21 of the Best Coffee Table Books to Start (or Add to) Your Collection
No offense to beautiful rugs, sculptural sofas and ornate picture frames, but one of our all-time favorite living room design accents is the coffee table book. Typically larger than your average novel, they’re statement makers that encompass pretty much every subject you can imagine. From an 800-page wine encyclopedia to the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever published, here are 21 of the best coffee tables to add to your collection right now.
1. Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography
From the 1970s until his death in 2016, photographer Bill Cunningham captured the evolution of style, trends and the everyday, both in New York City and in Paris. In this portfolio of his work (some featured in the New York Times, some published for the first time), Cunningham chronicles—in his distinctly quotidian style—the 1980s transit strike, the rise of 1990s casual Fridays, the sadness that fell over NYC after 9/11, the onset of selfies and many other significant cultural moments.
2. Hand Dryers
Proof that even the most average subjects can come alive in the hands of the right people, Hand Dryers is a photographic assemblage of, yes, hand dryers. Based on Samuel Ryde's popular Instagram page of the same name, this book documents the beauty that can be found in an everyday stalwart of industrial design. These images, taken in bathrooms across the globe, showcase the hand dryer's versatile design and its ability to enhance the environment around it.
3. Art = : Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Featuring more than 800 artworks from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this book—organized by thematic keywords rather than the usual chronological or geographical categories—offers fresh, unconventional ways of engaging with visual culture. In addition to the photographs, the book includes more than 160 engaging curatorial essays that place the works in wider contexts.
4. Great Women Artists
The most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever published, Great Women Artists celebrates the previously overlooked female artists who are finally gaining recognition in museums, galleries and the art market. Featuring more than 400 artists from more than 50 countries and spanning 500 years, each artist is represented by a key artwork and short text. It’s an essential history of art for an age that champions a greater diversity of voices.
5. Accidentally Wes Anderson
Filmmaker Wes Anderson is known for his commitment to symmetry and storybook motifs. Beginning as a personal travel bucket list, Accidentally Wes Anderson tells the stories behind more than 200 of the most beautiful, idiosyncratic and interesting places on Earth (that could’ve been ripped from one of Anderson’s mood boards). With a foreword by Anderson himself, it’s perfect for modern travelers and fans of the filmmaker’s distinctive aesthetic.
6. The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia
Calling all oenophiles. Fully updated and revised for the first time since 2011, this 800-page edition of Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia is arranged geographically to highlight the regions and climates that produce the best vintages. Beautifully illustrated with more than 400 images and 100 brand-new National Geographic maps, each page is packed with information on flavor notes, vineyard profiles, tasting room guides, grape know-how and special information on unique varietals.
7. Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs
Ansel Adams was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. This book presents the full spectrum of Adams’s work in a single volume for the first time, offering the largest available compilation from his legendary photographic career. The book spans his first photographs in Yosemite and the High Sierra in 1916 to his work in the National Parks in the 1940s and his last important photographs from the 1960s.
8. The Rihanna Book
A stunning visual autobiography, this hefty tome (it’s 504 pages and features 1,050 color images) follows Bad Gal Riri from her Barbados childhood to her worldwide tours, iconic fashion moments and private time with friends and family, showcasing never-before-seen images of her life as an artist, performer, designer and entrepreneur.
9. Menu Design in America
Until restaurants became commonplace in the late 1800s, printed menus were reserved for special occasions. As restaurants began to pop up, the menu became more than just a culinary listing—it’s now an integral part of eating out, a marketing tool, and even a keepsake. This fun book showcases the best examples of this graphic art, in the process serving as a history of restaurants and dining out in America.
Chances are you’ve seen at least one of Gray Malin’s gorgeous aerial photographs. Though we also adore his Italy book, we’re even more partial to Beaches, which features shots of beaches in more than 20 cities across six continents—from Sydney, Australia and Kaua'i to Rio de Janeiro and Dubai. Just be warned that you will check flight prices while flipping through this beauty.
11. Sneaker Freaker. The Ultimate Sneaker Book
From its early roots as a punk-style fanzine to today's super-slick print and online operations, the independent publication Sneaker Freaker has documented every collab, custom, limited edition, retro reissue and more. This definitive history of our favorite casual footwear traverses 100 years of history, each chapter painting a picture of the sneaker industry's evolution, including Air Max, Adi Dassler, Converse, Kanye West and more.
12. Architectural Digest at 100
Published for the magazine’s hundredth anniversary back in 2019, this visual history celebrates the best from the pages of the international design authority. Ranging freely between present and past, the book features the personal spaces of dozens of celebrities like David Bowie, Truman Capote and Diana Vreeland, and includes the work of top designers and architects like Frank Gehry, Axel Vervoordt and more.
13. Federico Fellini: The Book of Dreams
From the late 1960s until 1990, the late, great director used this diary to represent his dreams and nightmares in the form of drawings and ungrammatical notes. A colorful journey into the boundless territory of a genius's imagination, it’s a must-have for cinephiles and casual movie watchers alike.
14. A Great Party: Designing the Perfect Celebration
Ever wonder what it was like to be at the White House for one of Barack Obama's parties? Or perhaps you wish you were a fly on the wall at Chelsea Clinton's wedding? Acclaimed event designer Bryan Rafanelli (who was named one of the best wedding planners in the world by Vogue) takes readers through his creative process and shares his secrets for creating parties we could only dream of attending.
15. Camp: Notes on Fashion
The theme of 2019’s MET exhibit was one of the wildest and most out-there presentations to date. Inspired by “Camp,” the eccentric costumes were not to be missed. But if you couldn't make it to New York City to see it IRL (or if you just want to relive the amazingness), this innovative coffee table book—by Costume Institute at the Metropolitan curator Andrew Bolton—immortalizes it forever.
16. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph
When Diane Arbus died in 1971 at the age of 48, she was already something of a legend, even though a relatively small number of her most important pictures were widely known at the time. The publication of this book in 1972 offered the general public its first encounter with her achievements. Composed of 80 photographs, this monograph has come to be known as one of the most important—and controversial—photobooks of all time.
17. American Boys
Chronicling the trans-masculine experience across the United States, this photo series takes an intimate look into the stories of self-identified men and transmasc Americans. The book rejects everything we know about traditional boyhood, and while the pictures are beautiful, it's the accompanying life stories that make it so inspiring. Both tender and exciting, these portraits reflect the rapidly expanding conceptions of gender.
18. The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List
How many times have you had a debate with friends over where to get the best matzoh ball soup? This coffee table book is sort of like that, but instead of the "best" or "most popular" Jewish dishes, it outlines the 100 most significant foods—culturally and historically—to the Jewish people. From essays to recipes to stories to photos, the whole list is sure to fuel your next food-centric convo.
19. Scrawl: An A to Z of Famous Doodles
We all doodle from time to time, but do you ever think about those scribbles becoming iconic works of art? In this book, you'll find sketches, drawings and scratches from private letters and notebooks of some of the greatest names in history, like William Burroughs, Mark Twain and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few.
20. Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure
Ever wonder how the idea for Central Park was dreamed up? Or what the first plans were? This historical book includes material like the original winning competition entry, meticulously detailed maps and plans of surrounding buildings. One flip through and you'll feel like you're back in the 1850s (which is when the park was constructed).
21. Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful
The political slogan “Black Is Beautiful” was popularized in the 1950s and 1960s by photographer and artist Kwame Brathwaite. This stunning book showcases his life and work dedicated to equality through studio portraits of the Grandassa Models (an all-black modeling agency he founded with his brother to challenge white beauty standards) and even some behind-the-scenes images of Harlem's artistic community.