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The GOOD Gift Guide: A Beginner’s Manual for Coffee Table Books

A handy list of coffee table books to buy for anyone looking to add to (or start) their collection.

In most homes, the coffee table serves a variety of purposes—part mail collector, part prop for weary feet, part dining area, part entertainment space, to name a few. Usually within close proximity to a cushy couch or two, it may be the most frequented meeting point in your humble abode. Besides the more functional aspect, though, your coffee table and its contents also say quite a bit about you. Along with the carefully placed knick-knacks, the books you choose to pile upon said table are a representation of your style and interests—actual and aspirational. Sure, your well-curated mixture of tomes may stretch the truth a tad, making you look cooler than you are, but we’ll play along. (Hey, it’s a little like your Instagram, but we’ll shelve that for now.)

If you’re lacking in the coffee table book department, you’re in luck. Here are five selections to beef up your own stack.

The Classic Coffee Table Book

With coffee table books, there’s no better place to start than National Geographic. This 416-page behemoth is choc full of captivating photographs, timelines, maps, and more, detailing a condensed world history that will prove to be newly interesting and informative each time you pick it up. National Geographic Concise History of the World on your table hits a raw intellectual nerve, and is great for all ages.

The Aesthetic Coffee Table Book

Nendo: 10/10 is a comprehensive catalog of world-renowned Japanese design studio Nendo, the brainchild of Oki Sato. Since 2002, Nendo has wowed the global design scene with futuristic products, awe-inspiring exhibition spaces, sculptural furniture, and more. An eye-pleasing, cosmopolitan addition to any coffee table, this book showcases the best of Nendo’s sophisticated, yet playful design aesthetic, allowing you enough wiggle room to casually say, “Oh, Japanese contemporary design? Sure, I dabble.”

The Playful Coffee Table Book

It’s always nice to have something for the kids, right? Alphabetics is an alliteration-steeped, humorous revamp of the alphabet, written by the playful pair of Patrick and Traci Concepción, with beautiful, lively illustrations by Dawid Ryski. Offering adults and children alike a vocabulary boost with the book’s tongue-twisting phrases (“Orson the omnipotent octopus of the open ocean overpowers an offensive oil tanker”), Alphabetics is a colorful addition to any home for anyone with a sense of humor.

The Pop Culture Points Coffee Table Book

Four years ago, photographer Brandon Stanton began capturing raw portraits of everyday New Yorkers, chronicling their anecdotes and stories on his blog, and capturing moments of pure honesty and humanity. The popularity of his site (and Instagram) exploded, and Stanton has continued his work photographing the vast melting pot of New York. His book, Humans of New York, offers a slice of his portfolio thus far, with 400 vibrant photographs and accompanying moving stories. You might have to explain this one to any of your friends who still say “the Facebook” or “world wide web.”

The Cool Coffee Table Book

Alright, here’s the kicker. Nobody is deemed the “godfather of streetwear” without being incredibly cool. No reason why that can’t rub off just a little bit on you, eh? Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment chronicles the astounding career of Hiroshi Fujiwara, an influencer and innovator across fashion, art, and music—not to mention his role in founding the Japanese Harajuku scene. This graphically rich volume features his prized artwork and designs; Fujiwara has collaborated with the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, and Nike. Impressive, to say the least.

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