The coffee table book challenge

While wandering around Edinburgh this weekend, we came across some stunning coffee table books and it got me to thinking I’d like to start a collection.

This could very quickly get out of control as I’ve never been able to contain myself in a bookstore… (one of the loveliest traits handed down to me by my Mom.) So in order to avoid amassing thousands of books so heavy I will not want to move with them, let’s lay down some criteria.

The books must be:

  • visually arresting
  • inspirational
  • informative
  • reference
  • associated with a place you have been to and loved
  • insightful about a place you want to go

I have my eye on these at the moment. Some are new, many are old. All look like books I’d never want to put down.

Have any favorites you’d recommend?

(…now if I only had a coffee table… keep your eyes posted for a “coffee table to put coffee table books on” post coming up in the near future.)


For images and more on the books above, follow these links:

  1. Ryan Bowles said:

    The Coffee Table Coffee Table Book ( Yes, I know it was on Seinfeld (a hilarious episode, by the way!).

    I also have been hunting for a superlative coffee table for a number of years. I thought that I had found it at a furniture maker in Ghana, of all places, who did high end custom work. But then my tour was abruptly cut short and I ran out of time to commission a piece. Perhaps I will find what I’m looking for here in Korea. In the meantime, we must keep our eyes open.

    • Ghana? Korea? Making my mere European furniture search sound challenging Ryan! 😉

  2. I have sooooooo nearly bought the etc book many times! I don’t know how I’ve refrained, apart from the sad thought I’m using books as reference less and less lately the more I use the convenience of on line reference. 😦

    • I crumbled and bought it on Amazon this evening! Trying to keep the book reference alive!

  3. MSG said:

    A good ukiyo-e illustration book. I’m sure those drawings were meant to be presented at coffee table book size.

    • I think one of these might be a winner… it can matched the framed one I have in the apartment 🙂

  4. What are you waiting for, girl, go and buy a coffee table and all those books!

    There are like trillion books on my wish list. Currently I have two coffee tables, one, which even has an extra shelf, was not enough. I recently got the first The Sartorialist book and I love it. Paris in Color is on my wish list.

    PS. I like Broadway, England. Never been there but it looks much more relaxing than the real one 😉

    • Oooo…two coffee tables… I like your thinking!
      PS – Broadway, England is worth a trip.

  5. I bought several over the years and I love them! Some the oldest are my favorites!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  6. I think that is a wonderful idea for souvenirs! I love coffee table books, but like you, I don’t have a coffee table either! Haha.

  7. cathynd95 said:

    Big beautiful cookbooks

  8. This is not considered a “coffee table book,” but it is what I keep on my coffee table, and everyone that visits looks at it…picks up the book…and starts to read. It is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and was written in 1955. The name is “Gift from the Sea”…what I can say is that it is inspirational, informative, totally a reference and associated with a place that many have fond memories…it’s the visual that nature gives us, which she uses as a metaphor for life.

    • Thank you for the suggestion! Good sign if it is one everyone picks up.

  9. Thanks for sharing this excellent post. You have a wonderful blog here. You make it look so easy. Can’t wait to see more…

    Have a great day – Easy Lifestyles

  10. Maybe it’s something to do with the name ‘Jess’, but my guiltless pleasure is passing hours on end in bookstores. There’s nothing better than the smell of books. Except maybe Italy.

    My latest coffee table book is “A Bloom a Day: A Fortune-Telling Birthday Book.” I’m not into clairvoyancy, per se, but it’s a conversation starter for sure. The book peaked my curiosity because I found myself wondering where on earth I could find some of these flowers – which in turn re-ignited my travel itch.

    You can check out the book for yourself at:

    BTW: You will never regret purchasing ‘The Sartorialist’!

    Post an update on your final decision(s).


    • I couldn’t agree more. Nothing better than hours in a bookstore! Thanks for the recommendations (I love that pillow you made on your site!)

  11. vwcheung said:

    I have Design Sponge at Home and I love it!

  12. The New York Times 36 Hours is on my coffee table as we speak! Excellent choice!

    • Definitely leaning towards that one! Glad to hear its a winner!

  13. I have nothing but complete silliness to suggest! Banksy–shout out for street art! Or How to Talk to Girls. It’s a great conversation starter.

    • Big fan of the silliness! I love Banksy’s work, but actually never knew his name before, so thank you! (And How to talk to Girls is simply a classic…)

  14. I like the books you posted! Thank you for the recommendations! I will keep my eye out and let you know if i come across any unique coffee table books. I usually look for books with great quotes. Now you’ve got me wanting to look for coffee table books…

    • Let me know if you find any good ones. Tons of great ideas coming in.

  15. Warwick Orme’s Floranova without a doubt. You’ll want to steal it and take it home with you.

      • It’s also a book worth a read: here’s an extract from Indigo.

        “Wave after wave of towering delphiniums at a flower show never fail to stop people in their tracks. The ancient Greeks were so inspired by the beauty of this plant that they named it after the dolphin, whose head soars above the water, just as the flower soars skyward from the earth.”

  16. I am all about theatre & NYC! I have some beauties: From Broadway to Hollywood, Manhattan in Photos, NYC Museums & Wicked: The Grimmerie. I also love songbooks & have an amazing Beatles Complete Lyrics with amazing illustrations;-)

  17. As a child I fell in love with the work of Robert Vavra and recommend “Equus” ( even if you’re not interested in horses. His “Unicorn of Kilimanjaro” is out of print but you might still get hold of it secondhand. I agree with MSG, any Japanese prints look good reproduced in that format as well as anything about vintage quilts, in particular “Quilts 1700 – 2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories” by Sue Pritichard which was the exhibition catalogue for a show at the V & A in London. I also look out for books by Tricia Guild.

    • Thank you for the great recommendations! I also love Vavra’s Iberian series – he captures Spain so well. Great reminder on Tricia Guild! I hadn’t though about those!

  18. I want to make our own coffee table book… working on layouts and dreaming of what we may place on people coffee tables to stir up conversation!

    • I love this idea! Someone also suggested to always have a book about your hometown in your living room. So many great ideas!

  19. bech73 said:

    Live, Laugh, Celebrate… Nat Geo.

  20. bech73 said:

    actually maybe it’s Live Love Celebrate… there’s a black and white photo of a bride wearing pink converse on the front cover!

    • You were right the first time around! I love the pink converse – thanks for the recommendation.

    • WOW. I am in awe of anyone who takes on the challenge of writing a book. Yours looks like something I know nothing about and therefore should read! Thank you for sharing!

  21. What a cool idea. I used to think Coffee Table books were a bit of an unnecessary indulgence (and they are) but I love flipping through them in other people’s homes, so it would be nice to be able to offer that opportunity to guests in my home.

    • I agree. Completely indulgent but I can think of other indulgences which might be more fleeting (example: I would much rather hold onto a book for years on end then blow a huge budget on a spa weekend… but that’s just me… I’ve also never tried the full spa weekend so I might be lying out of ignorance…) I see it as a collection to build over the years that others can enjoy, not just me. Thanks for visiting! (And by the way, hang in there, Melbourne girl! I say finish before the deadline!)

  22. I really wish I would buy those beautiful art books in museums when I’m overseas They are so pretty and they remind me of a great holiday. Common sense wins over when I imagine having to cart them around in my bags though. Although common sense never stops me from buying perfume… Good luck finding a coffee table!

    • I know! All museums should have online bookstores like the Met… I’m with you. Love the idea behind your blog by the way – keep it going! I also have a crush on John Cusack for reasons I cannot explain…Serendipity anyone?

  23. Nice suggestions. I have a whole pile of books (but no coffee table) for visual reference more than reading. I’ll agree with the ukio-ye prints (I have a few books of these)…It really depends on your interests. Levi-Strauss’ photo book on The Paisley Shawl is a classic, but highly specific! Any one of the “Day in the Life Of” (Canada, US, etc) books are gorgeous. I love my books on my favorite artists, like Odilon Redon, Klimt and Egon Schiele.

    I recently discovered this woman’s book, which is beautifully designed and a lovely guide to NYC style. I live here, and like her picks.

    • I almost chose Sibella Court’s Guide in my list! Very glad to hear it is as good as it looks. I wish I could contain or put some kind of order to my interests, most of the time they are too vast for my poor little brain to handle. But I see that as a new challenge: watch for an upcoming post on defining my interest! Thank you for visiting.

  24. Mary said:

    Love coffee table books – have a couple on Paris, San Francisco, Love of Gardening and Monet. You are right, collecting them could easily get out of hand, but I just got to have . . . . !!!

  25. D said:

    Love this post! I would love to collect them all. This reminds me on how much I want the big Gucci book on my coffee table.

    • Hmmm…now that is a brilliant solution I hadn’t thought of…

  26. i’ve always wanted a coffee table books coffee table! i don’t think i have any suggestions really but the books on my coffee table include 100 ideas that changed fashion, one of the postsecret books and the first banksy book 🙂

  27. Interesting selection, unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations for you…
    I love the idea of the coffee table – I did the same but with magazines! Perhaps I should switch over
    to books.

    Business Blog

    • A whole search list for coffee table books! Knew I loved that Amazon.

  28. nThat’s my favourite!! I compiled it from Some photographs my husband has taken while we have been together. He wanted to do one, but work prevents him from taking the time. I love flicking through and finding memories that make us smile!

    • Making your own book is a GREAT idea. Those are some gorgeous photos you have there. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Sinister Dreams said:

    Well, I don’t know if you would be interested in the coffee table books I have but I have a problem with buying them, the large size is almost addicting, and I just love having a big heavy book to look through. Anyway, some that I have are

    Gray’s Anatomy –

    Street Fonts –

    The Big Book of Legs –

    Graffiti World –

    Weird Washington –

    And a bunch of Warhammer art books, my husband collects those.

  30. i recommend “Atonement” from Ian McGregor or anything by Isabel Allende (I thing that would add up to the collection).

    • Love both of those authors. If they sell giant versions, maybe I could turn them into coffee table books?

  31. I am in the process of creating a coffee table book with 1000 photos of people jumping from around the world 🙂 I am aiming for a year from now .. this may be a bit over ambitious as i am just starting and still raising the funds but I am doing my best!

    • What a fantastic project! I absolutely love the one of Ahamad Efan jumping in Vancouver. Let us know if there is anything we fellow bloggers can do to help promote the project. Can’t wait to see the book!

      • Thank you so much 🙂

        I appreciate any kind of support.. from re-blogging, tweeting, sharing on any social media for that matter, being mentioned or profiled in posts, following the blog.. I am also accepting donations towards the project (see the donation tab on my blog). Every little bit helps.

        I am loving every jump of the way! Thanks again for your support!

  32. fabulous suggestions. I’ve been wanting to collect coffee table books (as if I don’t have enough books on my shelves now) 🙂
    I will surely get some of these beauties, now I don’t have to wait until I own a house to do so.

    • You own a house?? I am so jealous! Still dreaming of that one day myself…

      • nope, not yet, still planning for that house; we are still living in an apartment. However, I’m going to start collecting those fabulous books.

  33. B Nelson said:

    I love the idea too! I’m also susceptible to blissfully getting lost in any book store! It’s wonderful to know there are more people out there that appreciate the finer things in life. 🙂 Congrats on being freshly pressed! I’ll stick around to see your endeavours 🙂

    • Oh bookstores are my FAVORITE. Have to limit the trips or my wallet regrets it 🙂 Thank you so much for visiting – your art is amazing!

  34. I’ll be so broke if I really start a collection seriously, since I like to dab with a bit of everything! Photography, Interior, Recipes, etc, and they can be so expensive. But do keep your recommendations coming, I’ll check them out at the library:)

    • Will do! I finally indulged in Design Sponge and Etc… these are going to be sloooow purchases for wallet-related reasons. Thank you for visiting!

  35. I love coffee table books…but I need a coffee table first 😉

    Courtney Hosny

  36. Recently saw the book on Pucci published by Taschen – definitely on my wish list. My favourite is a double edition fabric covered set INTO AFRICA – covers interiors across the continent and never get tired of looking at it!!

    • Great suggestions! The Into Africa book sounds amazing. I can’t find it online – do you have any more details?

      • Correction – its title is INSIDE AFRICA and was published by Taschen books. I was lucky enough to be given these beautiful volumes as a gift – they are covered with african print cloth with the titles printed onto the cloth! I know they were a limited edition but was under the impression that Taschen had combined them into a single volume?

  37. Coffee table books can cost a ton! I got Design Sponge for my best friend (she’s totally worth it), but my favourite coffee table book cost me less than 50 bucks!
    It’s Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty, and it includes photographs of the garments that were displayed at the MET in NYC (I couldn’t make it to the exhibit, so this is the next best thing). It’s definitely a book that I can look at over and again, gaining something new each time.

    • I’ve heard about the Savage Beauty book – also really wished I had seen the show at the MET. So glad to hear you like it. I think it will be added to the list!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: