The 10 Greatest Coffee Table Books
Coffee table books you'll want to read over and over again.
If you’ve read our guide to creating the perfect living room, then you’ll know that no space is complete without a coffee table book or two.
Larger than your average hardback, coffee table books are beautifully crafted objet d’art –totally impractical for the morning commute, but something you’ll enjoy poring over for years.
Why the large size? Twentieth century environmentalist David Brower, the man credited with inventing the coffee table book, had the idea for a series that combined nature photography and writings on nature, with "a page size big enough to carry a given image’s dynamic”.
At Plum Guide, we’ve leafed through our fair share of coffee table books while inspecting the homes that make it on our exclusive list - it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Here, we share 10 of the greatest coffee table books, including some of our favourites, to consider adding to your collection.
“Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton
When photographer Brandon Stanton set out to create a photographic census of New York City in 2010, little did he know that ten years later his Instagram account Humans of New York would have amassed 11 million followers and counting. The premise is simple, Stanton stops people he meets while walking around the city, takes their portrait and asks them to tell him an interesting story about themselves. The result is a 21st-century anthology of heartbreak, revenge, forgiveness, humour and the downright bizarre, painting a colourful story of one of the world’s great melting pots.
“The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait” by Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is revered as one of the great artistic minds of the 20th century and her diaries, discovered and published decades after her death, reveal the life that inspired her work. Published in its entirety, Frida Kahlo’s illustrated journal documents the last ten years of her turbulent life in half-remembered dreams, poems and innermost thoughts, including those about her tempestuous relationship with husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera.
"What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe
How fast can you hit a speed bump, driving, and live? When (if ever) did the sun go down on the British Empire? When will Facebook contain more profiles of dead people than living? How many humans would a T Rex rampaging through New York need to eat a day? These are all questions Randall Munroe has been asked and answered using real science.
“Writers and Their Cats” by Alison Nastasi
What do Ernest Hemingway, Jorge Luis Borge, Gloria Steinem, Haruki Murakami and Gillian Flynn have in common? Aside from having penned some of the most memorable works of fiction the world has ever seen these literary heavyweights were all obsessed with their feline friends. This book pays tribute to the special relationship between writer and their mews.
Speaking of the literary greats, we've got some gorgeously bookish Plum Guide homes. Feast your eyes on The Little House, a veritable paradise for bookworms with shelves of classic hardbacks.
“The Incomplete: Highsnobiety Guide to Street Fashion and Culture” by Highsnobiety
Since launching as a streetwear blog back in 2005, media brand Highsnobiety has been an ever present observer of fashion. This book explores the emergence of street culture as a movement through to the founding of brands such as Supreme and their subsequent influence on household names including Nike and Louis Vuitton.
“100 Contemporary Houses: BU (Bibliotheca Universalis)” by Philip Jodidio
Anyone who suffers from interiors envy should avoid this book at all costs. Witness what happens when people with lots of money give talented designers a blank canvas and free reign – the limits of architectural imagination get tested and the results have to be seen to be believed. You'll find a number of books about architecture in Country Modern's home library.
“Alexander McQueen” by Claire Wilcox
Love him or hate him, no one was ever ambivalent towards Alexandeer McQueen. A student at London’s Central Saint Martins, McQueen courted fame and controversy from the start with his MA graduation collection titled Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims, inspired by the murders and mythology of the Victorian serial killer. From McQueen’s time on London’s Savile Row to the Paris years at Givenchy to his battle with depression and tragic suicide, this book is a must-read for those drawn to stories of troubled geniuses who changed the world.
“Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color: (Coffee Table Books, Design Books, Best Books About Color)” by Leatrice Eisman
To call the people at Pantone, the worldwide colour authority, obsessed with shades, tones, tints and tinges would be an understatement. Pantone has been analysing and codifying colours since the late 1950s and has developed an encyclopedia still considered the world’s most comprehensive. This book takes the reader on a journey through twentieth century history, not in terms of past events, presidents and popular culture, but on the trends, radical shifts, and resurgences of various hues - lending a whole new perspective to the stories we thought we already knew. We wonder what they'd think of the colour scheme of this vibrant home.
"NYT. 36 Hours. World. 150 Cities from Abu Dhabi to Zurich" by Barbara Ireland
It may seem strange to indulge thoughts of travel during these unprecedented times, but there’s no harm in dreaming about your next adventure. Enter the NYT guide on how to experience 150 cities from Bogota to Abu Dhabi in only 36 hours. As you can imagine each expertly crafted itinerary is packed full of fine recommendations, how long you actually choose to stay is up to you.
“Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions” by Alex Day, Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan
What’s better than knowing how to make a great cocktail? Understanding what makes a great cocktail just that. So say Day, Fauchald and Kaplan, founders of New York’s uber chic Death & Co. cocktail bar. Here, they reveal the six templates that encompass all cocktails, knowledge which will help readers take their mixing skills to new heights. All you need now is a drinks trolley like the one in The Desert Martini and you'll be away.