Constructing the perfect coffee table book is an art, Alexandre Assouline believes. He is the son of Prosper and Martine Assouline, who founded the eponymous publishing house in 1994 and made their surname synonymous with luxury reads, and has led the company since last year.
An exceptional book must “seamlessly blend intellect and emotion, asserting its presence with an eye-catching cover and beautiful packaging”, he says. And summer is the time to get sampling.
Seek the “educational, inspirational, and dynamic”, Assouline says. “They help you escape and that’s what everybody wants for this time of the year!” The hefty tomes make thoughtful gifts, believes Taschen’s UK director Yusuf Butolli, and are “for optimists who appreciate culture and the arts in their many forms”.
Tempted? Here are the ones calling to be flicked through on a sun lounger near you.
The fashion one
Africa Fashion (V&A)
It’s the It fashion exhibition of the summer, and the publication is equally stylish. The Victoria and Albert museum’s Africa Fashion exhibit, which runs July 2 – April 16, is a swift and explosive chart of Africa’s clothing trade from post-independence, and builds up to an explosion of contemporary talent. The glittering pink book which features a look from Nigerian brand Orange Culture on the cover, is arresting on the shelf and packed with insight, from essays on African textile histories to the afro-fashion futures of tomorrow. The best bit? A definitive who’s who of the continent’s fashion scene now, with first person accounts from the rising stars.
The rare one
Andy Warhol’s Exposures (Shapero Rare Books)
Up to date with the new releases, or after something more unique? Keep your eyes peeled for a collectable publication for you. Shapero Rare Books, at 106 New Bond Street, is a great starting point. Among other gems, there is an Andy Warhol’s Exposures book, originally published in 1979, and signed by the artist on the cover and first page, for sale now. It comes packed with informal pictures of New York’s 70s set including Liza Minelli, Jack Nicholson, Bette Midler and the Jaggers – a pop art bible worth preserving.
The music one
Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll (Taschen)
If Baz Lurhman’s Elvis bio-pic has left you craving more King of Rock, fear not. Alfred Wertheimer, then 21 year old budding photographer, followed hotshot young singer Presley from 1956. That year, he took 3,000 pictures of the star, documenting the rise and rise of a man making his mark in music history. Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll collates them, as well as 1958 shots of him heading to a German army base. Up for upgrading the purchase? There are 1,706 Limited Collector’s Editions, which come XXL sized and signed by the man behind the lens.
The conservation one
This ode to a critically endangered species is enlightening, and undeniably luxurious. In celebration of the Arabian leopard, conservation expert Andrew Spalton charts the subspecies’ trail from Africa to Arabia over half a million years. Inside, indulge in the rich, carefully curated selection of original artworks and photographs of the cats and their Arabian homeland. In association with The Royal Commission for AlUla, who are focussed on protecting the animals, the sleek tome is also available in an Ultimate edition, which comes with an attractive clamshell case.
The travel one
Bali Mystique (Assouline)
Take a trip with one of Assouline’s signature travel tomes, which stretch from sparkling Saint Tropez to the Turquoise Coast. The new addition? Bali Mystique. Set out to capture the “Island of the Gods” in its full glory, get a glimpse of the Indonesian island’s people and bamboo bridges, black sand beaches and plentiful waterfalls. The perfect retreat for those unable to escape the city this summer.
The iconic one
Marilyn Monroe (Taschen)
Caught the Netflix documentary and piped up on Twitter about Kim Kardashian wearing her dress at the Met Gala? Dial up your Marilyn Monroe fandom with this tribute which combines Bert Stern’s snaps from the infamous Last Sitting shoot, taken six weeks before the actress’ death, with Norman Mailer’s 1973 biography, Marilyn. It strives to lift the curtain of the sex symbol’s mystery, and is page turning with its intimate glimpse at a star laid bare.