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

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

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 of the year, just in time for the holidays. You’ll find something for everyone on your list here — the hypebeast, the Martha Stewart fan, the frequent traveler who longs for the glamour of 1970s airlines, and movie buffs who want to know all about Stanley Kubrick’s early photography career.

Writers and Their Cats
$12 at Amazon

The descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats still roam his Key West home turned museum, but he wasn’t the only big-name writer with a soft spot for felines. In a series of photographs and stories, this volume (from the author of Artists and Their Cats) depicts the loving bond between cats and famous authors, from Gloria Steinem and Haruki Murakami to Alice Walker and Mark Twain.

Nike SB: The Dunk Book
$34 at Amazon

Why would you look at your phone when you can pore over this meticulously curated photographic history of the Nike SB Dunk? Rarely seen images of signature colors are coupled with anecdotes from the likes of Futura and Paul Rodriguez for a visually compelling story of how your favorite pairs came to be.

The Swimming Pool in Photography
$34 at Amazon

Take a refreshing dip through the best swimming pools ever captured in still images. The 240-page volume includes photography from the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Joel Meyerowitz, Martin Parr, and Larry Sultan, featuring everything from outdoor pools in Kabul to an infinity pool in Alicante, Spain.

Hideouts: Grand Vacations in Tiny Getaways
$37 at Amazon

For those whose vacation sensibilities lean more Swiss Family Robinson than Four Seasons: Hideouts is a photographic tour of the world’s tiny, tucked-away, unassuming lodgings. It’s filled with outdoor showers hanging from tree branches, concrete buildings in the desert, and glass yurts in the forest.

Sofas: 340 Iconic Designs
$19 at Amazon

A coffee-table book that’s very appropriate for the coffee table that’s presumably in front of the sofa. Sofas spotlights the iconic couch designs of more than 150 designers from Corbusier to Knoll — and re-creates them with whimsical illustrations. It gives practical advice, too, on how to shop and style them.

The Incomplete Highsnobiety Guide to Street Fashion and Culture
$45 at Amazon

From the editors of the blog Highsnobiety comes this overview of the many ways high fashion, music, contemporary art, and streetwear have coalesced in recent years, featuring artists Tom Sachs and Takashi Murakami alongside A$AP Rocky and designer Raf Simons. (For those wondering where the “in” from incomplete has disappeared to on the cover: It’s printed on the binding.)

Dry Gardens: High Style for Low Water Gardens
$34 at Amazon

This book on xeriscaping — gardening that requires no water from irrigation — documents the best of a new and inevitably necessary adaptation in landscaping. Landscape designer David Nolan compiles some of the most striking examples of minimal, cactus-and-agave-filled gardens that require little to no watering.

Bob Dylan, A Year and a Day
$50 at Amazon

Photographer Daniel Kramer captured Dylan during the year his career skyrocketed. Originally published in 1967, later rereleased as a limited Taschen collector’s edition that cost in the thousands of dollars, this collection of images has finally become more widely available.

Pharrell: A Fish Doesn’t Know It’s Wet
$34 at Amazon

Chock-full of saturated photographs and illustrations, the new book explores Pharrell’s pursuits as a visual artist. In conversations with a diverse group of collaborators — Karl Lagerfeld and Takashi Murakami among them — Pharrell takes the reader into his creative universe of over 250 photos and illustrations.

Living in the Desert
$31 at Amazon

Architecture and landscape porn for those who worship at the altar of Georgia O’Keeffe. The 256-page book documents how (a rare few) people live out West: Adobe minimalist homes, crystalline blue pools set against rust-colored mountains, and white stucco verandas dominate the pages.

Inside North Korea
$44 at Amazon

Written by the Guardian’s architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright, this book on North Korea focuses on the isolated country’s meticulously controlled architecture, from the over-the-top grandeur of socialist monuments to the quirks of Pyongyang’s high-rise apartment buildings and subway system.

Buckingham Palace: The Interiors
$34 at Amazon

We’ve seen a lot of the exterior of Buckingham Palace, from Queen Elizabeth’s addresses to various royal baby announcements, but rarely do we get such an intimate look at its interiors. Designer Ashley Hicks takes us inside the palace for a look at where we get a tour of the truly sumptuous rooms (the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room, the Picture Gallery) in Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian styles that span the monarchs.

Ryan McGinley: Mirror Mirror
$40 at Amazon

Anyone who recognizes McGinley’s unvarnished depiction of freewheeling youth (The Kids Were Alright, You and I, Body Loud) will recognize the through line of this volume, even though not all photographs were by McGinley. The artist asked more than 100 of his friends to take self-portraits that he then compiled — they were each given a camera and guided by specific instructions (they had to be naked, using mirrors and other props directed by McGinley). The result is a controlled exuberance that’s of a piece with his earlier work.

Havana: Split Seconds
$77 at Amazon

In 2015, right before Americans were able to begin traveling to Cuba, Abe Kogan went to Havana and photographed the people and the inner city. The book will likely turn into an invaluable time capsule: Although only a couple of years old, it captures the Havana that was still untouched by Airbnb.

Supersonic: The Design and Lifestyle of Concorde
$26 at Amazon

Air travel on the Concorde, the supersonic plane that sprinted across the Atlantic Ocean in three hours, was somehow more futuristic and high-tech than air travel today in 2018. This book revisits the story behind the plane, the glamorized way it captured the public imagination, and an ambitious spirit of commercial flight we no longer have, even today.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany
$15 at Amazon

Known for her colorful illustrations of iconic book spines, artist Jane Mount’s new book is a vivid ode to the world of literature. Along with illustrated reading lists on subjects ranging from food writing to feminism, there are delightful drawings of beloved bookstores and libraries, and even games and puzzles to test your bookish IQ.

The World of Apartamento: ten years of everyday life interiors
$41 at Amazon

Spanish interiors magazine Apartamento has become a cult favorite for the way it approaches interiors in an unfussy, almost careless way. Dirty dishes are out, clothes are in the hamper, nothing is “styled.” It’s a form of intimacy you rarely see in the glossies, especially from glittery names like Michael Stipe and Chloë Sevigny. This book celebrates the magazine’s ten-year anniversary by compiling over 300 photographs from Apartamento’s run.

Menus: A Book for Your Meals and Memories
$15 at Amazon

For the last 50 years, celebrated chef Jacques Pépin has meticulously hand-illustrated menus for personal celebrations with friends and family. On one side, he writes the menu; the other side is left open for guests’ notes and signatures. Menus is a collection of dozens of his beautiful designs, left blank to serve as a template for your favorite host to pick up this tradition in their own home.

All About Cake
$22 at Amazon

Christina Tosi’s second cookbook is an ebullient celebration of all things cake, and it’s filled with a mix of now-classic Milk Bar recipes, including a nostalgia-inducing birthday cake with birthday crumbs, and slightly more out-of-the-box flavors, like popcorn cake truffles.

Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life
$43 at Amazon

This monograph documents a very specific moment in the career of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama: the 2017 exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea, New York, which included some of her best-known works, like the endlessly Instagrammed mirrored Infinity Rooms, polka-dotted plastered spaces, and a selection of her paintings.

May I Come In?: Discovering the World in Other People’s Houses
$35 at Amazon

For 20 years at New York, our colleague Wendy Goodman has had an uncanny ability to find her way into the homes of some of the most unreachable subjects. Some of the names are famous — Amy Sedaris, Todd Oldham — but many aren’t. What every interior has in common, though, is a distinctly personal, often dazzling, approach to interiors — rules about taste and concern with trends be damned.

Velo City
$47 at Amazon

This collection celebrates the versatility of the humble bicycle and its role as an environmentally-friendly and economical mode of urban transportation. Photos from around the world of bikes and the people who love them reveal how a new generation of riders are modifying their two-wheelers — whether with cargo trailers for toting toddlers or electric motors for scaling hills — to fit their evolving needs.

Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets
$55 at Amazon

Written by Iranian-American chef Najmieh Batmanglij and clocking in at over 700 pages, Cooking in Iran is an encyclopedic exploration of Persian cuisine. Organized by region, it’s as much a geography and history lesson as an actually useful cookbook, with delicious, full-page color photographs accompanying most recipes.

Kate: Photographs of Kate Moss
$80 at Amazon

In the early ’90s, before launching a career as one of the most recognizable faces in fashion, Kate Moss posed for a series of photos for then-boyfriend, photographer Mario Sorrenti: makeup-free, rollicking in bed, and on the beach completely naked, playing a Game Boy. This never-before-seen portfolio of intimate black-and-white portraits pulls back the curtain on a vulnerable, unguarded moment in time right before her star (and Sorrenti’s) ascended.

I Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100
$34 at Amazon

In conjunction with a major exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art celebrating 100 years since the Harlem Renaissance, this retrospective captures the full range of art, writing, music, and social history from those few intense years. Through paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, and contemporary documents and ephemera, the preeminent historian on Harlem and its cultural roots, Wil Haygood, puts on full view his decades of research and scholarship on the subject.

Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking
$19 at Amazon

Jason Logan makes wild inks: that is, ink for writing or drawing, cooked on his stove, made from materials like acorns or lichen that he forages. Make Ink is his cookbook, where the recipes are for inks of every color and the images are of Helen Frankenthaler–like ink swirls and blobs. Logan’s essays about foraging for copper under bridges in Harlem, or scouring for berries at the beach, will make you want to go outside and be a magpie. Maybe ink-making is the new broom-making.

Beastie Boys Book
$28 at Amazon

Told in the words of Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond, the Beastie Boys Book recounts the story of how they went from hard-core band in 1981 to hip-hop ubiquity with the help of Rick Rubin and countless others. This scrapbooklike visual account of Beastie Boys history includes rare photos, original drawings, a cookbook by chef Roy Choi, a map of Beastie Boys’ New York, mixtape playlists, and more things you’ll just have to buy the book to see.

Charles and Saatchi: The Dogs
$32 at Amazon

Jean Pigozzi is a man of eclectic interests — his fashion line LimoLand used to be at Barneys, he’s pals with Mick Jagger, and he likes Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream. He’s also a very acclaimed photographer who’s had shows at the Gagosian. His latest work is a 48-page love letter to his two dogs, Charles and Saatchi, in kinetic, direct-flash photos that capture their puppy energy.

Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies
$25 at Amazon

A book for that person on your list who loved the documentary Helvetica but wished it had just a little more space travel. Typeset in the Future covers the intersection of design, film, pop culture, and how imagined “futures” reflect the present.

Whiskey Cocktails
$50 at Saks Fifth Avenue

The recipes in Whiskey Cocktails are written in large enough text to read from a distance (or after a couple of drinks), with unmistakably clear instructions that even a beginner could follow. But even seasoned drinkers will be charmed by the beautiful cocktail photography in this love letter to the world’s favorite brown liquor.

Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color
$31 at Amazon

Beyond its most Instagrammable iteration “millennial pink,” the color pink has had a long history as a beacon of femininity and eroticism. Valerie Steele’s retrospective on the blush-colored hue looks back on how its meaning has shifted through time and across cultures through illustrations and photographs, along with scholarly essays on pink-related topics like “the pink triangle.”

Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying
$25 at Amazon

For the consummate Martha Stewart fan who wants to learn a thing or two about gardening from the master green thumb herself. At nearly 300 pages, Stewart guides the reader through how to grow bulbs, the best way to cut them for a vase, and how to arrange bouquets for lasting pleasure.

Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs
$17 at Amazon

The famously guarded New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham inspired many with his populist approach to fashion, and with his death in 2016, he left us with another gift: a secret memoir neatly typed up and filed away. With a preface by Hilton Als, Fashion Climbing fills in the gaps of his documentary Bill Cunningham New York, detailing his first penny-pinching years in New York to his beginnings in fashion as hatmaker William J.

The Missoni Family Cookbook
$34 at Amazon

Those familiar with Missoni’s signature zigzagged knitwear will be unsurprised to learn that the Missoni family’s kitchen is just as colorful. And this cookbook is as much a look at the people behind the Italian fashion house as a collection of a single family’s well-guarded, favorite recipes. It’s already made the rounds among delighted editors, who are stealing some of the book’s tricks for themselves.

Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive
$37 at Amazon

Alex Prager is one of the most compelling contemporary photographers, staging dreamlike and hyperreal scenes; each image has a filmic, almost Hitchcock-like quality. This deluxe edition collects some of her most iconic images to date, including the 2016 commission for the Paris Opera, La Grande Sortie.

The Eye: How the World’s Most Influential Creative Directors Develop Their Vision
$41 at Amazon

Kinfolk creator Nathan Williams goes deep on what exactly it is that creative directors do, profiling over 90 influential figures in the fields of fashion, publishing, and entertainment. You’ll recognize industry stalwarts like Thom Browne and Grace Coddington, as well as historical creatives like Alfred Hitchcock and Peggy Guggenheim.

Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents
$18 at Amazon

Since the end of his tenure as official White House photographer under Barack Obama, Pete Souza’s been putting his massive catalogue of images to use on Instagram, brilliantly comparing Obama’s competence and composure to his successor’s total lack thereof. Souza’s second book collects his best burns alongside contemporaneous headlines, quotes, and tweets chronicling just how far we’ve fallen.

Jane Dickson in Times Square
$38 at Amazon

Jane Dickson in Times Square is a snapshot of Times Square in the late 1970s and early 1980s through the work of artist Jane Dickson, who lived, worked, and raised two children in an apartment on 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue during that notorious era of New York City history. This book pairs her neon-inspired paintings and charcoal sketches with source photographs that show 42nd Street in all of its grit, glory, and spectacular seediness.

Ed Templeton: Tangentially Parenthetical
$28 at Amazon

Skateboarder turned photographer Ed Templeton has culled though his deep street photography archive to create this monograph. The title comes from the fact that the only theme connecting the images, which sprawl across time and location, is Templeton’s stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling and ability to capture wit, wonder, and humor in what he calls “general life.”

Wild: Adventure Cookbook
$31 at Amazon

Though chef Sarah Glover worked in restaurant kitchens in Sydney and New York City for over 16 years, these days, you’re more likely to find her cooking over an open flame on the beaches of Tasmania, the isolated island off the southern coast of Australia where she grew up. This sumptuous cookbook captures both the island’s wild topography and Glover’s adventurous food, with recipes like fresher-than-fresh scallops and pizza dough made with fresh seawater.

Of Love & War
$25 at Amazon

Lynsey Addario’s work as a Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist has taken her to over 70 countries over a period of two decades, covering wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, and Somalia. A collection of 200 photographs that she personally curated, Love & War is a record of devastation and beauty.

Stanley Kubrick Photographs: Through a Different Lens
$52 at Amazon

In 1945, when he was 17, Stanley Kubrick got a job working as a photographer for Look magazine. He stayed at the news magazine for five years, capturing the people and places surrounding him in New York City, specifically the Bronx. Collecting his photos from this era, this book offers a glimpse into the mind of a young Kubrick honing his vision.

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