The 10 Best Coffee Table Books

Updated May 16, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

More than Human
Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style SLP Edition
Advanced Style: Older & Wiser
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you are an avid reader or you just like to look at amazing pictures, these stunning coffee table books will not only add a decorative touch to your home, they will enthrall, educate, and enlighten you and your guests with their compelling imagery and fascinating text. We've ranked them here by topic, image quality, and writing style. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best coffee table book on Amazon.

10. The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World

9. Living With Wine

8. The Lonely Planet Travel Book

7. National Geographic: Stunning Photographs

6. Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style SLP Edition

5. Before They Pass Away By Jimmy Nelson

4. On This Earth, A Shadow Falls

3. Destinations Of A Lifetime

2. More than Human

1. Advanced Style: Older & Wiser

Why a Coffee Table Book?

While topics and styles can vary, the general motivation behind having a coffee table book is to inspire conversation. This does not mean your friends or visitors are boring, but sometimes we all can use a little conversation starter. It can also be used to keep a guest occupied when the host leaves the room. In the Victorian era, sitting rooms and parlors would have always had a massive book on a table for perusal.

Regardless of topic, they need to first be visually appealing on the outside. Guests' eyes need to be drawn to something on the cover to get them to pick it up. Topics are also usually general, though can become serious such as a photographic journey through war-torn countries, or showing animal extinction.

They are generally more expensive than other books, regardless of the publisher. This is due to the amount of material needed within the book, and almost always high-quality photographic paper to display lush color pictures. Another factor is whether it's hard, or soft cover. Hardcovers always cost more, and of course are more resistant to wear and tear.

Don't let this go under the rug; table books are much more than just appealing to your guests. They're also a display of your personality. If your house resembles a mountain-man style log cabin, maybe a book on trees with a brown accented cover will suit nicely. Or if you're still raging on the Spice Girls, a colorful book on pop culture is sure to be a hit. They're also great as art pieces, and can even double as a table, when stacked high enough.

What Makes a Good Coffee Table Book?

Starting with the obvious, does the topic interest you? If yes, then proceed to how it looks. Does the cover offend in any way? Is it visually stunning and intriguing? The topic should be general and relevant, but you want something that will get anybody to pick it up.

Nature is always a good start. People love looking at cute animals or breathtaking landscapes. They might be interested in children starving in Africa as a social cause, but it would be best to leave such a book expose off your coffee table and save for another time.

Height, width, and weight all matter when considering how it will look on your table. Color too, because you want something which will contrast well with it. An exciting cover is indicative of an exciting book, since these projects always go with pictures over words.

Narrow your search down to a few, and always consider price because many go into hundreds of dollars. It's a bit of risk versus reward. You may love the topic at hand, but do you want to see it every day? Do you want your guests to see it when they visit? Furthermore, will it be worth the money and inspire the conversation you want?

Necessity Was the Mother of This Invention

It seems like coffee table books have been around forever. Well, they have been, at least when compared to our lifetimes. It started in 1580 when Michel de Montaigne wanted to publish a book that would be more for display and browsing than actual reading and study, which he targeted at the ladies, since all they did during this era was pace their pastel parlors.

Two centuries later the idea of a coffee table book was still not widely popularized, but had not died out. The term "coffee table book" has been popularized by the British, and the idea of the "modern coffee table book" is credited to environmentalist David Brower, who first had the idea of publishing books that combined writings on nature, paired with nature photography.

Of course, now, topics have expanded drastically, from nature, to propaganda, to countrysides, to artworks, and to, cover your ears children, sex. That's right, the best selling coffee table book in history was titled Sex, written by none other than the queen of said topic, Madonna.


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Last updated on May 16, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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