Let’s talk about great coffee table books.
I know, it’s fun to order and read (or listen to) books on your Kindle or your phone. They don’t take up space and clutter your house, they’re portable and can go with you.
E-books are cheaper, you can delete them if they’re terrible instead of tossing them in your car to donate to Goodwill where they slide around for six weeks until you remember, they have less impact on the environment, etc etc etc.
They’re the greatest thing since sliced bread!
Ebooks don’t smell like books.
You can’t caress the pages, or dog-ear them (yeah, I know, I’m a monster).
You can’t get mad when your favorite character dies or there’s an extreme plot-twist you didn’t see coming and throw the book across the room. I mean, you can, but a new iPhone is hella expensive.
You can’t stack them in an aesthetically pleasing way.
You can’t run your hands along the spines when you pass by.
You can’t put them out on your coffee table for your guests to peruse when you’re having a party.
You can’t inscribe the first page with something witty, romantic, wistful, or funny. (My daughter collects old books strictly for the inscribed page in the front.)
So, for those reasons, and many others, I bring you a list of 15 incredible coffee table books that are far too beautiful to read on your phone.
These are big, juicy, colorful, heavy, deep, wonderful books that you can give as a gift (after you inscribe it to them, naturally), or plonk down on your own coffee table.
After all, sometimes you just gotta reach for a book.
A REAL book.
A coffee table book.
15 Great Coffee Table Books
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1. The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story with Intensely Good Flavors
by Mandy Lee
What began as a blog, Lady and Pups, food writer and cook Mandy Lee takes us with her on a journey of the heart and stomach.
Born in Taiwan, raised in Vancouver, came of age in New York City, then drug to Beijing for her husband’s career, she found herself disillusioned with China and began to angrily cook.
Have you ever cooked angrily? My husband does. We call it Rage Cooking, and it’s a thing.
In The Art of Escapism Cooking, Lee takes out her frustrations and emotions in the kitchen, and you can practically smell the spices when you open this gorgeously photographed book. Peppers, curry, herbs, simmering sauces, grilling meat…
Each section is separated into witty segments, such as:
For Getting Out of Bed
Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise
Crackling Pancake with Caramel-Clustered Blueberries and Balsamic Honey
Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen
Crab Bisque Tsukemen
For a Crowd
Cumin Lamb Rib Burger
Italian Meatballs in Taiwanese Rouzao Sauce
Wontons with Shrimp and Chili Coconut Oil and Herbed Yogurt
Spicy Chickpea Poppers
Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream
Recycled Nuts and Caramel Apple Cake
This is a cookbook you can use to expand your palate and expertise in the kitchen, or you can just read it like a novel.
Or, you know, leave it on the coffee table.
2. National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals
by Joel Sartore
You don’t have to be a huge animal lover to get lost in the pages of The Photo Ark.
A lifelong ambition, obsession, career, and devotion, has culminated in Sartore’s beautiful book that is written with humor, love, understanding, patience, and brilliance. The glossy photos will get your imagination running as you look askance at your boring house cat snoring on the couch (just kidding).
While every animal is important and lovingly portrayed, the endangered ones pack the biggest punch.
3. Great Maps: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained
by Jerry Brotton
Everything you ever wanted to know about cartography but were afraid to ask will be revealed!
Okay, even if you didn’t think you wanted to know about cartography, your interest cannot help but be piqued by Great Maps. With lush photos and maps dating back all the way to Ptolemy, you’ll get lost wandering through fantastic places and exotics locales in this fabulous coffee table book.
Once upon a time, maps influenced politics, art, religion, propaganda, and power… the pen really was mightier than the sword.
Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide
by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammock
The perfect tome to rifle through while you’re enjoying a glass of vino, Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide will be your go-to for knowledge about your favorite smashed grape.
Anything but dry (haha, a little wine humor there), the pages are filled with color, charts, guides, quizzes, maps, and the history of my personal favorite beverage.
You can learn your own personal tastes, regions, price range, and how to pair your drink of choice with the best foods – all from the comfort of your couch.
I like Cardboardeaux and Cheezits, but I’m learning to expand my palate.
5. Photography: The Definitive Visual History
by Tom Ang
Tom Ang is a world-renowned photographer himself (not to mention a broadcaster and writer), so he’s the perfect guide to walk with you through Photography: The Definitive Visual History.
It’s a truly stunning compilation of the last 200 years of photography, replete with photographer profiles and the stories behind some of the most iconic images in history.
The perfect gift for your favorite photographer, or an ideal “textbook” for your homeschooled teenager, this lavish book will look amazing on your coffee table.
It contains the best of the best when it comes to photos, the history behind them (always so interesting!), and who is who in the picture snapping world. You will feel so smart and inspired after an afternoon being curled up with this one.
6. 1000 Record Covers
by Michael Ochs
Photographed exclusively from his very own private collection (zowie!), Ochs’ 1000 Record Covers is both an amazing coffee table book and a love letter to the underappreciated art of album covers.
Focusing on the 60s – 90s, you’ll find your own nostalgic favorites and be whisked back to a time before Pandora, Spotify, I Heart Radio, and streaming.
This is the perfect book to have easily accessible during your next party when the music is loud and the party goers are dancing but the introverts need a corner to themselves!
7. Overview: A New Perspective of Earth
by Benjamin Grant
It began as an Instagram account. But you now don’t have to be online at all to get lost in the stunning beauty that is Overview: A New Perspective of Earth.
Named after The Overview Effect, that feeling astronauts get when looking down and seeing earth as a whole (can you imagine?) this beautiful, glossy coffee table book will ignite a love for your planet that will transform the way you see your little spot on earth.
More than 200 original images that are woven together seamlessly into a kind of tapestry will inspire and awe even the most blase of readers. Arm chair astronaut… is that a thing? It is now.
8. Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany (Book for Writers, Book Lovers Miscellany with Booklist)
by Jane Mount
Who better to write a coffee table book for book lovers than the artist behind Ideal Bookshelf?
Famous for her art of book covers, Jane Mount delves deeper with us in Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany.
Her own fun bookish paintings accompany all the history, summaries, authors, facts, famous bookstores, and includes random thing from what pets the authors keep to what the those pets eat.
Nothing is off the table here, and true bibliophiles will delight in adding to their already bursting TBR list (which the author says is the goal, after all).
9. I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats
by Francesco Marciuliano
Ever been exasperated by your cat? Know a crazy cat lady whose birthday is coming up? Just want to giggle your way through a rainy afternoon? Look no further than I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats.
Lighthearted, whimsical, off-the-wall poems written by the author of the Sally Forth comic strip will have you laughing for hours. My personal favorite is Let Me In:
Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in Let me in
Oh, uh, hullo
I did not expect an answer
I did not expect an entrance
I did not expect this room to be so incredibly dull.
So, uh, goodbye.
For anyone who’s ever been at turns enamored and annoyed by their cat, this is the book.
10. Writers: Their Lives and Works
Each writer is introduced with a stunning photograph or painting before you find yourself entranced by their biographies, study habits, homes, loves, and lives.
Writers: Their Lives and Works takes on well-known writers such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolfe, and Toni Morrison, but also some lesser known gems going back as far as the middle ages.
You’ll get to know each writer’s rivalries, inspirations, love affairs, scandals, quotes, and deaths, as you explore their homes and writings. With lavish illustrations, you’ll find yourself lost in other worlds of ink and loss, commas and correspondences, rejections and fame.
If you’re looking for new writers to add to your list, this book will give you ideas for your next trip to the library when you just “can’t find a thing to read.”
11. The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember
by Fred Rogers
Need a gift for someone? Anyone? From your postal service carrier to your cranky aunt Mildred to your hormonal preteen to your divorcing parents to your pastor to your worst enemy, this is the book to buy.
As gentle as his personality and just as wise and loving, The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember is packed with inspiring stories, quotes, insights, anecdotes, letters, transcripts, and speeches.
This is a crowd-pleasing coffee table book that will warm your heart while inspiring you to make your own spot in the world and try to leave half as good a legacy as he did.
(Sure, it’s not the huge size of a traditional coffee table book (it’s pretty much a normal-sized book) but hey, it’s Mr. Rogers. If you want a coffee-table sized book, go with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History.)
12. Destinations of A Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
by National Geographic
Okay, when it comes to sumptuous coffee table books, it’s hard to hold a candle to National Geographic. Their stunning Destinations of A Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places is no exception.
In fact, it may be their best collection yet. If you love to or long to travel, these pages are filled with everything from rainy cobblestone paths to elaborate tree houses to dazzling forests and wild beaches to man-made architecture to nature’s unbelievable destinations. It will get your heart pumping and kick your imagination into overdrive.
Each location is accompanied by a shot by a world famous photographer and will have you drooling to become a traveler, if only in your heart.
13. Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story
by DK with Viviana Durante
Whether you’re a ballet enthusiast or know someone who is, this stunning coffee table book really is what it says it is: Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated Story.
Inside, you’ll learn about the origins of ballet, the most famous of all the dancers throughout history, the composers who worked alongside them, the costumes, the eras, the genres, even the stories of the most well-loved ballets themselves.
You’ll be an expert by the time you close the last page, and even if you aren’t a dancer yourself, you’ll feel like putting on some slippers and executing the perfect tendue.
A lovely book for a dance studio lobby or a doctor’s waiting room or just for your own coffee table, you won’t be let down by this well researched and beautiful collection.
Related: 21 Lovely Ballet Teacher Gifts
by Tim Flach
The book is a compilation put together by Tim Flach, a world famous photographer who specializes in animals (check out his joyful ode to dogs in Dogs as well).
You’ll be lost in your own imagination as you tame the wild Mustangs of Utah, ride the powerful Icelandic horses, and dance with the Andalusian horses of Spain. For horse lovers and photography enthusiasts alike.
15. Ghostly Tales: Spine-Chilling Stories of the Victorian Age
Various Authors; Illustrations by Bill Bragg
What makes a good coffee table book? Well, it has to be large, full of illustrations or photographs, able to be picked up and put down and begun anywhere at any page, and if it comes with an embossed textured case and a ribbon marker, well, sold. Take my money!
With that in mind, this eerie, creepy, and deliciously macabre collection is the perfect coffee table book for your October nights.
You’ll be hearing mysterious footsteps, soft echos of piano keys, maybe some midnight wailing, as the things that go bump in the night manifest as you turn each page in Ghostly Tales: Spine-Chilling Stories of the Victorian Age.
Coffee tables never had it so good!