces of our collective history, making Pilgrimage a moving book.

5. My Family Table by John Besh

For the dedicated foodie in your life, there’s a beautiful new cookbook based on the concept of eating home-cooked meals surrounded by the folks you love. (Maybe you’ve heard about that before?) You may have seen its handsome author on The Today Show or the Food Network. He is the New Orleans super-cook and restaurateur John Besh and his book is My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking (Andrews McMeel, $35.00).

Besh is a proud native of southern Louisiana with no less than eight restaurants in his empire. His book is testament to his commitment to using fresh, local products to prepare his regional dishes (Check out his recipe for Cochon de Lait, which is suckling pig, marinated and pit-roasted to perfection.)

My Family Table book

It’s as authentic a Louisiana specialty as you can get. In My Family Table, Besh dazzles us with banquet-like breakfasts and tantalizing barbecue. He’s got loads of food ideas that are right for any family occasion or holiday. Besh is a truly American cook. He isn’t shy about using butter and never discards pan drippings when he can use them to make gravy.

Food critics are calling My Family Table the new American classic cookbook. If you do happen to buy it for someone, don’t forget to copy Besh’s recipe for Lemon Ice Box Pie before you give the book away. It’s amazing.

6. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

If you’re searching for a choice to please a biography lover, you cannot do better than the opulent account of the life of Russia’s greatest monarch, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie (Random House, $35.00). Massie, who wrote the award-winning Nicholas and Alexandra, paints Catherine as a true child of the Enlightenment, a ruler who hoped to bring reform and progress to Russia.

Robert Massie book on Catharine the GreatBut it was not to be. Mother Russia was unready to accept the ideas of Voltaire and Catherine, his most devoted student. In the end, Catherine does leave her mark on Russia but not before Russia leaves its mark on her.

Catherine is forced to become one tough customer, terribly shrewd, calculating, and vain. In her time, she had a retinue of lovers, usurped the Russian throne from her husband, and planned to expel her son from the line of succession.

Massie’s broad, sweeping prose pulls the reader in. Within no time, one forgets everything but the people, scandals, and historical events that impacted the eighteenth-century Russian court, and you are the better for it.

7. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

The other bio is Van Gogh: The Life, a peerlessly researched study of the artist’s life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Random House $40.00). While there have been many books on Van Gogh and the tragedy of his life, none has had the psychological acuity of this work which presents a much more sympathetic understanding of the Van Gogh than we have previously been presented.

Naifeh and Smith, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for their biography of the artist Jackson Pollack, draw on Van Gogh’s voluminous letters to portray a man who was among the most creative spirits the world has ever seen, an intelligent and complex character who persevered for his art, even against his own intensity. Van Gogh: The Life has been deemed the definitive biography of the great Dutch post-impressionist, and it just may bring Naifeh and Smith their second Pulitzer Prize.

Andrew Weil book8. Spontaneous Happiness by Dr. Andrew Weil

Everyone wants to give happiness. Here’s your chance. Spontaneous Happiness (Little, Brown, & Company, $27.99) by Dr. Andrew Weil gives us the basics for attaining optimum emotional health with an approach that brings together Eastern and Western psychology. He tackles inner well-being with a variety of techniques including managing stress, changing negative mental habits and adopting a spiritual practice.

Plus, in Spontaneous Happiness, the good doctor outlines an eight-week program which includes nutrition, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle changes to get started on the quest. It has long been noted that Dr. Weill does impressive work in integrating alternative healing with scientific medical practice.

He’s got the East-West dichotomy digested and synthesized, thereby saving his readers the work. He also offers these concepts about healing with caring, clarity, and common sense. In addition, Weill may be the most open-minded doctor on the planet. He extols the virtues of everything from gardening (something he strongly advocates for well-being because he does it himself) to hugs. While Dr. Andrew Weil may not bring you complete and everlasting bliss, Spontaneous Happiness will make you feel better. Isn’t that enough?

Gabby Giffords book9. Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords

One of this year’s most inspirational books has got to be Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, (Scribner, $26.99) by Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords. I cannot imagine anyone failing to be moved by this story which is mostly told by Kelley in the book.

He combines a history of his and Giffords’ lives with details of Gabby’s slow, painful journey back from the near fatal shooting that took the lives of six people.

There is no doubt that while Gabrielle Giffords still has a substantial way to go toward total recovery, she will succeed. Kelly leaves the writing of the last chapter to his remarkable wife who tells the American people, “I will get stronger. I will return.” Perhaps her inevitable triumph will form the basis for another book? Here’s hoping that The Women’s Eye will be able to put it on next year’s list. Go Gabby!

10. Cool, Calm & Contentious by Merrill MarkoeMerrill Markoe's Cool, Calm & ContentiousIn her latest book, Cool, Calm & Contentious (Villard, $24.00), Merrill Markoe proves once again that she is a funny, smart writer who knows her way around the comedy business. She is so astute about things comedic that she has even identified the kind of mother one needs to make it in comedy.Moms who are narcissistic, hypercritical and filled with repressed rage seem to have the winning formula. Markoe’s own mother once read her comedy scripts and remarked, “Well, I don’t care for them, but I hope I’m wrong.”It takes quite a coping mechanism to defend your ego against that kind of onslaught, but apparently this is the stuff that comedic inspiration is made from. Markoe also shares her amusing musings on the challenges of adult relationships and why dogs are her favorite people. She is long past getting her due as a humorist of uncommon talent. Give this book and make somebody laugh!

If you’ve read a book that you really enjoyed and want to recommend to our TWE audience, email us at thewomenseye@gmail.com,and we may include it in a future list of Reader Picks.

Sue Podbielski is a writer, producer, and community activist.

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro Ng

Maya Soetoro-Ng bookLadder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng

In this magical tale by Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s sister, Suhaila’s Grandma Annie descends a golden ladder outside her bedroom window and leads her up to the moon on an adventure of healing, helping and growth.

Read the TWE Story on Maya Soetoro-Ng

SUE’S REVIEW — The Indomitable Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland book

UPDATE 2/21/13: Film debuts at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

UPDATE 9/8/12: The new film, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel,” opens this month.  Here is the trailer…

By Sue Podbielski/October 22, 2011

Facebook: DianaVreelandbookandfilm

Once upon a time there was a queen, who, despite her rather unconventional appearance, ruled the rarified world of women’s magazines with her ideas of fashion and beauty. She was Diana Vreeland, whose singular style catapulted her in the 1930s from socialite to Harper’s Bazaar’s fashion editor, a job she invented and held for almost three decades.

“There is only one thing in life and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.” Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland from Abrams

Photo Courtesy of the Diana Vreeland Estate

She discovered Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall; launched the careers of models Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton; advised First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on clothes; and became a major player during the heyday of women’s magazines. In 1963 Vreeland cemented her reputation by being named the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue where her contributions to the fashion revolution of the mid-sixties were innumerable.

I always found the indomitable Mrs. Vreeland, whom I worshipped from afar, to be a fascinating creature. Her personal panache, her jet black bob, her aquiline nose, and her gift for witticisms won me from the first moment that I read about her.

She once said, “The first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.” Diana Vreeland was one of the great figures of the New York City fashion and art world until her death in 1989.

Her larger than life persona (she was the inspiration for the character of Maggie Prescott in the Fred Astaire-Audrey Hepburn film “Funny Face”) may have been her own creation, but it was nevertheless mesmerizing.

When The Grolier Club (a place apparently so unique that had I never even heard about it in my 30 -something years of living in New York) announced a lecture by Vreeland’s granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland, I eagerly paid the thirty dollars for the ticket and joined the crowd of 25 or so D.V. acolytes to hear what she had to say.

Diana Vreeland Bazaar Cover 4/15/67

One of Vreeland’s Harper’s Bazaar covers/March, 1959

Immordino Vreeland, a striking woman with a professional background in fashion, has written a new book, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel” which chronicles Mrs. Vreeland’s life in style. Many have said that Diana (pronounced DEE-ahna) Vreeland gave us the template for the way we view and interact with fashion today, and Immordino Vreeland makes a very strong case for that.

While she never met her grandmother-in-law, she had access to the family’s archives as well as those of Bazaar, Vogue, and the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, for which Diana Vreeland served as creative consultant after her abrupt dismissal from Vogue at the age of 70.

Immordino Vreeland was a prodigious researcher on this project leaving no stone of D.V.’s life as an editor unturned. While she was researching the book, an impressive coffee-table tome featuring hundreds of photos pulled from the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, she told herself that she should be working on a documentary. So that’s exactly what she ended up doing.

Her impressive film, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival and will be released by the Samuel Goldwyn Company in March 2012, features interviews with Calvin Klein, Angelica Huston, Ali McGraw, Marisa Berenson, Oscar de La Renta, Hubert de Givenchy, Diane von Furstenberg, Manolo Blahnik, and Vreeland’s most celebrated collaborator, photographer Richard Avedon.

“You’ve got to give people what they can’t get at home. You’ve got to take them somewhere.”

Then, there is Diana Vreeland in her own words, captured on video and audio tapes in interviews she did with Dick Cavett and Diane Sawyer, as well as many hours of conversations recorded with the writer George Plimpton, made while she wrote her memoir, D.V. Vreeland once said, “You’ve got to give people what they can’t get at home. You’ve got to take them somewhere.” Her vehicle for this journey was fashion, but her route was fantasy.

Diana Vreeland Vogue Cover with Twiggy

Twiggy on Vogue cover/April, 1967

Diana Vreeland gave people a sense of something larger than life, although not always factual. According to Immordino Vreeland, she was a believer in “faction,” the synergy between fantasy and fact. “Do we know for certain that Nijinsky danced through her living room?” says Immordino Vreeland. “We don’t. But does it matter? She puts us there. She gives us a sense of history in a totally different way.”

Vreeland had a front row seat to the most important moments of her time, and it made everything she said and did more alive. She danced alongside Josephine Baker in Harlem; she rode with Buffalo Bill; she shopped at Coco Chanel’s atelier; and she witnessed the coronation of King Edward VI.

It was all a magnificent prelude for the woman who would introduce, despite indignant protestations, the bikini and blue jeans to American fashion, calling them “the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.” Everything she did was extraordinary and extreme. Not surprisingly, she loved the Sixties. “For the first time,” she said, “youth went after life instead of waiting for life to come to them.”

I asked Immordino Vreeland during the recent lecture what Diana Vreeland might have thought of today’s fashion. She answered that she probably would be very pleased with much of what she saw, particularly how accessible fashion has become today. She thought Vreeland would have really loved the internet because she loved learning about new things and tapping into trends and information all over the world. Vreeland once said, “There is only one thing in life and that’s the continual renewal of inspiration.”

She brought creativity, inspiration, and fantasy to an industry which needed her talent.

For those who are interested in Diana Vreeland’s personal life and how she came to be the fascinating woman she ultimately became, Immordino Vreeland offers glimpses but no conclusions.

Diana Vreeland autobiography

Diana Vreeland autobiography

According to interviews with Vreeland herself, she always had a unique appearance which prompted her mother to call her, “my little monster.” Her younger sister, Alexandra, was considered to be beautiful.

What this did to a vulnerable young Diana Vreeland we can only conjecture. One has the vision of a girl growing up in a world of beauty and culture who, although not considered beautiful herself, was determined to turn herself into the ultimate arbiter of fashion and taste.

The wonderful thing is that while she may have created her own persona and played the role to the hilt, she gave so much to life. Whether she was being real or acting a part didn’t seem to matter. Yes, she was bending reality to fit her will, but she was awfully good at it.

Immordino Vreeland paints a vivid portrait of a complex woman whose talents could not be categorized and whose imagination was so vast that she had to invent a place for herself in the world. More than anything Diana Vreeland was about ideas. She brought creativity, inspiration, and fantasy to an industry which needed her talent. And that industry became her all-important vehicle. It was a match made in heaven.

Book Credit: Abrams, Fall 2011. That is Diana Vreeland on the cover, posing in front of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. The model was sick that day and D.V. just decided to do the shoot herself.


Sue Podbielski is a writer, producer, and community activist.

This Is Not the Story You Think It is…

Laura Munson's book on marriage and making choices "This Is Not The Story You Think It Is"

This Is Not the Story You Think It is… by Laura Munson
Best-selling author, Laura Munson, on marriage and making choices.
TWE Interview with Laura Munson

Laura Bush Writes From Her Heart

"Spoken From the Heart" by Laura BushThe former first lady chronicles her life in “Spoken From the Heart” with, as some critics write, candor and no meanness.

To read a review:

LA Times

An interview:

USA Today


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?