Rules for Modern Life
by David Tang
Penguin

It is undignified to display photographs of yourself with famous people, writes David Tang, unless you are very good friends with them. That probably means he is good pals with the 26 celebrities who have provided superlative endorsements of his book, Rules for Modern Life, a collection of his Financial Times Agony Uncle columns. These cover quotes, many as wicked as the advice he dishes out, include an observation by the Duke of Marlborough that the book “will make an aristocrat out of an arriviste”. All classes, however, should enjoy the sometimes unpredictable quips on everything from etiquette to relationships, house guests, technology and business.

Refreshing is the section on home decor, although minimalists might balk at the author’s maximalist predilections and dislike of dishwater-dull white-grey-black colour schemes. Tang, the founder of Shanghai Tang, takes aim at slovenly designers out to profit from high-end commissions and “new monies”, who think nothing of installing a bar at home or who might commit the faux pas of tickling the ivories of a white piano or hanging a television over a fireplace. These 21st-century “rules” are clearly only aspirational guidelines for those who want to be led.