Stories to fuel your mind

Special Reads

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Story by Jim Tobler

Starlet Fever

It takes one to know one, and Hollywood daddy’s girls Emma Goldberg, daughter of studio executive (and Aaron Spelling acolyte) Leonard Goldberg and Ruthanna Hopper, daughter of Easy Rider Dennis Hopper, serve up a satirical scoop of studio intrigue in Celebutantes (St. Martin’s Press, $29.95). Set during awards show season, with starlets going commando and leading men behaving badly, our heroine Lola is an uncanny amalgam of the Coppola and Spelling heiresses and works as an aspiring but hapless stylist. A fun and fizzy insider peek behind the velvet ropes.

Dressed: A Costume History

Costumes in movies can be characters as much as the actors are, and the lavish Dressed (Collins, $88) is a yearbook of the most memorable fashion moments in film of the past century, from Fred & Ginger to Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and Brokeback Mountain. Wardrobe designers share the subtle tricks that made the costumes so crucial and little-known facts and amusing anecdotes: Marilyn Monroe’s bubblegum-pink gown in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes wasn’t sewn, only folded, into shape and backed in green billiard-table felt;

Carrie Fisher wasn’t allowed to wear a bra under her Princess Leia jersey; Boris Karloff’ makeup and costume as Frankenstein weighed 67lbs; and when Clark Gable appeared bare-chested in It Happened One Night, there was an immediate 30% drop in sales of men’s undershirts.

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Lives of Girls & Women

Appearances can be deceiving, especially when it comes to PTA perfect mothers. Reminiscent of the hi-jinx on Wisteria Lane (with a helping of Cashmere Mafia’s overachieving vixens for good measure), Wendy Walker looks beneath the surface at the intertwined lives of four troubled suburban wives and mothers in Four Wives (St. Martin’s, $27.95).

Hot Tox

Stars and boldface regularly shell out fourfigures for a week of detox and rejuvenation at Madeleine Marentette’s posh Ontario wellness resort, Grail Springs. You can get the results at home by following her instructions in the Grail Springs Holistic Detox (McArthur & Co., $29.95). There’s sensible and inspiring how-to’s on seasonal and 3 to 7-day detox cleanses as well as more ambitious 7-day juice fasts, information on how a Ph-balanced diet and acid and alkaline foods affect the system and an especially useful chapter outlines the obvious — but often forgotten–reasons and key role that ingredients like sleep, baths, fitness, colon health, organic seaweed, massage and salt can play in a healthy lifestyle. One secret detox tool? A skipping rope.

The Personal is Political

Novelist Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter, Cloudsplitter) is back with another sprawling but intimate story, this time a love story and murder mystery. The Reserve (Knopf, $32) opens one evening in 1936, on the remote Adirondack estate of a wealthy family whose wild-child daughter falls for a lefty local artist. From there, the story goes off to Spain and Germany and becomes a suspenseful story of politics, romance and class among the have and have-nots on the eve of the Second World War.

The Smell of Success

In The Perfect Scent (Henry Holt, $28), Chandler Burr offers up a whiff of the high stakes world of celebrity and designer scents and the competitive, exotic world of raw ingredients, multi-national perfume companies and eccentric ‘noses’ as he concurrently follows the creative process of Jean-Claude Ellena, the in-house nose at Hermès (Un Jardin Sur Le Nil) and that of actress Sarah Jessica Parker as she and the phalanx of perfumers at Coty, Inc. create her bestselling Lovely. During his year-long journey Burr, the scent critic for The New York Times, was given complete and unprecedented access, from concept and marketing brief to finished product, the book is a must-read for fragrance junkies, with plenty of scent lore, designer dish celeb gossip along the way

Gods & Monsters

There would be no Power Rangers without Tsuburaya. Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters (Chronicle, $44) is the only English-language biography of the man responsible for the golden age of Japanese science fiction, like Ultraman and Godzilla. The book delves into Tsuburaya’s world of prosthetics, technically innovative sets and monster creations for the first time. Written by film critic and scholar August Ragone and illustrated with hundreds of pictures and film stills of the master’s work alongside interviews with colleagues and protégés, it’s an essential coffee table tome for pop culture devotees.

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Love Story

There’s a romantic in all of us – especially around Valentine’s Day — and Pulitzer-winning Jeffrey Eugenides (Middlesex) has chosen a selection of love stories to coax it out. Tales of heartache, unrequited love, love lost and love found abound in the anthology My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead (HarperCollins, $26.96) include stories by Anton Chekhov, Eileen Chang and Alice Munro.

Take A Letter

Texting, MSN and email – or old-fashioned snail mail, epistolary lovers will relish the Four Letter Word (Knopf, $29.95), edited by Rosalind Porter and Joshua Knelman. Authors such as Leonard Cohen, Miriam Toews, Jonathan Lethem, Douglas Coupland and Neil Gaiman all contribute faux love letters of a kind, and may even inspire some billets doux of your own.

One To Watch

Every year the publishing powers-that-be anoint a few new talents as the New Face of Fiction. This year’s breakthrough literary novel is tipped to belong to Nicolas Dickner. His début novel Nikolski (Knopf, $29.95) was an award-winning and popular sensation in Quebec when it was first published there two years ago, and it does not disappoint. It’s a joyride that begins in the Montreal of 1989, with short chapters and digressions pop culture, archeology and myth.

Food For Thought

Last year, everybody was reading – and debating – Michael Pollan’s bestselling investigation of Big Agriculture and the food chain, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. To lure skeptics back to the table, Pollan offers up In Defense of Food (The Penguin Press, $26.50), to help understand how the Western diet of processed and empty foods is ruining our health, and how to begin to eat real food again. His manifesto, sure to be the hot topic at dinner parties everywhere, can be distilled to this simple, seven-word mantra: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Hallelujah!

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