The Year’s Most Giftable Coffee-Table Books


Here are 2016’s most giftable coffee-table books, which, one year later, are still highly giftable, plus the best coffee-table books that came out this spring.

The coffee-table-book-sphere is a large and unwieldy one. So we weeded through them all and rounded up the best and most giftable ones. You’ll find something for everyone on your holiday list here — the sneakerhead, the former club kid, the bread-maker, the Memphis groupie, the cat owner, the vegetarian, the cactus lover, and the RuPaul fan.

Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City

Cartoonist and writer Julia Wertz’s Tenements, Towers & Trash tells an illustrated history of New York City by way of “the blocks, the buildings, and the guts.” Wertz compares 1915-era Broadway to today’s Broadway, delves into the Ray’s Pizza debate, looks at what’s become of the World’s Fair site, explores the city’s long-lost apothecaries, and meanders through Staten Island’s boat graveyard.

What I See

Teen actor, model, and Parsons student Brooklyn Beckham — and yes, eldest son of soccer star David and Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria — published his first book this year, a collection of photographs that include snapshots from his travels and plenty of selfies. It is a hit with teen girls.

Vitamin C: Clay and Ceramic in Contemporary Art

Because the ceramics craze isn’t going anywhere: Vitamin C surveys 100 global artists working with clay and ceramics. The roster includes big names like Ai Weiwei and Theaster Gates, and expands the definition of “ceramics” way, way past pretty pastel coffee bugs and grain-bowl bowls.

Joan Rivers Confidential: The Unseen Scrapbooks, Joke Cards, Personal Files, and Photos of a Very Funny Woman Who Kept Everything

A slightly overwhelming, but perfect for die-hard fans, collection of never-before-seen Joan Rivers personal archives — jokes written on airplane boarding passes, letters from famous friends — compiled by Melissa Rivers and Scott Currie.


The definitive book on sneaker culture has arrived, and it includes interviews with everyone in the sneaker-verse from Ronnie Fieg to Serena Williams to Alexander Wang. Best of all, it looks like a shoe box.

Retro Air Jordan: Shoes: A Detailed Coloring Book for Adults and Kids

A coloring book featuring every Air Jordan sneaker from 1 to 23, because if you can’t own all of them, you should at least be able to color them in. There are also five different templates to design your own Jordans (Tinker Hatfield’s mailing address not included).

Lauren Greenfield: Generation Wealth

Lauren Greenfield spent the last 25 years photographing materialism. And in May, she released her 504-page opus about what wealth looks like in America and around the world. (Click here for a look at some of the truly spectacular images.)

Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: Fifty Years of New York Magazine

Sure, we are a little biased, but we truly believe this book, written on the occasion of our 50th anniversary, is the most giftable coffee-table book of the year. Read more about it here. (If you are still not convinced: It comes with a foldout, poster-size Approval Matrix.)

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016

The third in a series that includes Leibovitz’s earlier work, this book collects the last 11 years of Leibovitz’s unmistakable portraits (most often for Vanity Fair).

Made in North Korea: Graphics From Everyday Life in the DPRK

An eerily timely look at North Korea’s fascinating and surprisingly beautiful graphic culture,” by Nick Bonner, who runs a tourist company that organizes trips to Pyongyang and has been collecting ephemera like tinned pea labels and liquor candy boxes and luggage tags for years.

David Bowie. The Man Who Fell to Earth

For the cinephile who is also a Bowiephile: A deep dive (lots of stills, lots of behind-the-scenes photos) into David Bowie’s turn as Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Ettore Sottsass (New Edition)

A new edition of the legendary Memphis designer’s monograph on the occasion of his solo exhibit at the Met Breuer (and the fact that Memphis is everywhere).

Cats & Plants

Two hundred photographic pairings of calicoes and cacti, Siamese and succulents. (If you like this kind of duality, there’s also dogs and chairs).

Dalí: The Wines of Gala

First published in 1977 as a follow-up to Dalí: Les Dîners de Gala (which we included in last year’s roundup of the most giftable coffee-table books), this reissued version of Dalí: The Wines of Gala is a Surrealist illustrated wine guide organized by “the sensations they create in our very depths.”

The Essential Fan Guide to RuPaul’s Drag Race

This illustrated guide to RuPaul’s Drag Race is written by a superfan of the show who claims to be able to recite the order of elimination of every Drag Race contestant — of which there are over 100 over the course of nine seasons, not including spinoffs. Needless to say, it gives a comprehensive and loving, albeit unofficial, look at the Emmy Award–winning show.

Alice Neel: Uptown

Alice Neel’s incisive, personal portraits fill the pages of Uptown, by The New Yorker’s Hilton Als (which came out in May on the occasion of the Neel exhibit Als curated at David Zwirner). Neel’s subjects ranged from friends to neighbors to famous actresses, but the common thread in Uptown is that they all lived, well, uptown. All manner of human fascinated Neel. In The New Yorker, Als wrote of her: “The world does not need our sentimentality, Neel’s portraits seem to say, but our interest and empathy.”

State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook

The debut cookbook from the duo behind Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions in San Francisco. This collection includes recipes for DIY cured-trout-roe chips and sauerkraut and ricotta pancakes, which are usually served from a dim-sum cart, as well as one for the restaurant’s signature fried quail — the California state bird — with provisions.

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Illustrator extraordinaire and native Brooklynite Roz Chast’s new graphic memoir Going Into Town is a wide-eyed love letter to New York — or, more specifically, the streets, buildings, and sidewalk gum in Manhattan, as seen through the eyes of a Brooklyn family.

Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated

The Ringer’s Shea Serrano answers all of your questions about basketball (Are dunks disrespectful? Which season was Michael Jordan’s best season?) in Basketball (and Other Things), complete with illustrations from Arturo Torres.


Celebrate Fiorucci’s 50th birthday (and brand relaunch) with a super-graphic look back at the iconic fashion line’s ’80s heyday, when, as the New York Times wrote, its 59th Street store was a “mecca where people danced during the day, shoppers paraded around like they were in a fashion show and celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Cher and Jacqueline Onassis came for the scene.”

Joan Miró: I Work Like a Gardener

This book of Joan Miró’s thoughts on his artistic process was originally published in 1964, but only as a limited edition of 75 copies. This new edition marks the first time this thoughtful collection of the Surrealist artist’s philosophy has been translated into English (though the original French text is available as an appendix, if you’d like it).

Meehan’s Bartender Manual

The James Beard Award–winning mixologist behind East Village staple PDT Jim Meehan spills his cocktail secrets in this nearly-500-page encyclopedia that includes over 100 recipes, the histories of classic drinks, and even practical advice on developing a beverage program and stocking a bar.

Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography

An absolutely stunning photo tour through the history of food photography that includes images by New York’s very own Bobby Doherty.


Political cartoonist Barry Blitt, responsible for many a memorable New Yorker cover (remember the fist bump?), has gathered together his most iconic works, as well as never-before-seen illustrations and annotations, into this lovely tome that also features essays by Frank Rich, Françoise Mouly, and Steve Brodner.

Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City

Emily Spivack collected 68 colorful contributors, including Lena Dunham and Dick Cavett, who tell narratives about the articles of clothing — from T-shirts to Manolos — they wore in (where else) New York. (An excerpt first appeared on our Cut pages.)

Sweet: Desserts From London’s Ottolenghi

Though Yotam Ottolenghi has built his reputation as an accomplished savory and often-vegetarian chef, this cookbook — written with pastry chef and Ottolenghi collaborator Helen Goh, with over 110 recipes for desserts and baked goods — shows a slightly different (but still very delicious) side of the Israeli-British chef.

Studio 54

At its height, there was no place that was more of a place than Studio 54. Though it lasted only three years, the club’s after-hours glamour fills nearly 400 pages of reminiscences and photos.

Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983

Another one for the nightlifers: Club 57 ran out of a church basement in the East Village in the 1970s and 1980s, and attracted notable patrons like Keith Haring and Fab 5 Freddy. A MoMA exhibit documenting and celebrating Club 57 runs through April 2018, and comes with this book of archival material.

R. Crumb. Bible of Filth

This book of cartoons by R. Crumb was originally published in France in 1986, but never distributed in the U.S. because it was too graphic. At long last we have an English version, expanded with over 100 more pages and drawings, that’s printed on bible paper and bound in leather.

Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes

There’s no shortage of you-can-do-it cookbooks for the aspiring chef, but Alison Roman’s Dining In is an especially cheerful and accessible option, thanks in no small part to the clean Bon Appétit–esque design of the book (Roman is a contributor there) and Roman herself, who stocked her book with recipes and personal anecdotes from her adventures in hosting.

One, Two, Three, More

Photographer Helen Levitt made her career capturing life in 20th-century New York City. This new collection of her work from the 1930s and 1940s includes work that predates her solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943 and some never-before-printed images.

Jean Pigozzi ME + CO: The Selfies, 1972–2016

A collection of man-about-town Jean Pigozzi’s selfies featuring him and his famous friends (Mick Jagger, Faye Dunaway, Mel Brooks, Andy Warhol, and Lady Gaga, among them).

Tales of Endearment: Modern Vintage Lovers and Their Extraordinary Wardrobes

Stylist and casting director Natalie Joos interviews and photographs lovers of vintage clothing with their collections, including Stella Maxwell, J.J. Martin, and Alix Brown.

Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History

Chuck D, a founding member of Public Enemy, has created a timeline of the most important moments in hip-hop, by the day, from Grandmaster Flash’s first record scratch to Tupac’s hologram showing up at Coachella.

Jack Pierson: The Hungry Years

Jack Pierson’s moody, hazy photographs from the 1980s get compiled in The Hungry Years, a collection of images that documents the rise of the AIDS epidemic through gorgeous portraiture. It comes with an introduction by Eileen Myles, a longtime friend of Pierson’s.

Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde

For the film buff who has everything: a collection of 250 Russian avant-garde film posters from the 1920s and ’30s.

Monograph by Chris Ware

An over-eight-pound monograph featuring graphic novelist Chris Ware’s life’s work, including selections from his sketchbooks and deadpan commentary.

Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright

Published to accompany an exhibition at the MCA Denver, the book collects downtown artist Ryan McGinley’s early work in New York between the years of 1998 and 2003, and personalities like (the late) Dash Snow, Dan Colen, Lissy Trullie, Tim Barber, Aaron Bondaroff, Leo Fitzpatrick, and more.

Greater Gotham

Time-travel back to New York at the turn of the 20th century via Greater Gotham, historian Mike Wallace’s follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize–winning Gotham from 20 years ago. The new edition charts New York’s growth from 1898, looking at the skyscraper boom, the city during World War I, early immigration debates, the beginning of Wall Street, and pages and pages more.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition

Grub Street contributor Mark Bittman’s fully revised update to his 2007 How to Cook Everything Vegetarian features vegetarian-only recipes that will please vegans and omnivores alike, like a meat-free paella.

42nd and Vanderbilt

Every morning from 2007 to 2016, Peter Funch (who also shot the Subway portfolio in our 50th Anniversary issue) set up his camera on the southern corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. The result is this carefully edited, surprisingly captivating book, which pairs photos of commuters engaged in the same everyday routines, sometimes years apart.

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

If you thought you knew how to bake bread, this five-volume, 2,300-plus-page collection from the team behind James Beard Award–winning cookbook Modernist Cuisine might make you think otherwise. This massive set breaks down the history and science of baking the perfect loaf, and though intimidating, it’s designed to be helpful, with over 1,000 recipes and plenty of photos to guide you.

Xerophile: Cactus Photographs from Expeditions of the Obsessed

A xerophile is a living organism that can grow and reproduce in low-water environments and that’s just what this 352-page book of cactus photographs from around the world, written by the folks behind L.A.’s Cactus Store, is about.

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43 of the Year’s Most Giftable Coffee-Table Books