With Memorial Day right around the corner, we started thinking about a few of our favorite books by smart, funny, successful women, and how they embrace every challenge that comes with life. From deciding if it’s time for Botox or not, to contemplating a facelift in a taxi cab, each of these books examines and shares several unifying experiences of what it means to be a woman getting by in this modern world. And they make for perfect beach reading.
While some are of these books are beauty-focused, none are simplified looks at the process of getting older. Instead, these authors look at beauty throughout life more as a partner, a friend and sometimes a foe. But each stresses that when it comes down to it, only real beauty counts. And that comes from the inside, proving that grit, determination and compassion make a truly beautiful person.
Ready for some inspiration? Here are our favorite beauty-related beach reads.
The Price of Illusion
Joan Juliet Buck
Buck writes like Vogue feels — infinitely and effortlessly elegant. Yet, her memoir The Price of Illusion is absolutely approachable and warm. From her friendships, especially strong with none other than actor Anjelica Houston, to being a part of the London and New York City social sets in the late ’60s and ’70s, to being appointed editor of French Vogue, every story is steeped in style and celebrities, but not in an annoying, gossip-column way. Being surrounded by style and those who made it simply was Buck’s life, as she grew up the daughter of a movie producer who started a company with Peter O’Toole.
Life isn’t all roses here — and that’s what makes her book shine. Buck is unafraid to delve into the doldrums of everyday life and challenges, including making French Vogue over, head to toe, while fighting for access to stories, celebrities and models with American Vogue editor Anna Wintour (guess who won?), being abruptly ousted by the magazine, and, finally, selling many of her things and taking care of her ailing father. Reading this book is like a fascinating weekend visit with that one friend you have who’s been everywhere, met everyone and done everything. You never want it to end.
An examination of the rise of Botox coming from an academic in women’s studies? Dana Berkowitz details the popularity and prevalence of one of the most popular cosmetic treatments of all time in Botox Nation, digging into our collective fear of aging, especially younger women being targeted with “preventative” Botox.
At the time she was researching the book, in her mid-30s, Berkowitz also tried Botox, and admits to using it several times since to treat her fine lines. And here lies the conundrum where the conversation is so much more nuanced and complicated than it seems. Botox Nation is more than just about the global quest — among women and men — to keep looking young-ish, especially when it comes to remaining competitive in jobs, dating and life. It’s an incredibly complicated discussion about a cosmetic treatment that was once dismissed as something frivolous or shallow, but now is seen as commonplace among millions of people worldwide. Is it possible to be a smart, successful feminist and get Botox, too? Read this book and decide for yourself.
I Feel Bad About My Neck
The late, great Nora Ephron is renowned for her ability to cut to the chase, make you laugh, make you sad, and always deliver it with honest humor. Her 2006 collection of essays, brilliantly titled, I Feel Bad About My Neck, fearlessly takes on the one place on your body that usually is the first to go — and one of the biggest complaints among women.
Whether she’s writing about sitting around a lunch table with her friends all in turtlenecks, or talking about schlepping to the East Side from the West Side to see her eyebrow threader (in NYC real estate, crossing Central Park is a very big deal), when you read these essays you can picture these scenes as dialogue, much like Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher bandied about in the Ephron classic When Harry Met Sally. Need a good friend and a laugh about all the things that bother us as we get older? Pick this up. Still hilarious and relevant a dozen years later.
You Don’t Look Your Age … and Other Fairy Tales
As the former president of HBO documentary films, overseeing more than 1,200 of them, and often credited as the woman who brought the genre to life, Nevins is straightforward, bold and knows how to translate real life into a story.
With her matter-of-fact storytelling in You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales, Nevins doesn’t shy away from sharing the good, bad and sometimes ugly parts of going through life, whether it’s competing in the entertainment industry, dealing with death, or contemplating a facelift. On the latter, in true New York style, Nevins simply decides it’s time to get one, admitting that while it tightened up her face a little, it didn’t make much difference in how she felt about herself in the end. This is a great companion read to Ephron’s funny takes on aging. Nevins is a straight shooter and delivers no b.s. — “I have enough Botox in me to detonate Iran,” she writes. If you need solid opinions without airbrushing, this is the book to go to.