Andrew Maben.

How to curate the perfect coffee table book collection, according to an expert

Andrew Maben has been the proprietor of popular Herne Bay bookstore, Novel, for 30 years. In that time, he has come to stock some of the most sought-after publishers and coveted coffee table books in the world — often exclusively. So who better to turn to when a coffee table makeover is on the cards? According to Andrew, “a book must look good, of course, but the content has to match the cover… the best ones are like works of art.” Here, Andrew rounds up some of his favourite coffee table books, from weighty travel tomes to limited-edition collectibles.  

A very special edition...
“Books in Assouline’s The Impossible Collection are hand-crafted and meticulously put together. This one about whiskey, for instance, comes in a wooden case, is sold with white gloves and most of its images have been individually inserted. It retails for about $2,000. It truly is one of the most spectacular books that Assouline publishes and lucky for me, I’m the only distributor of Assouline in New Zealand.”

An ode to the Big Apple…
“I ordered about five of these books before Christmas last year and they all sold out within a week. New York books always do well but this one goes into detail about the history of the iconic city with fascinating archival images and big beautiful photos that almost transport you there. Since selling out I’ve had so many enquiries about this book, so I’ve had to order more in.”

A travel substitute…
“I had one customer buy about $6,000 worth of these books at once, as well as an interior designer who came in and bought piles of them for seven of her clients. They are definitely best sellers, I think because people love the covers but then the content is really beautiful as well. At the moment, travel books are so important. I recently had a customer call me to say that these books were saving her, because when she felt sad about not being able to travel, she would just open one and feel nostalgic and hopeful about getting overseas again.” 

A bible of design…
“This Lisa Perry book is another Assouline one that I love. How great is that cover? It’s just a really cool exploration of design through the eyes of a woman who is known for her eccentric pops of colour and creative flair. I think people find this one inspiring, especially if they love design.”

A book of beauty…
“One of the most beautiful fashion books I think I have ever stocked is this Zuhair Murad. It just blows me away. The attention to detail in every photo is exquisite, I love the careful way each garment is made and how the reader is able to see every pattern and every bead up close.” 

A portrait of an icon…
“This is my favourite book in the whole shop. I’ve sold close to 600 copies of it in different editions, and when the photographer died last year, Taschen did a special edition to commemorate his life. Peter Beard was regarded as the best-looking man in his day, and he had such an interesting life, all the stars used to go and stay with him. I’ve had this book (in various versions) in my store for 15 years and I’ve never grown tired of it.”

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