Coffee Table Books That Will Take Your Mind Abroad

by Scott Wagner

Whether for you or company, these add adventure to any living space

Books and bourbon pair well together. Both are things that are meant to be enjoyed and both require a bit of time in order to be enjoyed right. A bit like a good conversation with a friend, a good book grabs your attention in a way that plays well with a Small Batch neat or a Full Proof on the rocks.  

Of course Hemingway goes hand in hand with bourbon, but the kind of books we’re talking about here are picture rich. Saturated images of places we’d rather be both near and far — poolside, a beautiful beach, a hotel with Mediterranean views. We’re talking about books with transportive power. Books meant to be left out on the coffee table, and that are as enjoyable to flip through as they are nice to look at. 

Some more text rich than the others, all of the books on the list below will surely put your mind at ease, if not sweep it away completely. Because, although the Amalfi Coast may be a distant reality in real life, it’s quite surprising what a well taken (and well printed) photograph can do for the soul. 

Poolside with Slim Aarons, $85, available at

Experience the world through the eyes of the jet-set. Many have described Slim Aarons as the photographer famous for capturing “beautiful people doing beautiful things,” and this book speaks to just that. (One might add in beautiful places.)

As the title suggests, many of the images splashed across each page are of pools — some of which still exist and some of which have long since disappeared. (Imagine life before the iPhone. Before email.) The pictures — whether they are of places that still exist or not — speak to a way of life focused around aesthetics, and a flip through them all is sure to inspire a daydream or two. 

Beaches by Gray Malin, $40, available at

An escapist read, the pages of Gray Malin’s Beaches transport readers to far away places that feel familiar. Aerial photographs of bronze beaches and seemingly miniature people playing between oversize umbrellas with big wide stripes will beg nostalgia from anyone with memories of a beachside holiday. 

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries, $200, available at

Few places are as beautiful as a grand old library filled with a bunch of books. Published by Taschen, The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries gives readers a look into the tome-filled rooms of some of the world’s most established cultural institutions. The end result is a visual romance between physical spaces and the stories they keep safe. 

Amalfi Coast, $95, available at

If The Talented Mr. Ripley was a coffee table book, Assouline’s Amalfi Coast would be it. It shows the Italy we all dream about — grand hotels, Mediterranean views, pasta and table wine. A gift worth giving yourself or a stylish someone else, it’s a colorful classic that shines a light on the sunnier side of la dolce vita

Speed, Style, and Beauty, $60, available at

Speed, Style, and Beauty may be about cars, but they’re all so exotic looking that it feels like you’re reading a travel book. Ferrari. Aston Martin. Jaguar. Bentley. Bugatti. Artfully considered pages depict some of the most beautiful automobiles in Ralph Lauren’s personal collection and will have even those who don’t drive dreaming of an autobahn far, far away. 

Editor’s Note: Top photo by Elizaveta Strelkova on Unsplash

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