Submitted by SAT0725 t3_z7txy6 in books

As a photographer I tend to accumulate a lot of photography books, and many of them are those oversized books you'd probably consider "coffee table" books. So I have a number of really nice photography books, as well as several design-related books collecting posters, etc.

I think my favorites though are probably those large collections you can often find at Barnes and Noble that showcase all the art in various famous museums, just because I can look at those over and over and never get sick of them. I also have a huge collection of Van Gogh's works, and a collection of Andrew Wyeth's Helga paintings. So I guess my favorites are all art books.

What are your favorites? What makes a good "coffee table" book? One thing that kills them for me is if they're too thick, which makes them difficult to read.



You must log in or register to comment.

Nizamark t1_iy8i0xt wrote

The Coffee Table Book of Coffee Tables by Cosmo Kramer


LastAd298 t1_iy84h6i wrote

I love Taschen books, I leave some Araki books to guests scroll through and find out for themselves what his motifs are


SAT0725 OP t1_iy850ps wrote

Yes! The Taschen Basic Art Series is the best!


throwawayinthe818 t1_iybf6mk wrote

I have a big slipcased three-volume set of Julius Shulman mid-century architectural photography I picked up really cheap at a Taschen sale that’s pretty sweet.


JoeMist t1_iy8yyf4 wrote

To me, a good coffee table book is something that you can pick up and read for as long or as short of a time as you like. Size doesn’t matter too much, but I do like it when they stack nicely.

My coffee table currently has a Calvin and Hobbes book on the bottom, with The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, Meanwhile by Jason Shiga, and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime stacked on top of it. I might rotate some new one once in a while.


swedish_librarian t1_iy8fnoi wrote

I´ve had Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History on my coffee table for a while now. Nerds old and new are drawn to it instantly. A great conversation starter.


Chadmartigan t1_iy907od wrote

Honestly, I accidentally left out my PHB, DM Guide, and Xanathar's during a party and they got more use than any coffee table book I've had.

D&D books have a ton of art and flavor text. If your guests are nerds or nerd-adjacent, they'll most likely flip through it and find something to talk about.


Chadmartigan t1_iy91twg wrote

IMO, what makes a good coffee table book is something that's appealing/accessible enough that it's going to get picked up and used to kick off a conversation. It can be about anything - it's the engagement that's important.

I think photography books are solid, and I have done a few in the past. But I get better results from "weird" stuff. Right now, I leave out my annotated copy of the Voynich Manuscript which is just so bizarre and fun to look at that people can't help themselves. I used to leave out a scrapbook that some dude put together in the 1880's. He made it from a conveniently coffee-table-book-sized lock & hardware catalog. It's like 200 pages of newspaper clippings from across the country, with a preface about the guy (who I gathered was a disabled eccentric) and why he put it together (which is far from clear). It was by far my best coffee table book because 19th century papers were BUCK WILD, but I ultimately retired it due to its condition.

I also mentioned elsewhere in the thread that I've accidentally left out some D&D books before, and people will flip through those pretty reliably.


Catsandscotch t1_iy9de0z wrote

Wait. Annotated copy of the Voynich Manuscript? How is it annotated if no one knows what it says? Are these your notes or did you purchase it? Has someone made progress on it?


This_person_says t1_iy8darr wrote

PROUD TO BE WEIRRD by Ralph Steadman


Current-Excuse-4416 t1_iyd0vri wrote

I have the Ralph Stedman wine book. I was looking for who would bring him up.


This_person_says t1_iyd1o6l wrote

Ohhh - Grapes of Ralph? I am a collector of all things Steadman - LOVE him.


Current-Excuse-4416 t1_iyd5ej3 wrote

Yes! I love Ralph and of course HST too.


This_person_says t1_iydc737 wrote

My fellow fan!! HST - the great shark hunt and The Curse of Lono (Tachen) ughhhh such good reading. I also have the Chapbook Steadman released called Joe Meets The Aliens - a super prized possession.


Darth_Scourge t1_iy8bmcd wrote

The Lego Book, visual history of the Lego Company and the stuff they make, very cool.


RollForThings t1_iy8xhvq wrote

I had this massive 40 year anniversary retrospective of Sesame Street for a number of years, not a single visitor I had would go a visit without opening it and getting nostalgia


Reevadare1990 t1_iy8e0r4 wrote

Gnomes by Will Hguyen and Tolkien Maker of Middle Earth are our coffee table currents! I also have a few LotR film companions, a Vikings companion, and three classic fairytale books from when I was a child (Gorgeous paintings!)


jblakey t1_iy9pa37 wrote

In a similar vein, I would add "Faeries" by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. Beautiful artwork. I remember turning the pages until I wore the book out when I was a kid.


Reevadare1990 t1_iy9pvls wrote

THAT’S the book I was thinking of! I saw it at a relative’s house years ago and have been looking for it ever since!


ladygoodgreen t1_iybcpmo wrote

There’s also ‘Good Faeries Bad Faeries’ by the same. Love these ones!


Ok-Maybe-397 t1_iy8zj99 wrote

Beastie Boys Book is a great book, lots of pictures and a great conversation starter,


beaucezik t1_iy9o26q wrote

Humans of New York / Humans by Brandon Stanton.


Zachafinackus t1_iy9dgkg wrote

I'm big into video games, and I've only got one 'coffee table' book, Souls Arts by VaatiVidya. It's got all the art and descriptions from the concept competitions he's run and with the proceeds of the book he was able to reward all the artists for their hard work, even if they weren't winners originally.


Madigail t1_iy9i5cs wrote

I'm in the middle of young puppy training so no books out within in reach, BUT if I had anything out now it would be my Humans of New York books. They're thick BUT you can read one profile quickly or take the time to read 100, totally up to you and what you have time for. PLUS the stories are fascinating and great conversation starters.


medici-slot-machine t1_iyb8vmq wrote

I have a big weakness for art books, but I like to display a few that get people lost in the work or serve to open up conversation. Right now I have a Barbara Kruger collection, and works by Joseph Cornell, but I think the one that gets the most reaction from folks is called Malkovich, where photographer Sandro Miller recreates famous photographs using John Malkovich as all the models. It’s both historically smart and gonzo ridiculous.

In addition to Phaidon and Taschen, I find Yale University Press puts out a lot of good art books.


mlqdscrvn t1_iy836pa wrote

"History of Beauty" and "On Ugliness" both by Umberto Eco... Sometimes the coffee table books can be so heavy on such topics...


Greessey t1_iy94v62 wrote

I'm not sure if it would be considered a coffee table book because it's the size of a regular book but my dad got me a copy of this compilation of Terry Prachett quotes.

It's nice to just open it and look at a few.


MaverickTopGun t1_iy98492 wrote

Simon Stalenhag's work. Great books to pick up and flip through.


KillerNinja86678 t1_iy98vsp wrote

I have a book on the history and fall of the soviet union. And im trying to find a book called "how to be black" i saw a guy reading on a bus once.


GalemReth t1_iy9fhr2 wrote

"What If: scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions". I've used post it tabs to highlight my favorite chapters. Read for 30 seconds or 30 minutes and it's good for a laugh.


Daracaex t1_iy9pfmn wrote

I own a couple.

For art, I’ve got some of the Art of Magic: The Gathering books that have some great fantasy artwork and information on some of the game’s settings.

For my other interests, I have the Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe. It breaks down complicated devices and shows how things like the space shuttle or a dam works, but using hilariously simple language.


EvilCalvin t1_iy9qa5m wrote

Doctor Who - The Vault is a great big book covering everything Who since 1963 (until 2013)


Ohwhatagoose t1_iya2tt5 wrote

America from 500 ft and Maine, A View from Above. My husband and I flew Powered Parachutes and this reminds me of all the wonder views from above!


phinbar t1_iyastd1 wrote

"Film Posters of the Russian Anant-Guard" Graphic delights from cover to cover.


Budsey t1_iyax6bs wrote

I absolutely love all of the photography books put out by Gestalten Publishing. They cover a wide array of topics and are very well curated.


South_Honey2705 t1_iybbte0 wrote

The Renoir catalog from The Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston


Badroadrash101 t1_iybwpmw wrote

Operation Overlord. The invasion of Normandy.


genrefictions t1_iy86s8u wrote

Taschen books are great, but I do love the Slim Aarons coffee table books.


Jade_GL t1_iy8pbxy wrote

I really like Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino. I love video games in general and I grew up with Atari and Commodore 64 specifically, so seeing all the art used in arcade signage, boxes and whatnot is so interesting. The art is beautiful too.


MichaelJasonFreddy t1_iy96pvy wrote

I love video game/film art books. They make great coffee table books.


zihuatapulco t1_iy97ysp wrote

Eyelids of Morning: The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, by Alistair Graham and Peter Beard.


Real-Werner-Herzog t1_iy9874h wrote

I have the of WPA posters art book from Quark and a small basket of zines and comics from friends on my coffee table, the zine basket gets way more use than the WPA book.


borgpot t1_iy9b5sp wrote

Vanessa Del Rio (Taschen)


Vantablack_Otter t1_iy9c20j wrote

It's a bit small for a coffee table book, and not very visual, but I like The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. It's attractive, with its gold-on-black cover, and it's a great book to open to a random page and read out loud.


Lady_Dinoasaurus t1_iy9dgeo wrote

Much Loved by Mark nixon

Every page is a teddy bear loved to destruction and the story of how old they are and a little story from their person

Everyone always gets a warm fuzzy feeling flipping through it


WheresTheMoozadell t1_iy9dxnr wrote

I recently picked up the Complete World War II: The Coverage of the Entire Conflict by the NYT. It’s all clippings ranging between the 1920s-1940s covering all of WWII.

It’s really fascinating being able to experience those stories through an present-day experience.

I’m also an avid news consumer, as well as a Veteran so I may be in the minority for enjoying a book like this. It’s made a great display and I’ve gone through quite a bit of it so far in the past week.


RattusRattus t1_iy9f9sr wrote

Probably more my style of coffee table book, but The Rose by Jennifer Potter and Fashion and Fetishism by David Kunzle. Lots of pics, but lots of fun tidbits of facts. Anything by Nick Bantock is fun too.


bmtri t1_iy9jdpe wrote

Out of print now, but Star Wars: Chronicles by Deborah Fine. Big, cool slip-case cover, nice full-color pictures and descriptions of everything from the original trilogy, including those cantina aliens that may have been onscreen for a split second.

My other go-to is The Complete Far Side (a 2- volume set, 2003). I think the Far Side has been collected a few time over, but this has a gorgeous slip-cover with full-color "paintings" and two nicely bound volumes.


demilitarizdsm t1_iy9jsm3 wrote

The Illustrated Directory of... (anything they made) but esp Midevil weapons


datdaddy t1_iy9qzcy wrote

The Family of Man


HamiltonBlack t1_iy9wnlo wrote

The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk

All the rock posters through history. You’ll read it for days…


Vesperniss t1_iy9yrcx wrote

Anything by Tom of Finland.


untorches t1_iya1j0l wrote

Anything by Christophe Blain - I have his rare black and white editions as well as an oversized copy of quai d’orsay which is a bit like France’s illustrated answer to Yes Minister.


chromeVidrio t1_iyajdeo wrote

The Frida Kahlo one is dope, the complete one


Mythrenegade t1_iyapfoj wrote

Amazing Churches of the World. Beautiful photography of sacred buildings, and well written details about the buildings.


Specialist_Watch1081 t1_iyaqtyg wrote

I have a book that has pictures of dogs catching balls as they jump in a pool. It can bring a smile to any one’s face


religionlies2u t1_iyb3dpx wrote

Stephen King partnered with a photographer to do a book called Nightmares in the Sky and it’s all these photos of gargoyle architecture around NYC that F Stop Fitzgerald took while SK wrote the text.


I_should_watch_tv t1_iybycmo wrote

My favorite is “Yukon” a collection of photos from a trip Till Lindemann took with a NatGeo (I think?) photographer. They rafted on the Yukon river and camped, it looked like a pretty rad trip. Till’s the lead singer of my favorite band, and I live in Alaska so it was really cool to see it from his viewpoint. It’s a massive book though, I don’t keep it out too often.


ready4more4 t1_iycmwck wrote

The Art of Looking Sideways


BlondieBabe436 t1_iycve7y wrote

Sounds weird, but I have the whole collection of "Life in Hell" series books by Matt Groening. They are fairly funny and random. Might not be a "coffee table" type book series; but it's one of those quirky things a visitor might pick up and thumb through. If they have a decent sense of humor that is.