Sally Quinn is no stranger to the A-list. Her husband is retired Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, and in her own days as a Post reporter she was known for her scoops on the high-society crowd inside the Beltway. So readers will turn to this how-to guide not so much for her tips on party-giving (and going), but in the hope that Quinn will serve up some really good dish. Alas, she is too gracious a hostess to throw and tell. Most of the book consists of sensible advice—treat your guests as you would like to be treated; invite a lively bunch; go for plain, good food, not fancy; stock up on the booze—that sort of thing.
It's especially fun when she affords us a glimpse of notables at play—such as the New Year's Eve party where, at the stroke of midnight, CNN's Larry King kissed Gen. Colin Powell on the cheek and began waltzing him to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne." Without missing a beat, Powell turned to the astonished guests and quipped, "Don't ask, don't tell." Some of Quinn's best anecdotes (like the one about the dinner party where Nora Ephron ended her marriage to a philandering Carl Bernstein by pouring a bottle of red wine over his head) may be warmed over, but they're still tasty. One just wishes there were more ample helpings. (Simon & Schuster, $24)