Coffee-Table Books that Capture the Wild Wonder of our World

To travel is as much a sensory journey as it is a physical one. In times when hunkering down close to home is necessary, feeding hungry imaginations with vibrant visuals helps temper our wanderlust. Below, world-class photographers including Jimmy Chin and Lynsey Addario place the world in our laps.

Somali surfers. Afghan women shrouded in billowing lapis lazuli burqas. Free solo climber Alex Honnold clinging to the jagged edge of a rocky precipice. Coming-of-age rituals in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kuba Kingdom. Right now, visceral cultural immersion into the many types of lives lived across the globe feels distant. Luckily for us, the breathtaking work of pioneering photographers places snapshots of our wildly varied world at our fingertips. Consider each of the seven inspiring titles below the gift that keeps on giving. (For the photography-lovers out there, don't miss our wanderlust-packed latest issue, Celebration.) Settle down, swish your fingers across the lively pages and let your imagination drift away.

Transporting tomes to thrill (and educate) travel lovers


By Sebastião Salgado

Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado spent six years deep in the thick jungle of the Amazon, resulting in this pièce de résistance. Amazônia visually documents the climate, wildlife and lives of those who live in this emerald-green wilderness region. Salgado celebrates the indigenous people as guardians of the Amazon's fragile ecosystem, under continued threat from climate change and development. Images of bulging clouds gathering like clumped cotton over glistening bodies of water and the rituals of family life fill Amazônia's many pages. For a visceral immersion into the world of Salgado's photographs - accompanied by a soundtrack of thunder, rain and the rustlings of animals - the Amazônia exhibition is on until 13 February 2022 at Rome's National Museum of 21st Century Arts.

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Kinfolk Travel: Slower Ways to See the World

By John Burns

Kinfolk excels in championing intentionality, whether it be via lifestyle-driven interiors, exploring lesser-known destinations or communal ways of living. Its latest book, Kinfolk Travel: Slower Ways to See the World is no exception. These 347 pages will flood your imagination with possibility. A few spreads in, you'll inevitably start to ponder, "what if?" Is a meandering cruise along England's canals, a biking excursion in off-grid Idaho or a wine-tasting odyssey in Lebanon's ancient vineyards in your future? By the time your eyes reach the "let's go" momentum of section three, Transit, they just might be. And that's the point. This uplifting, exploding-with-content coffee-table book is one that makes you rethink what you thought you knew about modes of travel and what it is that makes a stellar trip - all shot in Kinfolk's signature moody style.

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Of Love & War

By Lynsey Addario

Addario somehow manages to be everywhere. Showcasing the Dantean horror of the California wildfires, tracking climate change-attributed flooding in Sudan, covering the inconsolable grief of those bereaved by Covid-19, the rise, fall and rise again of the Taliban in Afghanistan, malnutrition in Yemen… we could go on - it seems like there is nothing Addario's lens doesn't witness. This 2018 collection of images and recollections (plus, a fascinating packing list) gathers many of Addario's most iconic shots and reads like a memoir. (Although she's written one of those, too - the fittingly titled It's What I Do.)

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By Mami Wata and Selema Masekela

This dynamic, utterly joyful book came together during the lockdowns of 2020, when a crowd of intrepid surfers crowdfunded the concept on Kickstarter. Afrosurf, the result of that tenacity, charts wave-rider culture across 18 coastal African countries including Mozambique, South Africa and Somalia. Expect fascinating essays, energetic playlists and staggeringly beautiful photography aplenty. Better yet, 100 per cent of the proceeds goes straight back into supporting access to surf therapy for children in need.

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There and Back: Photographs from the Edge

By Jimmy Chin

Jimmy Chin is one of the most lauded filmmakers and mountaineers of our time, a fact no one would dispute after having watched the National Geographic documentary Free Solo or poring over this awe-inspiring book. There and Back tracks the terror and triumphs of a life spent taking on the world's tallest, toughest peaks. Chin has gathered over 20 years' worth of images - many taken in death-defying situations - including portraits of athletes such as Alex Honnold, Travis Rice and Kit DesLauriers in action. Beyond the sheer human grit of these courageous figures living, quite literally, on the edge, it's the stark natural beauty of the slopes, rock faces and needle-like summits captured so poetically by Chin that stay with you. For a more in-depth look at the stories that define There and Back, grab a copy of SUITCASE Vol. 35, Celebration.

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African Twilight: The Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies of the African Continent

By Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

From budding photographers in 1970s Kenya to best friends, Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have spent the last 40 years documenting the rituals and ceremonies of tribes throughout Africa - many of which are sadly vanishing. African Twilight compiles this dynamic duo's last 15 years of work into two magnificent volumes. Beckwith and Fisher are masterful photographers with an eye for drama and colour, but, more than that, their work is akin to a historical archive, documenting the significant cultural moments happening in Africa's rural corners for the generations to come.

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Patterns of India: A Journey Through Colors, Textiles and the Vibrancy of Rajasthan

By Christine Chitnis

Garlands of riotously vivid flowers, shimmering jewels, billowing saris saturated with the turmeric yellow and tomato red we associate with India: this book is an ode to the exuberant beauty of Rajasthan. Author Christine Chitnis spent 10 years documenting the colours and culture of this northern state. As you've probably gathered from the title, the core of the book centres on textiles, but each of the five sections is imaginatively organised by the dominant shades of this diverse region, namely marigold, ivory, rose, sandstone and royal blue. A word of advice from us: wait for a dreary, grey afternoon, brew a fragrant chai and lose yourself in the smart essays and lively images that fill this glorious book.

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