Visually stunning and filled with gems of knowledge, coffee table books exist at the spectacular intersection of aesthetic and substance. Below, we’ve collected a list of the best ones.
Coffee table books are the easiest way to flex your reading habits — conspicuously, of course — to anybody that walks through the door. Fortunately, they cover a gamut of interests, so no matter what type of bibliophile you are, you’re sure to be able to create an aesthetically (and interesting) pleasing stack.
What’s more, they make amazing gifts too. Spanning virtually every topic on the planet, and stunning to gaze at, there’s no doubt that a coffee table book would make the perfect gift for a friend’s coffee table.
Brett Whiteley: Art & Life – Barry Pearce
Spanning the life and works of Brett Whiteley’s celebrated and prodigious career, Brett Whiteley: Art & Life is a beautiful tribute to one of Australia’s most iconic artists. A work of art in itself, Brett Whiteley: Art & Life easily deserves a spot on your coffee table.
ART & LIFE
Emily Kame Kngwarreye – Natalie King
As part of Thames & Hudson’s Mini Monograph series, Emily Kame Kngwarreye highlights one of the country’s most spellbinding visual artists. Filled with a mix of personal essays from artistic superstars, the book celebrates the immense social and cultural impact of its namesake artist.
EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE
Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings – Andrea Kettenmann and Luis-Martín Lozano
No discussion of 20th-century art is complete without mention of Frida Kahlo, one of the most influential artists of her generation. Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings is an illuminating study into the life, legacy, and works of the enigmatic Mexican painter and — with the book clocking in at over 600 pages — is one of the most extensive to ever be written.
FRIDA KAHLO: THE COMPLETE PAINTINGS
ANDREA KETTENMANN & LUIS- MARTIN LOZANO
A24 Screenplay Books
The A24 screenplay books are iconic. Clothbound, hardback-book versions of the screenplays of some of A24’s most iconic films (Moonlight; Lady Bird; Euphoria); for anyone into aesthetic minimalism, these are the coffee table books for you!
A24 SCREENPLAY BOOKS
Criterion Designs – Eric Skillman
Cinephiles, assemble. Released by the Criterion Collection — a home video distribution service beloved to indie filmmakers and watchers alike — Criterion Designs boasts of “designs commissioned by the Criterion Collection, featuring covers, supplemental art, and never-before-seen sketches and concept art plus a gallery of every Criterion cover since the collection’s first laserdisc in 1984.”
Gus Van Sant: The Art of Making Movies – Katya Tylevich
My Own Private Idaho, Milk, and Good Will Hunting are only a select few films from Gus Vant Sant’s extensive and wildly influential filmography. Having captured the hearts of cinema-goers for decades, Gus Van Sant: The Art of Making Movies is an exciting dive into the mind of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.
GUS VAN SANT: THE ART OF MAKING MOVIES
Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks – Adam Nayman
P.T. Anderson is an auteur in a league of his own. Highly recommended for film fans everywhere, Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks explores the legendary director’s influences, illuminated through interviews with his closest collaborators.
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON: MASTERWORKS
Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Film – John Duke Kisch
With a foreword by Black history academic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Hollywood director Spike Lee, Separate Cinema is an insightful, expansive overview of a century of Black film. With images taken from the Separate Cinema Archive, Separate Cinema is more than just a coffee table book. It draws content from one of the most extensive holdings of African-American film memorabilia in the world, with 30000+ authentic movie posters and photographs from over 30 countries.
SEPARATE CINEMA: THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS OF BLACK FILM
JOHN DUKE KISCH
Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto – Claude Arnaud
With the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne) currently showing the concurrent exhibition of the same name, Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto was published especially to accompany this exhibition, originally during its tour in Paris. Archival documents and essays by fashion historians are accompanied by the gorgeous (and groundbreaking) fashions that Chanel propagated into the 20th century.
The Catwalk Series
Published by Thames and Hudson, The Catwalk Series is a series of books that provide comprehensive overviews of historically significant haute couture houses (think Versace, Chanel, Dior) and their womenswear collections. Available in individual volumes, they’re perfect for curating a chic coffee table book stack.
Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People – Hamish Bowles
Written by Vogue’s International editor-at-large Hamish Bowles and edited by contributing editor Chloe Malle, with a foreword by Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the collection provides an insight into the five most recent Met Galas and their “reflection of contemporary fashion vernacular.”
Wonderland – Annie Leibovitz
Famed Vanity Fair photographer Annie Leibovitz’s Wonderland is a glorious collection of fashion images, spanning her characteristic portraits — both released and unreleased — of celebrities. It includes the likes of Nicole Kidman, Serena Williams, RuPaul, Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Rihanna, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Karl Lagerfeld, and Nancy Pelosi.
Photography: The Definitive Visual History – Tom Ang
Photography: The Definitive Visual History is a celebration of the art of photography, as well as those that practice it. Spellbinding images are accompanied by detailed profiles of over 50 photographers, as well as a guided tour through the history of the frozen image, from the 1800s to the present day.
Vanity Fair: The Portraits – A Century of Iconic Images – David Friend and Grayson Carter
Headed by former Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair, Grayson Carter, and Director of Photography at Life Magazine, David Friend, Vanity Fair: The Portraits collects 300 iconic portraits taken for the cover of the namesake magazine, over a span of 95 years. Featuring the likes of Pablo Picasso, Amelia Earhart, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn, Vanity Fair: The Portraits is a glamourous addition to any coffee table book stack.
VANITY FAIR: THE PORTRAITS
Afrosurf – Mami Wata
Filled with remarkable photographs of African surfers, Afrosurf decolonises the myth that surfing originated in Hawaii and was spread due to European influence by investigating the evocative connections between African culture and surfing. As reviewed by The Guardian, “[Afrosurf] takes a whirlwind tour of the African coastline [and] digs into the culture – music, art, folklore, food, the chances of meeting a hippopotamus where the waves break – that surrounds an activity that’s as much lifestyle as sport.” Best Buy afrosurf book amazon
Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography – Alex Corporan, Andre Razo, Ivory Serra
As reviewed by The New Yorker, “[Full Bleed] captures the sensation of flight and movement within heavy, confining spaces, and the sweeping colors of the boards, the graffiti, and the riders as they fly between the gray sky and grayer pavement.” Spanning three decades, with contributions from dozens of photographers, Full Bleed captures the intimate relationship that skaters have with New York.
ALEX CORPORAN, ANDRE RAZO, IVORY SERRA