May 4, 2017
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Entertaining Books Through The Years
  • Entertaining Is Fun [1941]
    Entertaining Is Fun [1941]

    Entertaining Is Fun [1941]

    In her day, Dorothy Draper was a famous interior decorator and a columnist for Good Housekeeping. In this guide to entertaining, published in 1941, she writes with absurd detail about what it takes to throw a good party, from how the cigarettes should be arranged to how to get your guests to have interesting conversations. In a chapter about entertaining one’s husband, Draper sternly advises against nagging or complaining too much about one’s day, since men don’t like that sort of thing. Needless to say, some of the pieces of wisdom in this book hold up better than others, but 100 percent of these maxims give insight into a suburban 1940s type A mindset.

  • Cool Entertaining [1976]
    Cool Entertaining [1976]

    Cool Entertaining [1976]

    If tunafish pie with grapefruit and pecans sounds up your alley, then you may want to track down a copy of this time capsule of party food from 1976. Irma Rhode’s recipes, which are perhaps a little bit heavy on the aspic and mayonnaise for this millennium, were favorites of Craig Claiborne. Rhode ran a catering business called Hors d’Oeuvres Inc. in the 1930s with James Beard, and her raw-onion sandwich even inspired the onion-and-butter sandwich that became a famous James Beard classic.

  • Entertaining [1982]
    Entertaining [1982]

    Entertaining [1982]

    In the late 1970s, long before her media empire was launched, Martha Stewart was hired to cater a book launch party. At the party, she met the head of Crown Publishing Group, who asked her to write a book about hosting parties. The book that came of this encounter, Entertaining, was published in 1982 and became a huge hit, leading to television appearances, magazine columns, more books, and eventually Martha Stewart Living.

  • The Party [1998]
    The Party [1998]

    The Party [1998]

    Sally Quinn wrote The Party in 1998, after years of covering high-profile D.C. social events for The Washington Post. The result is a combination of snippy advice on hosting and casual gossip about presidents and movie stars. Peppered with name-dropping and maxims on party throwing (always include a cocktail hour, but never after-dinner liqueurs), the book tells you everything you need to know about how the wealthy partied in the 1990s.

  • Barefoot Contessa Parties! [2001]
    Barefoot Contessa Parties! [2001]

    Barefoot Contessa Parties! [2001]

    Ina Garten’s personal brand has always been about warm, casual hospitality. She’s worked her way into our subconscious and Liz Lemon’s dream sequences as the convivial neighbor you run into on vacation, who invites you over on a whim for white wine and canapés. Unlike some of her predecessors in the party-guide business, Garten’s attitude in this 2001 book is all about informality. Don’t want to deliver a tableful of warm plates simultaneously? Dial it back, and have your friends assemble their own sandwiches.

  • I Like You [2006]
    I Like You [2006]

    I Like You [2006]

    Amy Sedaris’s first book, I Like You, is somehow both the antithesis of an entertaining book and the ideal entertaining book. With photography styled after orange-hued 1970s magazine spreads, Sedaris takes on some unfortunate throwback recipes (like the banana-based Candle Salad) and a few of her IRL favorites (like yogurt spaghetti with lots of parsley, and vanilla cupcakes).

Paging through history’s most famous hostesses.

The question of how to correctly throw a party has inspired tomes over the years, by scholarly party-throwers who have approached the subject from the angles of decor, etiquette, socializing, food, and drink. If you asked Dorothy Draper, a celebrity interior decorator and socialite of the 1940s, she’d tell you it’s mostly about having the right furniture arrangement and attitude. If you asked Martha Stewart, she might encourage you to invest in a matching set of china. If you asked Ina Garten, she might stress the importance of a sense of easygoing spontaneity. And if you asked comedian Amy Sedaris, the answer would probably involve some drugs, a handful of googly eyes, and a casserole or two.

In the end, when it comes to hosting, there really aren’t any “dos” or “don’ts” that you can count on—everyone has their own style, and what would be the point of hosting a party if some of your own personality didn’t shine through in the details? If you’re still finding your own party style, here are a few of the most iconic, opinionated, and zealous books about party-throwing from the last 75 years.

Anna Hezel

Anna Hezel is the senior editor of TASTE.

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