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5 Coffee Table Books for Armchair Travelers

ABOVE: China’s Forbidden City © Haiwei Hu Getty




There has never been a better time to flex your armchair traveling muscles from the comfort of your own home than at his point in time. Fortunately, there are stunning new travel book titles on the way or already on the shelves, that will take you from historic palatial palaces to humble mountain villages and a seaside playground for the rich and famous.

While we anxiously await the late-great Anthony Bourdain’s last book “World Travel” to be released this April, here are a handful of the best coffee table style travel books to flip through by the fire or the pool.

The Legendary Eden-Roc Pool Bar

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: A Timeless Legend on the French Riviera by 20th century Europe historian Alexandra Campbell, will be published by Flammarion on April 28, 2021.

Each of the legendary decades leading up to the hotel’s 150th anniversary is chronicled in this book serving as living history through hundreds of never-before-seen photographs curated from a broad range of international archival sources.

For those who have not traveled to this fabled hotel, considered the Grande Dame of the Riviera and a home-away-from-home for stars from all walks of life, you might still recognize the villa-style retreat as the backdrop to many paparazzi images from famous fetes and faces over the years, including the Cannes Film Festival since its inception in 1946.

As part of the Oetker Collection portfolio of masterpiece hotels, the 312-page book tells the complete story of this historic spot from its initial formation as a writer’s retreat by Le Figaro founder Hippolyte de Villemessant in 1870, to its magical early years as the preferred French Riviera hideaway for Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald whose “Tender is the Night” was set at the hotel.

You can picture artists from Monet to Chagall and Picasso lounging amid the verdant botanical gardens and hundreds of landscaped pine trees on the grounds while drawing inspiration from the hotel’s timeless elegant surroundings overlooking the sea.

Over the past century, master photographers such as Jacques-Henri Lartigue and Slim Aarons have famously captured famous generations of artists, authors, royalty, politicians and Hollywood stars splashing in the Mediterranean or in the iconic seawater swimming pool of the property carved into the rocks with a glass of Champagne in hand.

“For the very first time, we have a full written history of our Grande Dame, who is just as youthful and lovely today as she was in 1870,” said Philippe Perd, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc General Manager. “Now, as we write a new chapter in the history of Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, we do so in deep knowledge of our roots and of the many faces and names who have contributed to the reputation of this legendary refuge on the French Riviera.”

China’s Forbidden City | Photo by Haiwei Hu, Getty Images

Crafts of The Kingdom – Culture and Creativity in Saudi Arabia

If you’re obsessed with the intricate details of needlework, traditional wool-weaving and beading as an art form, and the colorful tapestries of Saudi Arabian culture, this book is filled with inspiration. Forget Western couture, this tome features 100 hours (or one month) of work that went into the making of an embroidered robe, which can sell for thousands of dollars. The book also features original and archival photography of the nation’s unique craft traditions including woodwork and plaster, and the master artisans who shape the beauty of the culture. (January 2021/Assouline.)

Forbidden City: The Palace At The Heart Of Chinese Culture

Take a tour through China’s majestic Forbidden City, punctuated with historical events of the past six centuries and illustrated with more than 100 photographs, artworks, and rare artifacts that celebrate its imperial grandness. Spoiler alert: there are 900 golden-roofed buildings! (February 2021/Assouline.)

Japan Yamagata Ginzan | Photo by Mark Edward Harris

Award-winning, Los Angeles-based photographer Mark Edward Harris has traveled to over 100 countries and published books focused on daily cultural life in Southeast Asia, China, North Korea, Japan, Iraq and Iran. One of our favorites, The Way of the Japanese Bath, will transport you to the spiritual and serene backdrop of a country ryokan (inn) or onsen (hot spring) in Japan and the unabashed public bathing rituals. Shot in black and white, Western inhibitions go out the window with each mediative turn of the page. “My first Japanese hot spring experience in Beppu, a town often shrouded in water vapor on the southern island of Kyushu, converted me into a furo-aholic (bath-aholic) in the early 1990s,” said Harris. “Three decades later I still find the magical waters an endless source of both visual and visceral pleasure.” Now in its 3rd edition, you can even find the book displayed in Nobu Hotels and restaurants from Cabo to Miami.

Assouline has a cheerful set of coffee table travel books featuring scenes from Capri to Comporta and is your best research travel tool for planning an escape to Europe or the islands. Additionally, Travel by Design was just released fall of 2020 with images of more than 100 locations in 60 countries, from exotic islands to global cityscapes, ancient civilizations, luxurious resorts, and more.

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