When I was a kid, my mom always had a rotating selection of beautiful coffee table books in our living room. To my young mind they were glimpses into new worlds; faraway places, exquisite homes, and fashions.
Books make terrific gifts for people of all ages; they act as great conversation starters when you have guests over and are lovely to peruse for inspiration on rainy Sundays. I’ve been a digital nomad for the past two years, and I can’t wait to settle into my next home and unpack all the books I have in boxes. It can be tough to find the perfect gift, but unique books are always a good choice. If you know the person well, you should have an idea of the different types of books they like to read. You can also introduce them to an author you love or a book that you found to be incredible.
Here is a selection of my favorite coffee table books to gift and display. I also love to display design books in my office, and have put together a list of my favorite sustainable design books as well.
This cookbook is the divine tastemaker. Put together by the wondrous Salvador Dali, It is made up of 136 recipes with 12 chapters, all fully illustrated by Dali himself. All the recipes can be made at home with easily sourced ingredients. This makes for a great coffee table gift or dinner party theme.
This book explores the life of Alexander McQueen, one of the most influential and imaginative designers of his age. The book gives insights into the inspiration behind the iconic and radical designs created by McQueen. It also features many beautiful designs from his collections.
Ernst Haeckel was a natural scientist who loved working with natural forms and geometric shapes. He believed in symmetry and in the unity of all living things. He superimposes growing microscopic organisms on highly developed plants. The result is a beautiful photograph or print. The book “Art Forms in Nature” is arranged according to geometric and “constructive” aspects and it contains many of the most diversified life forms on earth. The book received praises from both scientists and architects alike. It will make for a good collection on any coffee table display or a gift.
This book is a wonderful representation of Data. It seeks to illustrate data from scientific, artistic and statistical views. “Beautiful Visualization” is the true meaning of “a picture speaks a thousand words”. These visualizations are appealing to the eyes not only for their aesthetic designs but also because of their sophisticated details. It is a good read and a wonderful addition to any collection.
This book showcases diverse tribes and cultures from around the world. From the South Pole to the deserts of Africa, Jimmy Nelson captures beautiful pictures showcasing rich cultures and traditions. With a collection of more than 80 detailed pictures showcased in this book, “Before They Pass Away” takes us back to the deep-rooted cultures of many tribes in different parts of the world. The detailed photographs are pictured in the most beautiful landscapes. There are English and French editions of this book so there are lots of choices to go around.
The codex is an encyclopedia of imaginary things. If you or the person you are looking to gift this to have an eye for fantasy drawings and surreal illustrations, then this is one of the best coffee table books to choose. The illustrations are hand drawn and brightly colored. Several images depict fashion, fauna, flora, anatomies or simply a combination of one or more of these. The text is handwritten, looks somewhat ancient and totally undecipherable. The book has 300 pages filled with imaginary images and unintelligible text. It is a collector’s delight.
Taxidermy is a way of preserving dead animals by mounting their skins to make them look lifelike. Crap Taxidermy is a collection of the worst attempts to preserve dead animals. The book is hilarious and makes you wonder what the people who stuffed the animals were attempting to do. For those who like to entertain their guests with a bit of humor, these books are sure to strike up a conversation and a good laugh. Numerous taxidermy epic fails are collected in this colorful book. The book also includes tips and DIY lessons on how to properly stuff dead animals.
Another classic by Jimmy Nelson, Homage to Humanity showcases photographs of some of the most remote and beautiful places on earth. From the Himalayas with the Sharchop in Bhutan to the Mundari on the dry, isolated vast plains of South Sudan. The images are fascinating, and transcend rich cultural prosperity, symbolism,and pride in the face of the looming threat of modern society. With photographs from over 30 cultures around the world, Homage to Humanity tells a story of the parallels between the biodiversity of the planet and its cultural diversity. It is a great read and an excellent addition to any collection.
The windows of the Louis Vuitton stores have witnessed thousands upon thousands of passers-by, staring longingly at the beautiful and intricate designs on display. Creators Faye McLeod and Ansel Thompson bring the designs displayed in those windows to life with unparalleled magic. The book contains over 35 display of beautiful designs that delight the senses. It is a must-have for every bookshelf and coffee table alike.
People are often busy and distracted when making their grocery lists, and this can result in some funny results. This book is a compilation of found grocery lists with mysterious and humourous items on them. One of the best coffee table books to have out during a dinner party or family gathering!
This book looks at the life and creations of Tony Duquette, a renowned artist most notable for his designs in artwork, sculpture, jewelry, gardens, film sets, and interiors. More is more contains lavish illustrations of his work. The book centers on his designs, the ideas and motivation for them and his style and vision. The final chapter talks about his legacy and aspirations and how they are kept alive through Hutton Wilkinson. This book makes a great collector’s item for anyone who is conscious of style and creativity.
This beautifully put together book by Joel Sartore is a call to action. Sartore is on a mission to photograph animals that are in zoos, conservation centers,andwildlife sanctuaries. He hopes to document every living animal, as many species are endangered. So far, he has taken some 9000 photographs of different animal species. The Photo Ark is a collection of those photographs. The book is part of an awareness campaign to save animals by enforcing stricter conservation rules.
Nick Brandt takes photographs to another level in this book. In 2001, he journeyed to East Africa to photograph some of the world’s most beautiful animals. With his focus on fast disappearing large animal species such as giraffes, elephants, and tigers, he created two exciting photographic books; on this earth (2005) and A shadow falls (2009). The photographic books tell a story of empathy for other creatures. This is a collection of the two books. It is beautiful and interesting to read.
This book is a feature of over 1500 engravings that were included in the original 19th century Webster’s Dictionary. Anyone who is fascinated by visual arts, intricate designs, and history will absolutely love this book. From Acorns to Zebras, Bell Jars to Velocipedes, these alphabetically arranged archetypes and curiosities create enigmatic juxtapositions and illustrate the items deemed important to the Victorian mind. You can rest assured that this book is going to inspire as well as allure your senses.
This is a treasure from the 18th century. The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is a book on natural history. Put together by Amsterdam-based pharmacist Albertus Seba, this book is by far one of the most advanced collections of plants, animals,and insects from all around the world. He spent decades collecting these species and then illustrated them in 1731. a four-volume catalog was used to detail his collection which spanned from snakes to exotic plants, frogs, crocodiles, shellfish, corals, insects, butterflies and so much more. Many of the species featured in his collection are now extinct. This book serves as a reminder of what was.
In this eye-opener, Robert ParkeHarrison tells a story of the struggles of the environment. In his studio he constructed unreal photographs of scarred environments due to overuse, abuse,and technology. It is a really moving collection of the real-life crisis facing our world. He created a mythic world which mirrors our own and tells the story of how nature is abused, domesticated and controlled. He also created possible ways to solve the greatest needs of humanity without harming the environment. It is a wonderful addition to have on your coffee table and to offer to guests.
When I need inspiration, I love to flip to a random page in this book and see what I discover. This book is perfect as a gift to visual artists or anyone who appreciates the arts. It is a sort of scrapbook put together by master designer Alan Fletcher, who spent most of his life collecting images, quotations, and scraps from just about anything he can find around. The book is filled with wisdom from years and years of information. With its 72 chapters, the art of looking sideways is sure to captivate you and your gift recipient as it explores the workings of the eye, the hand, and the brain. It is the ultimate guide to visual awareness, a magical compilation that will entertain and inspire all those who enjoy the interplay between word and image, and who relish the odd and the unexpected.
This 600-year-old manuscript has baffled scholars and cryptographers alike for centuries. Some have claimed that the undecipherable text written in this book has no meaning at all, but many will beg to differ. It has about 240 pages, some of its pages are missing. The pages are filled with handwritten codex and many pages have illustrations or diagrams accompanying those writings. It will make a great gift for people who are naturally curious and a great addition to add to your coffee table for guests.
My friend Scarlet Abbott of Scarab Studio created some of the exquisite paintings and chandeliers at Dawnridge, so I was very excited to look through this book with her when it was released. The book was written by Hutton Wilkinson, who acquired Tony Duquette’s 30 x 30-foot mansion in Hollywood. Since he acquired it in 1999, he has since brought the house to highly coveted glory by broadening the property, adding houses of his own design, and incorporating remarkable objects designed and created by the Duquettes.He shares insight on the intricate designs of the house and the story behind each space. It is great as a gift for people who appreciate good home spaces and fashionable interiors.
Every New Yorker knows to look out for the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Intricate designs mixed with legendary artistry, smart references, and sly visuals. This book is a collection of more than a decade of beautiful creations put together. It is perfect for anyone who loves fashion.
This book takes you on a journey of self-discovery. This great visual poem challenges you to discover yourself and explore your creativity. It is a great companion for the creative mind.
What books are on your coffee table? Let me know in the comments below!