From fashion to flowers to foodie comforts, this month's best lifestyles books are here to inform, delight and soothe.
I am not a big sewer (OK, I am not a sewer at all), but I can’t stop poring over Kate Sekules’ Mend! A Refashioning Manual and Manifesto. A seasoned travel editor and writer, Sekules brings a refreshingly fierce voice to an assemblage of topics: the wastefulness and exploitative practices of the fashion industry, the sustainability of slow fashion, the history of clothing, stars of the mending scene and more. Visible mending, or VM, is her chief cause. “To stitch or sport a VM is to declare independence from consumer culture with a beautiful scar and badge of honor,” she writes. A prim sewing guide this is not, and I am here for it. If you want sewing basics, Sekules does offer them, but along the way she will school you on where fashion has been and where it’s going (to the grave?).
For some time now I have been a big admirer of Jessica Roux’s illustrations, which feel rooted in a time that’s decidedly not the present. So I was thrilled to discover her new book, Floriography, an A to Z of flowers and the meanings they were given by flower-mad Victorians. Back then, people weren’t so quick to emote socially; rather, they let petals do the talking for them. Roux provides a brief but fascinating history of this coded discourse and then shows us the flowers, in her distinct style, from amaryllis (pride) to zinnia (everlasting friendship). A final section illustrates bouquets—for new beginnings, bitter ends, warnings and more—and an index lists the flowers by meaning.
The Art of Cake
Alice Oehr’s The Art of Cake is not a cake cookbook—just a whimsically illustrated book about cake, with precise physical descriptions of and historical and cultural context for 50 cakes, such as Pavlova, linzertorte, charlotte and pound cake. “I am not a professional baker by any stretch of the imagination,” Oehr writes in a note about the final section of the book, in which she provides recipes (the only ones in the book) for six cakes. I’m intrigued by Oehr’s inclusion of banoffee pie, a dessert that she describes as “pie” twice in addition to its name. But particularly in these times, such quibbles are minor, and we could all use a bit more cake.