Books by Alexandra Stoddard

NONFICTION
Released: April 2, 2013

"An annoying tone of self-congratulation pervades this disappointing collection of commonplace adages."
In yet another guide to enjoying the good life, Stoddard (Things Good Mothers Know, 2009, etc.) offers advice on how to grow old gracefully. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 24, 1994

Stoddard (Creating a Beautiful Home, not reviewed) makes some amazing claims about the healing powers of tea in this overwrought little book that focuses less on cooking than on personal memoir, entertaining hints, and egregiously inane aphorisms. Those who plod through the insipid writing will learn that ``each of us, whether broken or whole, is empowered by tea''; that Stoddard's husband thinks she must have been an apprentice tea-master in a former life; and that the sound track from the film Mission serves as the perfect accompaniment to ironing napkins. She spends an inordinate amount of time explaining how to make the tea experience special with everything from mismatched cups and saucers (buying a complete tea set is ``less exciting'' than collecting porcelain piece by piece) to flower arrangements (go asymmetrical, be sparing, let a leaf or blossom overlap the vase, ``play'') to using decorative swizzle sticks to spice up an ordinary glass of hot or cold tea (she seems especially attached to the set she bought at Pier I: ``Sometimes I put the blue ball at the bottom of the glass, and other times I put it at the top for color and delight''). The prize for making it to the end is a chapter of recipes, both sweet and savory, to serve with tea—from lemon bread to watercress-and-egg sandwiches. Most are well explained, one-bowl operations, and the scones are fabulous. But with only 19 recipes, no serious cook will look at this twice. Tea may soothe, but Stoddard will drive you crazy with her self-conscious, precious drivel. (Illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 18, 1994

Lifestyle expert of McCall's magazine and prolific author of low-calorie self-help (Daring to Be Yourself, 1990, etc.), Stoddard offers her personal reflections on turning 50, revealing how she met the conflicting demands of a beautiful home, family, and life. The audience advised to nurture their spirits by surrounding themselves with flowers in Living Beautifully Together (1989) is here exhorted, first, to get rid of weeds they didn't plant, to become the architects of their own lives, to choose their own happiness, take charge of their own finances, face difficulties (``bite the bullet''), and learn the ``Art of No''—which could possibly allow them to dispense with a lifestyle expert. To this counselor on surfaces, decorations, and accessories, whose children are beautiful, whose marriage is successful, and whose siblings (the only dark note) are expendable, the philosophy of choice means that everything in life can be replaced, rearranged, recovered or purchased in a different color. Stoddard takes up the subjects of family, parenting and being parented, marriage, divorce, friends, occupations, along with the problems, challenges, and blessings of life generally, and concludes that the best life—self-fulfillment- -comes with power, with choosing, trusting, and affirming: with acting rather than reacting. The death of a child, the infidelity of a spouse, losing of a job, having to move—all can be handled by making choices. For the Stoddard addict, paralyzed by the shopping, fitting, and matching that the beautiful life requires, courage lies in choosing what color sheets to buy or who to invite to dinner. With quotations in the margins from real philosophers (from Samuel Johnson to Sartre—more choices), Stoddard offers a comforting anodyne, a palliative to get through the middle years. Harmless and, to the totally inert, perhaps inspiring. Read full book review >
DARING TO BE YOURSELF by Alexandra Stoddard
Released: Nov. 13, 1990

How your home, party-giving, wardrobe, work, travel, leisure activities, and gift-giving can express your personal style—here defined as what "makes you feel comfortable, what brings you delight." Forget what's trendy or what impresses others, says interior decorator/author Stoddard. Your home environment should please your eye, be as cozy or antic as you want, and provide for your interests, be they books, cooking, gardening, art. Your clothes should reflect the requirements of your family and social life, your job (if any), and your leisure-time activities. Stress the colors, styles, and materials that are appropriate and comfortable for each of your roles and that set you off to best advantage. Stoddard spritzes suggestions like aerosol spray. Many are obvious: "If you rarely go to black-tie events, you needn't have more than two dressy dresses." She recommends the "timeless" Chanel-look, and plumps for polka dots and scarves that triple as neckware, belts, and hat trimmings. A few ideas might be innovative for some readers: Collect pictures and articles of furniture, rooms, clothing, and vacation spots that appeal to you; have a seamstress run up duplicates of your favorite piece of clothing in different colors and materials. Breathless and enthusiastic, but not for the budget-conscious: life-styles for the rich and famous, really. Read full book review >

A frothy guide, primarily geared to financially confortable career women, on how to achieve magical relationships with mate, children, and friends. Interior designer/author Stoddard (Living a Beautiful Life, 1986) starts out with advice on how to nourish oneself in order to have time and energy for others. Always have flowers around, cancel appointments if you're overstressed, stay abed an occasional Sunday. Meanwhile, schedule 10% of your time for "nurturing the spirit in you": Take a bubble bath, engage in your favorite sport, read, meditate, etc. "Mutual respect" makes for harmonious relations with a spouse, with whom one should "live each day as if it is the first and last of your life together." One should also make a beautiful "nest" and consult hubby when decorating the home; schedule time for each other, perhaps an "athome" weekend, with the phone off, meals at fancy restaurants, movie- or museum-going or whatnot. Stoddard—who makes child-rearing sound like a snap—gave her two daughters "unconditional love," encouragement, rituals and rules; voile, they are out of the nest, swanning into a beautiful future. Fans of previous books may lap this up; others are apt to get heartburn. Read full book review >