Vanessa and Helen Williams

The performer and her mother team up to write -- and to read.



A powerful voice and stunning good looks have made Vanessa Williams a star of stage, screen, and recording studio. Her new book, written with her mother, Helen Williams, is called You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other). This week, Vanessa and Helen recommend three books that have provided them with solace during difficult times in their lives.


Music by Vanessa Williams


TV Shows and Movies Featuring Vanessa Williams



The Value in the Valley

By Iyanla Vanzant


"Vanzant is an inspirational speaker and ordained minister. The book's message is that life is not just a series of peaks or mountain top experiences but often a difficult journey through dark valleys."






Dark Nights of the Soul

By Thomas Moore


"This book deals with death, rebirth, and grieving. The theme of this book is that you should take the time to grieve. Listen to sad music and cry. Don't be afraid of grief and don't suppress your sadness because then you will never get through it. Both this and The Value of the Valley helped me through tough times."




The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion


"This is an inspirational story of the trauma experienced in surviving the death of a spouse. After the sudden and devastating death of my soul mate for 45 years I found myself questioning my faith and angry. This book was recommended by Vanessa and a neighbor. It gave me comfort and insight into the grieving process."

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.