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Inspirational Reads

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There’s nothing like a few hours of escapism with a good book. And what could be more motivating than reading about somebody else’s successful life? Stylist picks five good reads

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie

A thorough look at the life of fashion icon Coco Chanel. Author Justine Picardie spent ten years researching Chanel’s life, from her mysterious childhood, her love life, famous friends such as Winston Churchill, her controversial affairs during WWII and her loneliness in old age. Picardie peels away some of the romance of the women’s life (much of which she created for herself) and gets to the core of the real woman, who still inspires the clothes that we wear today – the little black dress, bobbed hair and women’s trousers to name but a few. An incredibly strong and inspiring woman and an interesting read, whether you’re into fashion or not.

Available from all good bookshops or amazon.co.uk, £25

Business As Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits with Principles by Anita Roddick

Published in 2005, two years before she died, Anita Roddick was an incredibly successful woman entrepreneur and founder of ethical cosmetics firm the Body Shop. Her biography charts the highs and lows of her Body Shop business but also tackles many subjects including self-esteem, human rights, globalisation, business ethics and her views on how businesses will have to evolve into the millennium. A woman who changed the face of ethical businesses worldwide.

Available from all good bookshops or amazon.co.uk, £8.99

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Schiff won the Pulitzer in 2000 for her biography on Véra Nabokov and her latest biography Cleopatra is gaining critical acclaim. Much has been written about the powerful Egyptian ruler but Schiff has extracted the real Cleopatra from all the mythical and romantic stories. Of course we’ll never really know the truth, but Schiff paints a convincing picture of the age. Many of the book’s themes are shared with women today – female ambition and power. Unsurprisingly a Hollywood film is in the making with rumours of James Cameron directing and Angelina Jolie playing the Queen of the Nile.

Available from all good bookshops or amazon.co.uk, £20.17

Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin

A controversial choice for an inspiring woman? Love her or hate her, this biography was in the Amazon and Barnes and Noble best sellers list before it even hit the shops. She’s one political figure that is definitely going to be around in the public eye for a few more years to come. She has led a colourful life, which makes for an interesting read – from her humble beginnings, her political achievements, personal battles, being a working mother and her tumultuous relationship with the media and public.

Available from all good bookshops or amazon.co.uk, £ 18.99

Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow by Detmar Blow and Tom Sykes

In 2007 the fashion world was rocked by the news of Isabella Blow’s suicide. This remarkable biography written by her husband is an intimate portrayal of a fashion trendsetter and icon. She was incredibly successful as the Fashion Director of Tatler and Fashion Editor of The Sunday Times Magazine. But she was also an advocate of spotting and nurturing talent – Sophie Dahl and Alexander McQueen being the most notable. Despite this success she suffered from severe depression, which sadly conquered her in the end.

Available from all good bookshops or amazon.co.uk, £20

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