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    David Prior’s List of 19 Bold and Beautiful Books to Buy

    Our visual book–collecting co-founder shares the volumes that are inspiring travel on pages rather than planes

    I’m a hunter of visual books—call them coffee-table books if you must, but I mean large-format, image-driven volumes that are easy to get lost in and that drop you somewhere different from where you started. I draw ideas from them—for travel, for storytelling, for thinking about our country and cultures in a different way. This year, having spent so much time at home—and in proximity to my actual coffee table—these are the books that have been on my shelf and in my sights, from favorite classics to new releases. (I’m ordering only from independent bookstores, which badly need our support.) They all represent how I’m thinking about the world right now, whether it’s returning to my perennial inspirations, actively trying to understand the complex beauty of the United States, finding other ways to visit Italy or peeking at the interiors of other people’s homes for more than just decorating inspiration, but as an alternative way to travel.

    The Grand Tour

    By Sabine Arqué

    There’s rarely been a day during these last few months that I haven’t flicked through this vividly remastered compilation of images and maps from the golden age of travel and felt my synapses start to fire. Arranged by regions—from Europe to the Far East—it’s full of hundreds of rare photochromes, posters, menus and other transporting ephemera from when the world was starting to open up to global travel.

    "The Grand Tour" By Sabine Arqué. Photo courtesy of TASCHEN.

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    National Anthem

    By Luke Gilford

    My friend Luke Gilford has become one of my generation’s instantly recognizable photographers for his portraits of the contrarian and marginalized, whose cultural influence is often magnified by his lens. In these richly personal pages, the Colorado-born photographer explores his almost paradoxical love of the American West and queer culture. (Its forebear is another personal fave, the spectacular multi-hyphenate Lisa Eisner’s Rodeo Girls.)

    "National Anthem: America’s Queer Rodeo" By Luke Gilford. Photo courtesy of ARTBOOK | D.A.P.

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    Italian Shoes: A Tribute to an Iconic Object

    By Giovanni Gastel

    If you cannot go for a passeggiata in the piazza in person, at least you can dream of wearing these classic shoes from the maestros of footwear. A fun detour into the Italian philosophy of la bella figura (literally “beautiful figure,’’ but shorthand for not letting yourself go) in a year when we have worn sweats and elastic-banded everything, it’s a nice reminder that someday soon we’ll be dressing to impress again. And also that a pair of shoes will always fit, even if pants or a dress may not.

    "Italian Shoes: A Tribute to an Iconic Object" By Giovanni Gastel. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    The Lives of Others: Sublime Interiors of Extraordinary People

    By Simon Watson

    In my view this is the best interiors book since Haute Bohemians by Miguel Flores-Vianna several years back. This is not only because with his collaborators—well-respected interiors editors (and house whisperers) James Reginato, Marella Caracciolo and Tom Delevan—he gets to shoot the best houses for the best magazines (World of Interiors, Deborah Needleman’s T Magazine), or because of the matte paper stock that makes it instantly more timeless and elegant than all of its contemporaries. It is because of Simon’s eye for the curious corners of these unique homes, as well as his celebration of history-bearing patina.

    "The Lives of Others: Sublime Interiors of Extraordinary People" By Simon Watson. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors

    By Andria Lo and Valerie Luu

    Turns out those mask-wearing ladies of Chinatown were on it. Despite Covid being a global scourge, I worry deeply about a potential bias toward Chinatowns around the world. They are so often a vital and vibrant cornerstone of any global city, and the older ladies who rule like empresses over the streets, restaurants and markets are a big reason.

    "Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors" By Andria Lo and Valerie Luu. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

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    Accidentally Wes Anderson

    By Wally Koval

    An Instagram account turned book would ordinarily make me cringe, but not here. This repository of assertively charming images is a community, a movement, and now way bigger than the director himself—though, of course, if not for the loving eye he continues to cast on the world, those who find pure joy and humor in symmetry, saturated color and quirk might never have found their common language. They will discover it in these pages.

    Image from "Accidentally Wes Anderson" By Wally Koval. AMER FORT in Rajasthan, India. Photo by Chris Schalkx.

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    Young Gifted and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art

    By Antwaun Sargent

    This survey of Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine Boccuzzi’s outstanding collection celebrates contemporary African-American artists. The curators have long been outspoken about their vision of inclusivity in museums, and this year their mission has taken on even greater urgency. What is clear from these pages is the energy and inspiration this generation of artists is bringing as they rewrite the future of the art establishment.

    "Young Gifted and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art" By Antwaun Sargent. Photo courtesy of ARTBOOK | D.A.P.

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    Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

    By Albertus Seba

    The bold red coral specimen on the cover of this large-format book signals what you’ll find inside: an homage to biodiversity in the form of nostalgic scientific illustrations by an 18th-century collector and pharmacist. In its arcane way, it can be considered one of the great travel books, because each meticulously drawn plant, animal or insect hails from a different corner of the globe. A classic.

    "Cabinet of Natural Curiosities" By Albertus Seba. Photo courtesy of TASCHEN.

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    Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics

    By Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann

    There are not Red States or Blue States, there are the United States…of Dolly Parton. The one thing all Americans can agree on this year is the genius and unifying force of this true American icon. Dolly’s rhinestones and wisecracks often belie her depths of sorrow and joy, which in their way reveal the American story over the past seven (!) decades she’s been performing. If nothing else, she stands for empathy. And to top it off, now she’s even helping to solve Covid. Sing it with me now: “Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine, VACCIIIINE.”

    "Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics" By Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

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    Old World Italian

    By Mimi Thorisson

    My friends (and former magazine collaborators), husband and wife Mimi and Oddur Thorisson, have such affection and enthusiasm for Italy that it is impossible not to be charmed. And they do really get it deep in their bones, which happens so rarely with books by expats. The recipes are completely traditional, elevated by Mimi’s reverence for purity, while a sense of romance for the Italian way of life comes through in Oddur’s photography. I have loved watching them fall in love with the country since they moved to Piedmont, where I used to live, and the Italians falling in love with them in turn.

    Photo from "Old World Italian" By Mimi Thorisson. Photo courtesy of Mimi Thorisson & Clarkson Potter.

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    Inside Marrakesh: Enchanting Homes and Gardens

    By Meryanne Loum-Martin, Photography by Jean Cazals

    Meryanne Loum-Martin is a doyenne of Marrakech and its perennially chic (and growing) ex-pat class. While the pink city may have lost a lot of its purely Moroccan identity, there is something in the blending of the city’s historical past and the individual aesthetics of the largely French, Italian and English tastemakers who have made the city’s riads their homes. So much of life happens in the lush courtyards and on the sun-dappled rooftops of Marrakech. Meryanne’s book is an intimate invitation inside.

    "Inside Marrakesh: Enchanting Homes and Gardens" By Meryanne Loum-Martin. Photography by Jean Cazals. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    A Dream of AlUla

    Photography by Gilles Bensimon, Foreword by Diana W. Picasso

    I won’t travel to Saudi Arabia for a litany of reasons, and in many ways that is a great shame. Not least because I have not had the chance to see AlUla, the ancient crossroads of civilizations that has been largely forgotten beyond the Kingdom. Legendary photographer Gilles Bensimon allows us to experience the ruined oasis that was once the trading point for caravans on the incense trade route, connecting Asia, Africa and Europe with spices, myrrh, cotton, ebony and silk.

    "A Dream of AIUla." Photography by Gilles Bensimon, Foreword by Diana W. Picasso. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    America’s National Historic Trails: Walking the Trails of History

    By Karen Berger

    In the United States, we’re not only rediscovering our backyards, but also taking a second look at our history. From Pony Express routes to Civil Rights trails, this is a straightforward and well-executed guide to walking through the past in the present.

    From "America's National Historic Trails: Walking the Trails of History" By Karen Berger. Photo by Bart Smith and courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    Osteria: 1,000 Generous and Simple Recipes from Italy’s Best Local Restaurants

    By Slow Food Editore

    For decades, Slow Food has published a guide to the great mom-and-pop restaurants of Italy (the only ones you want to be eating at, in our view). Here at PRIOR, it is our anti-Michelin Italian restaurant bible, where instead of stars you find snails. When in Italy, make a trail between each of their awarded restaurants around the country and you’re in the right (and ethical) hands. Now that I’ve been hindered in traveling to my spiritual home, I am transporting myself there with recipes from my favorite restaurants up and down the country, from Aosta to Abruzzo, Turin to Trapani.

    "Osteria: 1,000 Generous and Simple Recipes from Italy's Best Local Restaurants" By Slow Food Editore. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    The Encyclopedia of New York

    By The Editors of New York Magazine

    She’s down but she’s not out—and who better to remind us of our city’s legendary tenacity than the culture editors of New York? Never have we been hungrier for paens to this city’s singular scale, incredible diversity and the pure fucking resilience of its residents (with nods to everything from the punk scene to alternate-side parking). Here or nowhere, indeed.

    "Osteria: 1,000 Generous and Simple Recipes from Italy's Best Local Restaurants" By The Editors of New York Magazine. Photo courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

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    Rattan: A world of Elegance and Charm

    By Lulu Lytle

    I am not sure rattan ever went anywhere for those who love it, but if you hadn’t heard, it is back. This sustainable palm with its decorative incarnations has long been embraced by aesthetes from Marella Agnelli and Babe Paley to Jacques Grange for its craftsmanship and versatility. It sits so comfortably in the architectural vernacular of so many cultures and yet looks so different in each, instantly transporting you to another era or place: Caribbean beach houses, wide Australian verandas, riad rooftops and tropical salons.

    "Rattan: A world of Elegance and Charm" By Lulu Lytle. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    A Slice Through America: A Geological Atlas

    By David Kassel

    It’s no secret that I love maps of all kinds, and while this book of hand-drawn diagrams might sound like some kind of high school textbook, these geologic stories, which drill into the history of our public lands, are both educational and enlightening—and the illustrations surprisingly beautiful.

    From "A Slice Through America: A Geological Atlas" By David Kassel. Photo courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

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    Mexico City: Heritage Recipes for Classic Home Cooking

    By James Oseland

    Oseland was Saveur’s longtime editor in chief, and I admire his palate and instincts on food culture immensely. I am glad to see him pop back up on our radar with this timely book on what is certainly the most exciting food city in the Americas.

    "A Slice Through America: A Geological Atlas" By David Kassel. Photo courtesy of James Oseland & Ten Speed Press.

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    Interior Voyages

    By Matthieu Salvaing

    Salvaing is perhaps the most in-demand interior photographer working right now. In this vividly colorful trip inside the distinct homes of well-known creatives around the world, he manages to do more than just shoot a house, but evokes each place beyond the owner and designer, be it the lush modernist architectural lines of Brazil, the Brutalist Villa Necchi in Milan or a gingerbread house in the Alps.

    "Interior Voyages" By Matthieu Salvaing. Photo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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    Co-Founder and CEO David Prior was formerly Contributing International Editor of Condé Nast Traveler and Contributing Editor at Vogue Living. David was named by Bloomberg Businessweek as “One to Watch” in 2018 as part of the publication’s prestigious Global 50: the people who defined business in 2017.

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