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Collecting This Season's Coffee-Table Books

From Curiosa: Elizabeth Taylor's Picture Window vs. Hummingbird
photo: Curiosa/Courtesy Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers
From Curiosa: Elizabeth Taylor's Picture Window vs. Hummingbird

The Hotel Book: Great Escapes Europe (Taschen, $40) offers a more typically coffee-table version of the quest for singular spaces. Lushly illustrated, this jumbo volume is both dream book and travel guide. Some retreats fall within a reasonable price range (for $80 you can stay at a Sicilian hotel where each room is designed by an artist), though most are unadulterated fantasy (the Swedish ice hotel, or the $400-a-night Burgundy castle with moat and drawbridge). Now that people want their homes to look like hotels, many of these resorts strive to look like homes, scattered with faux heirlooms from a past that never was. As the book says of one fancy joint in former East Germany, "This seems like a place that is kept in the memory, of a blissful childhood holiday"—even though the place only opened in 1993. Conjuring false memories or grasping at real ones, hunting for the authentic, perfect, and extraordinary: That's what collecting is all about.

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