Looking to impress someone on their birthday or over the holidays with an excellent, thoughtful gift? Buy ‘em a coffee table book that plucks at their hobbies’ heartstrings—baseball, whiskey, cars—whatever it may be. Want to gift yourself with a décor upgrade for your TV stand or coffee table that has the added function of being, you know, functional? You guessed it: Pick up a coffee table book. Below, our 20 best coffee table books for every kind of fellow.
1. Living in the Mountains: Contemporary Houses in the Mountains by Phaidon Editors
This 2020 volume from Phaidon’s “Inspired Living” series couldn’t be more timely given the year we all endured: Can we all just call it a day and move to the Catskills already? If that chorus sounds familiar (or, you did, indeed, take the mile-high pandemic plunge and relocate), you’ll swoon for these 250 color illustrations of architect-designed mountain getaways.
2. The Man Behind the Maps: Legendary Ski Artist James Niehues by Ben Farrow, Todd Bennett, and Jason Blevins
Need a birthday gift for the alpine enthusiast in your life, or just a ski enthusiast yourself? It’s hard to do better than this 2019 hardcover compendium of 200+ ski resort trail maps by James Niehues. Even if you’re not a ski fan, it’s hard not to marvel at the incredible detail of Niehues’ skill with paint and canvas in renderings of Deer Valley, Big Sky, Taos, Telluride, Sugarloaf, and many more famed peaks.
3. Parks from the collection of Brian Kelley
Flip through more than 300 vintage maps from the National Park Service, along with other printed materials dating back to 1910. An excellent gift for anyone on a quest to visit all national parks, this 2019 release is also a reminder that this grouping of protected lands really was America’s Best Idea.
4. Porsche Home by Edwin Baaske
This debuted in May 2021 from publisher Delius Klasing Verlag with nary a dull page for automotive enthusiasts. Expect to drop your jaw over rare Porsche models and profiles of celebrated Porsche collectors in this 264-page tribute to the storied car manufacturer.
5. Ballparks Then and Now by Eric Enders
Travel vicariously from New York City and Toronto to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and beyond on this whirlwind tour of Major League Baseball stadiums. With both vintage photography and modern snaps, this is a must-have for anyone whose heart flutters for those bottom-of-the-ninth thrills. It all starts in good ole Brooklyn at The Union Grounds in 1862. Ready to play ball?
6. Food on the Move: Dining on the Legendary Railway Journeys of the World by Sharon Hudgins
There’s something about long train journeys that enchants us so. Here, head to the dining cars of the Flying Scotsman, Orient Express, Sante Fe Super Chief, and more, as you learn about their histories, menus, and characters along the way. With recipes for everything from Salat Oliv’ye (Russian potato salad) and Petits Pois aux Artichauts (peas with artichokes), and stunning vintage photos and posters throughout, Food on the Move is the perfect dose of eye candy wanderlust and historical narrative.
7. Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists by Antwaun Sargent
This 2020 opus comes from the author behind 2019’s critically acclaimed The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. In 256 pages, you’ll become intimately acquainted with the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi family collection of contemporary Black art from artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, and Eric N. Mack, and others.
8. Complex Presents: Sneaker of the Year: The Best Since ’85, foreword by Marc Ecko
A deep dive into all things sneaker culture with cult favorites like the 1985 Air Jordan 1, 1986 Converse Weapon, 2002 Nike Dunk, and many more. Color photos and superb illustrations throughout make this book the perfect gift for sneakerheads.
9. Fermentation as Metaphor by Sandor Katz
Released last year, this follow-up to Katz’s 201 Jambes Bear Book Award Winner, The Art of Fermentation dazzles with 50 captivating snapshots of the microbial universe. It’ll make you reconsider how you look at that jar of sauerkraut or kombucha for good. The book weaves in reflections on art, religion, culture, music, and more, so even if you’re not an epicure, there’s something for everyone.
10. Gray Malin: The Essential Collection by Gray Malin
Tavel and fine-art photographer Gray Malin will wow on any coffee table or nightstand with his images, from unique aerial shots to whimsical portraits. Step inside his wonderful jet-set lifestyle via a collection of photos from all seven continents accompanied by the stories behind each series.
11. Masterworks: Rare and Beautiful Chess Sets of the World by Dylan Loeb McClain
Whether you’re a novice or a maestro, treat yourself to this artsy compilation of museum-worthy chess boards and pieces. Put together by Dylan Loeb McClain, former New York Times chess columnist, the book comprises sets from Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé and German painter Max Ernst among others.
[$31; amazon.com ]
12. LAIR: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains by Chad Oppenheim and Andrea Gollin and Carlos Fueyo
Enter the abodes from Star Wars to The Spy Who Loved Me to Blade Runner 2049 and get to know their architectural brilliance like never before in this one-of-a-kind 2019 book for film and architecture buffs. Who wants to move into the Body Double digs with us?
13. The White Album of the Hamptons by Christophe von Hohenberg
Escape to the beach in this beautiful collection of black-and-white photography from Christophe von Hohenberg, a dear friend of Andy Warhol. Out May 25 2021, you’ll yearn to escape “out East,” if you haven’t booked your trip already. The book also includes a foreword from Jay McInerney.
14. A Matter of Time: Route 66 through the Lens of Change by Ellen Klinkel and Nick Gerlich
From The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West, this 2019 work will make you crave the wide open road and pause at plenty of pit stops along Route 66. The text is a helpful guide, but the arresting black-and-white photos never fail to reveal something new every time you flip through the book.
15. Trees: Between Earth and Heaven by Gregory McNamee and Art Wolfe
Climbing trees, hiking in the woods, forest bathing at that new-age retreat. Trees are grounding in more ways than one. And you’re about to love ’em like never before in this 2018 testament to the spiritual role of trees in our lives, the myths that surround them, and human’s deep connection to these rooted wonders.
16. The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw
Welcome to the wild, weird, and ever-entertaining world of surfing. This 2010 survey of the sport took five years to research and write—and it shows, paying attention to both surfing itself and the culture that blossomed around it. There are 250 photographs interspersed throughout this 495-page salutation to catching waves.
17. The Library: A World History by James W. P. Cambell and Will Pryce
Get lost in the great dome of the Library of Congress, libraries of the ancient world, and favorite modern-day athenaeums in this incredibly thorough book narrated by an architectural historian. Safe to say, any bibliophile in your life will be grateful to be gifted this one.
18. The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver
If you’re serious about beer, this 2011 volume edited by Garrett Oliver, a James Beard award winner for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional will delight and enlighten you. At 960 pages, you’ll get a taste of everything from the brewing process to food pairings, complete with a foreword from celebrated chef Tom Colicchio.
19. The World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom
You didn’t think we’d leave out our whiskey-sipping friends, now did you? In this 2014 ode to one of the most beloved spirits, there’s something for everyone whether you want to venture to Scandinavia or Scotland, or check out tasting notes on more than 300 bottles. Broom’s highlighted roughly 200 distilleries, so you’re bound to learn about a new maker—or 50—that you want to check out.
20. Van Life: Your Home on the Road by Foster Huntington
Those who don’t abandon all their belongings and upgrade a vintage van, enviously scout out those who do. In this photographic homage to van life—split up into sections ranging from school buses to American vans—you may become so jealous you have to cave and buy that ‘61 Volkswagen bus.
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