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Books provide a window into different worlds—art, history, travel, stories—and what better way to display these worlds than in the center of the home on your coffee table? We’ve rounded up 13 of the most popular coffee table books featuring gorgeous photography, inspiring stories, fabulous recipes, and so much more.
Our favorite is Gray Malin: The Essential Collection by Gray Malin, which features whimsical photography of people, animals, and the most vibrant destinations around the world.
Read on for our other top picks.
Best Overall: Gray Malin: The Essential Collection
Creative & stunning photography
Variety of subjects (both animals & people)
Accompanying stories about each photoshoot
High quality paper and binding
To woo your guests with a coffee table book sure to delight and entertain, look no further than Gray Malin: The Essential Collection. Selected as our best overall, this book is made of high-quality materials and displays stunning and playful photography that will bring a smile to your face.
If you’ve yet to discover Gray Malin, let us be the first to introduce you. Malin is an incredible photographer with a knack for whimsical imagery using animals and people in scenic locations around the world. Covering a decade of Malin’s work, this book features his most iconic photoshoots as well as stories about each locale and subject.
This large hardback book is sleek with black binding and white lettering on the exterior—perfect for a neutral or colorful living space, and easy to clean with a simple dust rag. The paper is thick and glossy, making it easy to turn each page and appreciate what awaits on the next.
With colorful scenes of llamas and balloons in the desert and dogs at the Beverly Hills Hotel, you and your visitors are sure to have fun flipping through this lively book. Though somewhat expensive, this book is a collector’s item so the price isn’t unreasonable. If you fall in love with any one of Gray’s photographs, you can also purchase the images to display as wall art.
Best Budget: The Art of the Cheese Plate: Pairings, Recipes, Style, Attitude
Tasty cheese plate recipes & pairings
Gourmet food photography
Some ingredients are hard to find locally
Just because a coffee table book is less expensive doesn’t mean it has to look that way, and The Art of the Cheese Plate book is both elegant and gourmet. The stunning cover features a minimalist cheese spread and navy blue background to blend in with any modern or traditional coffee table. Inside, you’ll find a wealth of delicious recipes and pairings to create numerous magazine-worthy cheese plates.
While most of the recipes only need between four to five ingredients, these aren’t your typical cheese plate pairings—the author creates a thoughtful plate with unique food items like tequila-braised rhubarb, pickled raisins, and olives paired with white chocolate. The gorgeous photography will have you in awe as you flip through each gourmet spread. Overall, this coffee table book is affordable, useful, and enjoyable to look at.
Best Photography: Wonderland
Features iconic photoshoots
Highlights celebrities and fashion
Some of the photos are dated
Annie Leibovitz is an industry giant among photographers, so it’s no surprise that her coffee table book Wonderland appears on our list. Her captivating photography is famous for a reason—having decorated magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair for decades. This book includes famous photographs as well as previously unpublished gems that you’ll only find in these storied pages.
With photos highlighting the pinnacle of fashion and countless celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Keira Knightley, Wonderland provides beautiful photography that will capture your attention—and keep it. Its simple beige cover pairs well with different design schemes, and will only elevate your aesthetic. Despite the impressive collection of photographs, this book is not as expensive as others on our list, making it a great deal.
Best Interior Design: Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave
Good binding and high quality pages
Provides design guidance
Stays true to Joanna’s classic design style
Not many colorful design options
Joanna Gaines and home design are basically synonymous at this point, and her coffee table book Homebody not only inspires beautiful decor ideas but also provides guidance in navigating how to create your own design style. This comprehensive book has lovely photography of different design schemes, mostly in a neutral color palette of whites, beiges, grays, and blacks. It’s also organized by room, so if you’d like to focus on a particular space in your home, you can skip to that section.
The exterior and interior of this book reflect the high quality of most of Gaines’ brands and products. The pages are sleek but with a matte finish to reduce unnecessary glare like glossy pages tend to produce. The outer binding is sturdy and displays the Fixer Upper star sitting in her own home as an example of what you can accomplish with solid interior design. Homebody is a high-quality book that can guide you to the best design options for your home, and for a low price.
Best Fashion: Tom Ford
High fashion photography
Testament to Tom Ford’s Design Career
High Quality Book and Prints
For mature audiences
From iconic fashion features to stunning photography by many of the industry’s best, the Tom Ford coffee table book is a fashion lover’s must-have item. This large classic showpiece features many of Tom Ford’s most notable fashion collections at Gucci and YSL.
While there is some nudity that may not be suitable for younger audiences, this is a high fashion book and Tom Ford is known for tasteful but sometimes risqué campaigns. Despite the occasional controversy, these images are a historical part of fashion and are celebrated art forms. The book itself wears a black exterior with stark white lettering—sure to pair well with any living space.
Dimensions: 11.3 x 2.2 x 14.7 inches | Number of Pages: 414 | Year of Publication: 2008
Best for Travel: The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small
Beautiful travel photography
Includes diverse activity suggestions
Very small print
Ideas are concise, not detailed
Organization of activities is confusing
If you have a case of wanderlust, The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small can inspire your next trip while also entertaining guests. This interactive coffee table book provides 1000 activities, suggestions, and more, in destinations all around the globe.
In addition to the beautiful photography, you’ll find adventure recommendations like wildlife encounters, ancestral sites, dining hot spots, and hiking trails—just to name a few. The book is organized by latitude and longitude, but there’s also a country index if you’re planning a visit to a particular location. It's in the middle of the pack in terms of price, so it would make a great gift for yourself or the person in your life who loves planning vacations.
Best Architecture: Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style
Includes brief history of each featured space
Varied architecture and design styles
A little pricey
If you’re a fan of architecture, Architectural Digest: A Century of Style is a great pick for your coffee table. This large book is filled with bright photography of historic and modern homes in a range of architectural styles—so there’s something for everyone. Peek into the homes of celebrities like Michael Kors, the Obamas, Truman Capote, and more, while getting a glimpse of work by famous architects and designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Elsie de Wolfe.
Though some of the photos are dated, the photography stands out with its rich colors and prints—quite the opposite from its minimalist cover, which is neutral enough to blend into any surroundings. Alongside each photo series, you’ll find a brief history of the space and other fun tidbits that might pique your interest.
Best for Portraits: Andy Gotts: The Photograph
Unique portrait photography
Includes never before seen contact sheets
Features popular celebrities
Only black and white images
If you love celebrities, then Andy Gotts: The Photograph might just be your new favorite book. Featuring a wide range of portraits of figures like Julia Roberts, Anthony Hopkins, Clint Eastwood, Dolly Parton, and Nicole Kidman, it provides a useful overview of Gotts' 30-year career in photography.
In addition to stunning portraits, what sets this book apart is the inclusion of call sheets (or unfiltered photo sets) from each shoot that show each person without any touch-ups or photoshopping—raw, unfiltered photos that really capture the essence of each person, as well as the photography process as a whole. Accompanying these photos are short stories by Gotts himself, explaining the happenings behind each photograph. This is a highly popular book and is available for a surprisingly low price.
Best Empowering: 200 Women: Who Will Change The Way You See The World
Size is quite large
Not enough diversity in subjects
200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World is a nod to female empowerment, but also a fascinating read of 200 women answering the same five questions. Featuring prominent women like Alicia Garza, Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this book gives the reader insights from powerful females across the world, looking at life and womanhood from different perspectives.
One critique is perhaps there aren’t quite enough diverse perspectives in terms of socioeconomic class, race, and profession of each subject. That being said, this book certainly contains many inspiring stories and would serve as educational entertainment for both you and any guests who find themselves perusing this coffee table book. The cover and quality of the binding are top-notch, and this book is easy to clean with just a basic dust cloth.
Best for Cocktails: The Flower-Infused Cocktail
More than 60 recipes
Notes about floral history & uses
Edible flowers can be hard to source
For the aspiring mixologist with a preference for florals, The Flower-Infused Cocktail serves up the perfect combination of home décor and drink inspiration. The author, Alyson Brown, is a flower expert who uses her knowledge of florals to create unique flavors in each cocktail recipe. Even if you’re not a regular drinker, you can still participate by making one of the many mocktails also featured in these pages.
This book contains more than 60 cocktail recipes that celebrate floral infusions and garnishes, as well as short histories of each flower mentioned. Some examples include Elderflower liqueur, Lavender-infused gin, and spiced Calendula simple syrup—all contributing to truly delicious and refreshing flavors. This book is among our lower-priced options making it accessible to more people.
Best Art: Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen
Art examines social & political issues
Includes commentary by the artist
Book is somewhat large
Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen provides beautiful art and the story of an artist and activist who used unconventional methods to express her ideas. Howardena Pindell grew up during the Civil Rights movement as a Black woman and faced many obstacles. As an artist, she broke down barriers and explored nontraditional materials like glitter, talcum powder, and perfume. Her work examines social and political issues, and her commentary about feminism and equality in the art world is prominent throughout this book. It makes an entertaining and inspiring addition to your coffee table spread.
Best for History: History as They Saw It: Iconic Moments from the Past in Color
Colorized historical photographs
Notes to explain the context of each photo
Could have included more photos
For the history buff in your life, whether you or someone else, History as They Saw It is a glimpse into the past through photographs capturing the most chilling and amazing moments of history. Though at the time these photographs would have been black and white, this book adds color to these historic photos to make them seem modern, as though you could have been there yourself. Though it may seem like just colorized black and white photos to some, a trained eye can see the coloring has been done with such care as to reflect what the image would have looked like, taken in color, during the era of 1839 to 1949, with the tools available at that time.
Featuring photographs from the Titanic, the first plane flying overhead, and the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, this book spotlights some of the biggest moments throughout history, bringing the past right into your living room. There are added notes to explain the context of different photographs, which helps the reader understand the gravity of each.
Best Stories: Humans of New York: Stories
Tells stories of ordinary people
Varied subject matter
High quality binding & pages
Good size for a coffee table book
Some stories are shorter than expected
If you’ve been following along with the Humans of New York Instagram account, started by photographer Brandon Stanton in 2010, you’ll appreciate his latest coffee table book—Humans of New York: Stories. A collection of the last five years of stories, thoroughly documented through photographs of everyday folks on the streets of New York City, this coffee table book is one you’ll actually enjoy reading.
The book comes with a nice translucent dust jacket with quotes from inside written across it, while the actual cover shows photographs of the story subjects—visible through the dust jacket. The pages are slightly glossy and have a good thickness to them, and the book isn’t too big. If you’re expecting long stories like on the Instagram account, you might be disappointed, but as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, and in this case there are quotes and short stories to supplement those pictures. Overall, this is a captivating coffee table book, and from the experience of one of our editors, it never fails to provide entertainment to visitors.
Our top pick is Gray Malin: The Essential Collection, which provides stunning photography with varied subjects in destinations all over the world. This book has brief excerpts and information about each photoshoot and falls within a reasonable price range. As a close second, Humans of New York: Stories will engage anyone who sits near your coffee table with moving images and stories of everyday folks in New York City.