The 10 Best Coffee Table Books

Updated May 18, 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

There is an irony to a tome intended for your coffee table that makes artful displays of books its primary focus, but The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World elegantly tells the story of how some of the most famous collections were formed.
  • images of stunning architecture
  • very informative text
  • contains no libraries from asia
Publisher HNA Books
Model n/a
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Living With Wine

For those passionate oenophiles who appreciate displays of cellars and entertainment areas, Living With Wine provides great examples of the innovative way space is used in fulfilling specific aims. It even includes one room that can house over 60,000 bottles.
  • written for true lovers of vino
  • good value given its modest price
  • little focus on contemporary designs
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 4.6 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. The Lonely Planet Travel Book

From the same company that brings you some of the world's most well-known guidebooks, The Lonely Planet Travel Book takes you through every United Nations-approved country on the globe. If you are looking for inspiration on where to go next, you will find it inside.
  • great gift for avid travelers
  • appeals to nearly everyone
  • only sees the good in all nations
Publisher Lonely Planet
Model n/a
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

7. National Geographic: Stunning Photographs

From a company that has been celebrated for the incredible work of its photographers for well over a century now, National Geographic: Stunning Photographs is a collection of perfectly-timed images that will keep you captivated on every page.
  • inspires the imagination
  • lots of variety in subject matter
  • printed on poor quality paper
Publisher National Geographic Soc
Model n/a
Weight 4.3 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style SLP Edition

If fashion has always been of interest to you, reading Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style SLP Edition will be a pleasure. It takes readers through a visual history of the clothing and accessories created by one of the 20th century's most influential designers.
  • photos by famous photographers
  • traces the evolution of style
  • too much text about karl lagerfeld
Publisher Yale University Press
Model n/a
Weight 5.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

5. Before They Pass Away By Jimmy Nelson

Before They Pass Away By Jimmy Nelson tells the story of traditional tribal cultures from around the world that have, so far, resisted modernization. Each page immerses you in different aspects of their art and lifestyles before they are lost forever.
  • incredibly detailed images
  • author brings the tribes to life
  • on the depressing side
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 12 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. On This Earth, A Shadow Falls

With a strong focus on eastern Africa and its threatened, disappearing wildlife populations, the moving On This Earth, A Shadow Falls elegantly illustrates some of the continent's most amazing animals and their fight for survival.
  • promotes an emotional connection
  • gorgeous black and white imagery
  • thought provoking material
Publisher Big Life Editions D A P
Model n/a
Weight 6.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Destinations Of A Lifetime

You may not have time to travel as much as you would like, but that doesn't mean you can't see some of the world's most exotic places. Destinations Of A Lifetime brings you vivid images of 225 unique locales, from the ancient to the modern.
  • great guide for would-be tourists
  • both natural and man-made spots
  • includes descriptive text
Publisher National Geographic
Model n/a
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. More than Human

Featuring vivid photography and descriptions, Tim Flach's collection, More than Human, contains images that connect your eyes and mind to the soulfulness of the animals on display, and that just might make you think about your own species, too.
  • photos create a sense of intimacy
  • rich and beautiful colors
  • can be read again and again
Publisher Flach, Tim (PHT)
Model n/a
Weight 6.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Advanced Style: Older & Wiser

Just because you are getting older doesn't mean you can't still be on the cutting edge of fashion. Advanced Style: Older & Wiser celebrates senior street styles with inspirations from eclectic cities, such as Rome, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and New York.
  • introduction from simon doonan
  • showcases a range of looks
  • includes 22 short essays
Publisher powerHouse Books
Model n/a
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

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 18, 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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