Is it possible that heaven is a place with lush golf courses, a vast library, and closets full of party dresses? Or a place filled whatever you’re nuts about while you’re here on earth? Okay. I know that’s shallow and sacrilegious. No matter how much I love playing golf, reading, and admiring beautiful clothes, these pursuits probably don’t compare with eternity.

Forgive me, then, if I find a little too much pleasure indulging two out of three of my earthly passions—fashion and reading. When it comes to books on fashion and style, 2011 was a mother lode. This is the first of a three-part series, sharing my favorite style books for 2011:

Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, by Kate Betts

What an amazing First Lady. She looked comfortable, confident, and appropriate meeting the Queen of England in a cardigan and skirt. How did she pull it off? By being comfortable, confident, and appropriate, proving once and for all that authenticity is the very essence of personal style. Betts has written a well-researched book filled with sketches, photographs, and interviews that chronicle Michelle Obama’s approachable yet refined sense of style. This book is endowed with historical and political perspective, broadening its appeal to include readers who aren’t that into fashion. It’s a feast for the eyes and inspiration for every woman’s heart.

What to Wear Where: The How-To Handbook for Any Style Situation, by Hillary Kerr & Katherine Power

In our everything-goes world, you can go to the opera in jeans without raising so much as an eyebrow. But, if you have a social bone in your body, there are still times when you wonder, “What should I wear?” This book takes the guesswork out of that question, offering styling advice for every occasion, from a walk in the dog park to a night at the opera. As someone who is always thinking about what to wear, I find it almost comical that the authors identify so many forms of occasional wear. What makes this book substantial is its focus on the social goals for every occasion. Photos of the authors wearing their suggestions help readers take the hint. Their opposing body types–one is a Barbie doll, the other carries a little more flesh on her bones—enhance the value of the book as a resource for regular girls. They round out their advice with what-to-wear options and hints about what to avoid.

What I Wore: Four Seasons, One Closet, Endless Recipes for Personal Style, by Jessica Quirk

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for this book. Is it because of the author’s daily blog,, where she ignites a profusion of ideas for dressing more imaginatively? Is it because of her contemporary adroitness with vintage garments? Is it her coyness and personal charm, which I experienced directly when I met Jessica Quirk at a central Indiana Tweet up for fashion bloggers early this year? Or is it simply the cleverness of this book, which reads like a series of seasonal recipes for cooking up something special with your wardrobe?

Quirk’s cookbook is loaded with practical tips that only a serious clothes-horse could know. Wanna know how to arrange your vast collection of tights? Fold ‘em in half, wrap them around a plastic hanger and make a loop knot, securing them to the hanger. What to do with those menacing wire hangers in your closet? Her words: “Toss ‘em.”

Rather than conveying her ideas in photographs that reveal her perfect figure, Quirk’s sketches illustrate the endless ensembles you can make from an existing wardrobe. She peppers the book with useful shopping advice on where to spend your money. Hint: You don’t need to feel guilty about the boots that you spent $200 on if you’ll wear them three times a week from September through March.

Read this book and catch the distinct scent of Quirk’s joy and passion for getting dressed, aptly shown in her advice for putting together great ensembles: “Find time to play dress-up and create new outfits (like on Sunday night with a glass of wine)”

I can’t wear half the ensembles Quirk suggests. But knowing that is one of the most important ingredients for getting dressed, in Quirk’s opinion. Wear what works for you, regardless of trends. This is a gem of a book to inspire fashionistas of all stripes.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the best style books of 2011!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.