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Coffee table books are a simple way to elevate the sophistication and style of any living space. They’re an effortless means of adding color, texture, and layers to a table or nook, and they double as statement pieces to showcase your unique interests and spark conversations with guests. (Honestly, how else will you discover that one other person at the party who shares your particular love of modernist needlepoint or Japanese whiskeys?)
With so many gorgeous, compelling reads to choose from, where to start? To help, we’ve assembled a shortlist of our favorites. Whether you're a fashionista, bibliophile, jet-setter or cinephile—you'll have something unique to discover.
Here, the best coffee table books.
Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography by The New York Times
A roving, spartan eccentric on a bicycle in a blue workman’s jacket, Bill Cunningham was many things: a milliner, a photographer, a journalist, and an everyday icon. In the seventies and eighties, he became a street style staple of New York Times and a living landmark of 5th Avenue and 57th street, one of his favorite corners from which to chronicle the street fashion and sociability of NYC.
This volume, edited by Tina Loite, brings his vast archives together between attractive blue colors reminiscent of his characteristic coat.
Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books by Nina Fruedenberger
There was a moment in the not-so-distant past when arranging books by color and size was a practice so ubiquitous that stylistic departure seemed unthinkable. (R.I.P. Rainbow shelves.)
This gorgeous book by interior designer Nina Freudenberger, writer Sadie Stein, and photographer Shade Degges offers compelling aesthetic alternatives. Get a glimpse into the private, eclectic libraries of bibliophiles like Silvia Whitman, proprietor of Paris’s Shakespeare and Company, and Gay and Nan Talese, an esteemed literary couple.
Where to Go When by DK Eyewitness Guides
Ever plan a trip only to find the sights congested or the temperature unforgiving? Ever learn too late that you’ve just missed some famed street festival, an amazing animal migration, or peak bloom season?
Where to Go When reorganizes your travel bucket list by month, letting you in on the secrets to scoring the most seductive scenery, reveling in the most vibrant street life, and indulging the best local fare. Replete with other tips on getting to your destination, getting around, and even combining trips.
Great Women Artists by Phaidon
The inside of this book is as visually arresting as its bright yellow cover. On offer are spectacular, full-page color reproductions of artwork by 400 women spanning 500 years. This book encompasses contemporary favorites like Yayoi Kusama and Renaissance anomalies like Properzia de’ Rossi, (born 1490).
Also featured are artists who received incommensurate attention in their time (Carmen Herrera), artists who were overshadowed by their partners (Leonora Carrington), and artists who, revered in their own time, later saw exclusion from written accounts or fell out of popular consciousness (Angelica Kauffman).
Federico Fellini: The Book of Dreams by Federico Fellini
Internationally renowned filmmaker Federico Fellini found his mature, oneiric style after delving into Jungian psychology in the early 1960s. Taking to recording his dreams around this time (between the filming of La Dolce Vita and 8 ½), he filled two notebooks with drawings that straddle the surreal and the comic. These felt-tip renderings find a lavish home in this substantial book.
Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps by Annie Atkins
Working alongside movie directors Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and Todd Haynes, Annie Atkins creates the ephemera that makes fiction feel real. In her debut monograph, Atkins invites readers to dive into the detective work that goes into creating graphic props for films.
With 200 color illustrations and abundant detail, this book takes readers behind the scenes to show the research and imagination behind the passports, tickets, packaging, and newspapers that populate your favorite movie sets.
Rooms of Their Own by Nino Strachey
The Bloomsbury group never lacked for creative outlets, which came to include literature, art, criticism, craft, and even economics. Also distinguishing them from their modernist counterparts were their domestic innovations—rooms of bright color, bold patterns, eclectic objects, and erotic themes.
This charming and engaging book gives a glimpse into three writers linked to the Bloomsbury group, showing how they challenged conventions in life and at home.
Andy Warhol, Seven Illustrated Books 1952-1959 by Andy Warhol
One hesitates to call this simply a book—a “treasure chest” might be more accurate. Each individual book (there are seven included!) within this portfolio of whimsical illustrations feels like a stolen glance at the man now canonized for his imposing silkscreens and post-war pop art.
These quirky books preceded his celebrity and served as gifts for close friends and contacts. Five of the seven are seeing publication for the first time.
Camp Notes on Fashion by Andrew Bolton
“Camp” constantly eludes definition and consensus, which makes it a subject to which people are drawn time and time again. Susan Sontag’s 1964 “Notes on Camp” contains 58 definitions alone, many of them purposefully duplicitous and contradictory.
The 2019 Met exhibit adopted the theme (and we won’t soon forget celebrities’ sartorial interpretations). This collection allows you to revel again in the characteristic irony, pastiche, and exaggeration of campy fashion.
New York in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide by Jessie Kanelos Weiner and Jacob Lehman
Equal parts charm and utility, this book makes the case that tourists should not spend half their visit trudging from one landmark to another, all the while missing the street life that lends the city its liveliness.
With quirky illustrations and useful tips for navigating NYC neighborhoods and locating hidden gems, this book will clamor for dual residency on your coffee table and in your tote bag.
Schumann’s Whiskey Lexicon by Stephen Gabanyi
We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this handsome handbook makes it incredibly difficult. This critically-acclaimed guide to whiskeys (bourbons and ryes too) features over a thousand entries without sacrificing accessibility.
This book facilitates quick, easy reference while still providing a delightful dive into the trendy new whiskeys sourced from Japan and continental Europe.
Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop by Vicki Tobak
Explore 40 years of hip-hop history through 50 photographers and nearly 200 images of its cultural evolution, from the early club scene to the latest generation of emcees and wordsmiths.
This collection comprises photographers’ contact sheets, making this rich archive a testament to the creativity happening on both sides of the camera.
On Flowers: Lessons From an Accidental Florist by Amy Merrick
Like any good florists’ book, this one tells you how to achieve color harmonies, variegated textures, and balanced arrangements; what sets this book apart is Amy Merrick’s prose itself, which—like a stellar floral arrangement—overflows with romance and insouciance.
What else to love? The quippy advice like "Don’t pluck blooms from public parks. Do befriend the landscaper who will provide you with trimmings that would otherwise get tossed".
Waves: Pro Surfers and Their World
This stunning book is the culmination of Thom Gilbert’s four years among prominent surfers in Spain, New York, California, and Hawaii. The award-winning photographer captured over 300 photographs of awe-inspiring waves, the athletes who rip them, and the cultures that surround them.
Living with Nature: Decorating with the Rhythms of the Seasons by Marie Masureel
Stylist and photographer Marie Masureel is of the firm belief that the annual adoption of a Christmas tree should not be the only seasonal change to your home decoration. With curated lists of repurposed materials and foraged flowers, Masureel shows the reader how to align any interior with the varied cadences of the seasons.
Eden Revisited: A Garden in Northern Morocco by Umberto Pasti and Ngoc Minh Ngo
Transport yourself to a lush Moroccan garden cultivated by the Italian writer and horticulturist Umberto Pasti. Blooms rescued from nearby construction sites receive new life in Pasti’s lush garden, "Rohana”, which miraculously thrives in the dry climate just 40 miles south of bustling Tangier.
Photographed by Ngoc Minh Ngo and framed by the reminisces of Pasti himself, this book doesn’t merely document, but also will inspire anyone with a green thumb.
The Style of Movement: Fashion and Dance by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory
This truly stunning book features jaw-dropping photography from a husband and wife duo. A celebration of both couture fashion and the athleticism of professional dancers, this book is a match made in heaven— the dancers are shot wearing gowns by classic designers like Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Halston. It will make you look at fashion—and dance—in an entirely new way.
World Architecture Masterworks by Will Pryce
This book will please both architecture-lovers and travelers alike. Featuring iconic buildings throughout the world—from the Taj Mahal to Gehry’s striking Guggenheim museum in Bilbao—the reader is taken on a photographic and historical journey. In-depth essays about each piece of architecture accompany the photos for a deeper context and field notes to help plan your visit.