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5 of the best books worth reading this year

We delve deep into the ultimate gentleman's library

The book you choose to read says a lot about you. No matter where your interests lie, knowing what’s out there for you is a big piece of the puzzle. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best books for you to indulge in – no matter what you’re into.

Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table by Valentino Garavani and André Leon Talley

Like a modern day Picasso or Rembrandt, Valentino Garavani is better known simply by his first name. The fashion designer and master couturier is well known for founding his eponymous fashion house in Rome that defined 1950s style. His career saw him dressing some of the most glamorous women, including Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor.

Showing no signs of slowing, after his retirement from the fashion industry in 2008 he grew his reputation for interior design, decoration and lavish parties. Touring his many luxurious homes, readers are ushered in to explore the way Valentino lives. Organised by residence, this book invites readers to enjoy the table settings and recipes that Valentino recommends for each of his homes. A visit to his house in London, for example, reveals a decorating masterpiece with an Orientalist dining room of blue and white china that harks back to the British Empire. Moreover, readers are treated to a rare glimpse of what it would be like to attend one of his legendary dinner parties. His love of entertaining is clear and, in his own words, it doesn’t matter how many or few guests he is catering for: ‘Entertaining 30 or one is the same; the food has to be on a beautiful plate.’ With photography by the renowned Italian photographer Oberto Gili, Valentino’s personal glamour is captured in incredible detail.

5 of the best books worth reading this year

Lunch with the FT, edited by Lionel Barber

The Financial Times’ list of interviews feature every dignitary, creative, and eccentric you can imagine. Here the newspaper’s iconic Lunch with the FT feature has been compiled for the first time. The 52 interviews collected chart a year in the life of the weekly feature. Conversations with ‘presidents, playwrights, monks, tycoons, film stars and a few oddballs’ cover topics ranging from Václav Havel’s Czech coup to Michael Caine’s concerns about his cholesterol.

5 of the best books worth reading this year

Rituals of Dinner, by Margaret Visser

This book looks at the strange ritualistic behaviour we place on our eating habits. Covering the evolution of society through the lens of our dinner table routines, Visser turns the tables on parents who tell their children to put the fork in their left hand, or not to put elbows on the table. Visser takes in different countries and how their cuisines have changed over time. She even asks about the rules governing what we eat, with a quick look at the rules of cannibalism.

5 of the best books worth reading this year

On the Menu by Nicholas Lander

The author certainly knows about menus, as here he presents more than 300 pages on the menu as an art form. On the Menu began its life as a companion volume to Lander’s first book, but it has evolved into a thing of beauty. It features old-fashioned menus like a Christmas feast of zoo animals dating back to 1870, or a 1970s L’Escargot menu when meals cost less than one pound. The modern innovators aren’t forgotten either, with restaurants like Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, and Bocca Di Lupo all present.

5 of the best books worth reading this year

Where bartenders drink, by Adrienne Stillman

Are you the sort of gentleman who turns their nose up at a bar unless it comes with a recommendation? Then this is the compendium for you. Following on from the success of Phaidon’s series that began with Where Chefs Eat, this is the bible of bars. Selected using the knowledge of 300 top drink-makers, venues range across 60 countries and include over 750 recommendations. There are reviews and maps that mean you will never again struggle to find the right bar and drink.

5 of the best books worth reading this year

Further Reading