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Best New Women’s Biographies for Holiday Gifts Include “Cockeyed Happy”

Women’s lives shaped by Hemingway, the Vanderbilts and Capote are top book choices

Darla Worden 'Cockeyed Happy' holiday gifting ideas

Author Darla Worden became intrigued with Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway’s story as she researched Ernest Hemingway’s time in Wyoming, bringing fresh perspective to a book perfect for holiday gifting.

Denver, Colorado – December 1, 2021 – As author Darla Worden researched Ernest Hemingway’s time spent in her home state of Wyoming for her new book Cockeyed Happy: Ernest Hemingway’s Wyoming Summers with Pauline (Chicago Review Press, $28.99), an unexpected underlying theme began to emerge. Worden saw Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, as his “invisible wife” – impactful to his life and work but rarely mentioned in other books about the famous American writer. In time for the holidays, Worden is recommending Cockeyed Happy and two other new biographies that explore historical women’s lives in relation to powerful men – Vanderbilt and Capote’s Women – as ideal gifts for book lovers.

The evolution of roles and expectations for women, especially regarding their relationships with famous and powerful men, remains a frequent topic of current news that reaches back through time. Cockeyed Happy – which has received a variety of media acclaim – traces the arc of Ernest and Pauline Hemingway’s marriage across the six summers between 1928 and 1939, exciting times for the avid outdoorsman author, as well as productive times for his writing. But as Hemingway’s star rose, Pauline forfeited her career, friends and relationship with her sons, leaving the children for months at a time and learning to ride, hunt and fish during their summers in Wyoming to please her husband. “Hemingway made it clear that he always had to come first, or he could find someone else,” Worden says.

“I think it’s interesting to review historical women’s challenges through our changing contemporary lens,” says Cockeyed Happy author Darla Worden, recommending her book and these two additional new nonfiction titles that delve into past women’s lives for holiday giving:

'Cockeyed Happy' t-shirts

Like “Vanderbilt” and “Capote’s Women,” “Cockeyed Happy” delves into the life of Pauline Hemingway (shown in Wyoming, center, JFK Library photo), shaped by marriage to her famous writer husband.

“The most interesting Vanderbilts (to this reader) are the women,” writes Christopher Buckley in his review for The Washington Post of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe (Harper, $30). Author and journalist Cooper teams with historian and novelist Howe to chronicle the rise and fall of Cooper’s mother’s family, the Vanderbilts, from the fortunes amassed by ancestors Cornelius Vanderbilt and his son, Billy, to the squandering of that wealth by subsequent generations, including Cooper’s mother, Gloria, a serial spendthrift and daughter of an alcoholic who drank himself to death while blowing through his own inheritance. “No one can make money evaporate into thin air like a Vanderbilt,” write Cooper and Howe in this “rollicking, quintessentially American history” as told by the ultimate insider.

In Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $28.00), bestselling biographer Laurence Leamer reveals the complicated relationships and surprising true stories behind Truman Capote’s never-published final novel, Answered Prayers – and the author’s betrayal of the group of glamorous female friends he called his “swans.” “There are certain women,” Capote wrote, “who, though perhaps not born rich, are born to be rich.” Capote’s swans were the toast of midcentury New York, and in this “delicious dissection,” as Town & Country writes of the book, Leamer reveals “how each of these women found friendship and frustration with [Capote], and what happened when he committed the ultimate betrayal.”

Wyoming native Darla Worden lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is editor in chief of Mountain Living and Colorado Homes & Lifestyles magazines. Worden also is founder and director of the Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris and a journalist known for articles about art, architecture, travel and the West. Her quest to uncover the story of Hemingway’s time in Wyoming was first sparked when she learned the author had spent a summer in her hometown of Sheridan and nearby Big Horn, Wyoming. For additional information about Cockeyed Happy and related book events, visit or follow @darlaworden on Instagram.

Media contact: Anne McGregor Parsons,, 303.548.4611