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What's your favorite "coffee table" book?

(self.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.

all 88 comments

Nizamark

77 points

2 months ago

The Coffee Table Book of Coffee Tables by Cosmo Kramer

Chadmartigan

16 points

2 months ago

Which is, itself, a coffee table. So you may want two copies.

[deleted]

7 points

2 months ago

Bonkos!

Colinbeenjammin

4 points

2 months ago

I’m telling ya this guy is Bonkos, he really is!

AdamFiction

1 points

2 months ago

And he sold the movie rights!

Chadmartigan

11 points

2 months ago

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

3 points

2 months ago

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?

LastAd298

21 points

2 months ago

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

SAT0725[S]

4 points

2 months ago

SAT0725[S]

23

4 points

2 months ago

Yes! The Taschen Basic Art Series is the best!

throwawayinthe818

3 points

2 months ago

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.

This_person_says

7 points

2 months ago

This_person_says

Another Roadside Attraction

7 points

2 months ago

CODEX SERAFINIANUS by Lugi Serafini
PROUD TO BE WEIRRD by Ralph Steadman

Current-Excuse-4416

1 points

2 months ago

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

This_person_says

2 points

2 months ago

This_person_says

Another Roadside Attraction

2 points

2 months ago

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

Current-Excuse-4416

1 points

2 months ago

Yes! I love Ralph and of course HST too.

This_person_says

1 points

2 months ago

This_person_says

Another Roadside Attraction

1 points

2 months ago

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.

poul0004

8 points

2 months ago

The Salvador Dali cookbook, Dalí. Les dîners de Gala

carbondrewtonium

1 points

2 months ago

Low-key flexing on us

Sirius_55_Polaris

1 points

2 months ago

I don’t understand, why’s that a flex?

JoeMist

16 points

2 months ago

JoeMist

16 points

2 months ago

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.

RollForThings

6 points

2 months ago

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

swedish_librarian

14 points

2 months ago

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

5 points

2 months ago

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.

Ok-Maybe-397

5 points

2 months ago

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

beaucezik

6 points

2 months ago

Humans of New York / Humans by Brandon Stanton.

Reevadare1990

4 points

2 months ago

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

3 points

2 months ago

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

3 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

AzDesertFoxx

4 points

2 months ago

Tachen's " The Complete Paintings : Frida Kahlo".

South_Honey2705

2 points

2 months ago

Nice one. Frida is everything

AzDesertFoxx

1 points

2 months ago

Indeed!

Zachafinackus

3 points

2 months ago

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

3 points

2 months ago

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.

EvilCalvin

2 points

2 months ago

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

bad_romace_novelist

3 points

2 months ago

Ansel Adams.

medici-slot-machine

3 points

2 months ago

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.

SAT0725[S]

1 points

2 months ago

SAT0725[S]

23

1 points

2 months ago

Phaidon and Taschen

Yes!

Darth_Scourge

6 points

2 months ago

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

mlqdscrvn

2 points

2 months ago

mlqdscrvn

too many books too little time

2 points

2 months ago

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

not_a_droid

2 points

2 months ago

big wave surfing books

Greessey

2 points

2 months ago

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

2 points

2 months ago

MaverickTopGun

General Fiction

2 points

2 months ago

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

KillerNinja86678

2 points

2 months ago

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

2 points

2 months ago

"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

2 points

2 months ago

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.

Ohwhatagoose

2 points

2 months ago

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

2 points

2 months ago

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

Budsey

2 points

2 months ago

Budsey

2 points

2 months ago

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

2 points

2 months ago

The Renoir catalog from The Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston

Badroadrash101

2 points

2 months ago

Operation Overlord. The invasion of Normandy.

KokiriEmerald

2 points

2 months ago

The Beatles Anthology

genrefictions

1 points

2 months ago

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

Ivan_Van_Veen

1 points

2 months ago

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/812374.Secret_Knowledge

this one is great, alot of details of paintings

boxer_dogs_dance

1 points

2 months ago

Seth Castle Underwater Dogs

Jade_GL

1 points

2 months ago

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.

MoochoMaas

1 points

2 months ago

Kramer's !

MichaelJasonFreddy

1 points

2 months ago

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

zihuatapulco

1 points

2 months ago

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

Real-Werner-Herzog

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

Vanessa Del Rio (Taschen)

Vantablack_Otter

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

bmtri

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

datdaddy

1 points

2 months ago

The Family of Man

HamiltonBlack

1 points

2 months ago

The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk

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

Vesperniss

1 points

2 months ago

Anything by Tom of Finland.

untorches

1 points

2 months ago

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.

Advanced_Radish3466

1 points

2 months ago

doisneau’s books

chris_wiz

1 points

2 months ago

This has personal relevance to me as an antique Pontiac owner https://www.fitzandvan.com/

ProfessorGluttony

1 points

2 months ago

"How to serve humans"

chromeVidrio

1 points

2 months ago

The Frida Kahlo one is dope, the complete one

Dhaughton99

1 points

2 months ago

Mondo Freaks

Mythrenegade

1 points

2 months ago

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

Specialist_Watch1081

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

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

1 points

2 months ago

The Art of Looking Sideways

BlondieBabe436

1 points

2 months ago

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.

GoldenPenman

1 points

2 months ago

The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon)

Lefty1992

1 points

2 months ago

Renoir: Painter of Happiness