Buying an aesthetically pleasing publication, purely for ornamental value. We've all done it. Of course, this exercise is somewhat damning: books are meant to be read, misplaced, then happily rediscovered years later. Treating them as merely glorified drink coasters shouldn’t be the goal. So, in the spirit of balance, peruse our pick of the best coffee table books laced with both style and storytelling substance.
READ: Women Street Photographers, buy here.
This year has forced us all to examine life differently. To appreciate the beauty in the banal, to connect with humanity and unexpected moments of intimacy between strangers. A new 224-page anthology, Women Street Photographers, born from Gulnara Samoilova’s Instagram platform of the same name champions all of the above and more. Featuring candid public photographs by 100 artists of all ages, hailing from 31 countries, WSP offers a kaleidoscopic glimpse of what happens when women across the world are behind the camera.
READ: The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism, you can pre-order the paperback version - available April 15th - here.
Dora Maar and Picasso. Lee Miller and Man Ray. Gala Diakonova and Salvador Dali. So often the muse in art history is positioned as a passive figure - often female, feeding the male artist’s masterpieces. The Militant Muse readdress the creative balance, exploring the intense and wonderfully complex female friendships and solidarity among the Surrealists during the 1930s through to the 1950s. A love letter to the bonds that make us.
READ: Normal People: The Scripts. Buy here.
Remember that period in lockdown when all anyone could talk about was Normal People. Ah, the glances, the deep longing, the unspoken truths, the…sex(!). It was, quite possibly, one of the best book-to-screen adaptations of all time. As Elizabeth Day so brilliantly put it to us earlier this year: “Nothing much happens, and yet everything does because it explores John Updike's famous dictum that there is beauty in the mundane; that these everyday interactions are actually the most profound things, rather than car chases and alien invasions.” Sally Rooney fans rejoice - the complete screenplays of the series will be published in a new book called Normal People: The Scripts, out November. We’d say it would make a perfect Christmas gift, but we’re not sure we can wait that long.
READ: LOVERS, buy here
LOVERS, from artist Alexandria Coe, is a beautiful compilation of memories dedicated to the theme of relationships. Featuring drawings that represent the age old phrase, ‘It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.’ It's a book about closeness, and closure, Coe says: “This body of images and texts follows a deeply reflective narrative which channels the story of toxic love. The selected images are only a small percentage created over the last few years of intimate beings, but they are those that best represent both the pain and pleasure of being human.”
READ: A Woman’s Right To Pleasure, buy here
For a long time, the conversation around female pleasure was something to be had in hushed tones. Turned off, when the topic of turning oneself on got “a bit much” for prudish ears. Thankfully, there seems to be some progression in this department. Such as a new ‘clit test’ that rates female pleasure in film, TV and book, an audio erotic revolution (find out more about Demi Moore’s pleasure-seeking podcast here, and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s purposely provocative ‘WAP’ (which one Vulture writer mused was lyrically like “Shakespeare by way of Pornhub.”) A Woman’s Right To Pleasure invites the reader on a desirable journey, through never-before-published works by Georgia O'Keeffe to Tracey Emin, alongside original essays from authors Erica Jong and Roxane Gay. Part art book (featuring contributions from photographers like Cindy Sherman, Marilyn Minter and Nan Goldin), part pleasure educational tool. A literary and visual feast to be devoured time and time again.
READ: Tarot, buy here
Describe yourself as “spiritual”? Paid £20 for a fortune teller to tell you you will fall in love this year and are destined for a promotion? Or a whole new career entirely? Up there with Reiki and crystal healing, tarot has nestled in nicely under the umbrella of self-care in recent years. But how much does one really know about this centuries-old tradition? Get clued up and trace the fascinating, oft hidden, history of more than 500 cards and works of original art - from medieval to modern-day. Truly enlightening.
READ: LIDO. Buy here
Maybe you’re a “bath a day” type. Or let your Instagram friends know, via a chorus of throwbacks, how much you have missed the sea. Though, self-professed water babies still seem to perceive the lido as the less glossy option. Reading this book, however, may restore your faith in the humble lido – as architecture critic Christopher Beanland takes a deep dive into the fashionable outdoor swimming scene. Profiling the world’s best outdoor pools, with a slew of pop culture references, he explores their history, design and the people behind them in fascinating (and funny) detail. Our favourite segments: ‘Britain’s Lost Lidos’ and ‘Swimming In Art’.
READ: 100 Things to do in a Forest. Buy here
For many, it’s taken a global pandemic to truly appreciate the powers of the great outdoors. Aimlessly walking. Phone-free. Stripped of the daily luxuries that make up the DNA of a working day BC (Before Covid). For those who want to build upon their ever-growing connection to the natural world, this book is like an A-Z of all manner of woodland fun, for all ages. Exploring the healing and restorative benefits wild swimming to forest bathing; perfect gift fodder for those planning a late summer jaunt to the countryside.
READ: Magnum Artists: Great Photographers Meet Great Artists, buy here
Pining for IRL exhibitions during lockdown? Enjoy the creative splendour of this new art book which - as the title suggests - reveals intimate images of great artists captured by great photographers. Including Salvador Dali having his portrait taken by Philippe Halsman; Andy Warhol by Thomas Hoepker; Picasso by Robert Capa. A unique insight into the public and private personae of iconic creatives. Compulsive reading.
Images | Amazon