These 6 Coffee Table Books Will Change Your Life
What makes a great coffee table volume?
With all due respect to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, one knows it when one sees it.
And “one” — whoever that might be — would be hard pressed to take an honest look at any of these seminal volumes and say anything other than: “I see it, and I know it.”
If you are looking for an arresting addition to your living room, something that your guest won’t help but notice and remark upon, start here. Any of these coffee table masterpieces — ideally, more than one — would do your home proud.
1. Ashley Hicks, Buckingham Palace: The Interiors
If you have been relying on The Queen for an accurate portrayal of life inside Buckingham Palace, put down the remote. Ashley Hicks’ tour de force offers a far more intimate rendering of the grand and not-so-grand spaces that have defined the lives and times of successive generations of the British royal family.
2. Russell James, Angels
No recent homage to the female form can equal Australian fashion photographer Russell James’s Angels, a stunning conversation piece spanning some 400 simple, black-and-white pages. Angels features some of the world’s top supermodels, including Gigi Hadid, along with up-and-coming luminaries like Moldova-born Elena Matei.
3. William Wegman, Being Human
What makes us human? William Wegman’s Being Human gets us as close to an answer as any photography book in recent memory. Look past the absurdist dogs-playing-human and the photographic B-sides from Wegman’s deep archive, and you will discover an essential-if-ephemeral truth about human nature.
4. Brian Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs
This one is for the Baby Boomer in all of us. And, really, who doesn’t have a soft spot for The Boss? Springsteen unfolds here as you have never seen him: standing or sitting still. Thumb through when you have a quiet moment, daring yourself not to hum your favorite tune from Born to Run.
5. Piers Bizony, Roger Launius and Andrew Chaikin,
The NASA Archives: 60 Years in Space
It has been more than 60 years since humanity first pierced the thin envelope that sustains life on earth, and this unbelievably beautiful, impossibly realistic book memorializes many of the signature moments that have unfolded on and off the ground in the years since. Triumph, tragedy, transcendence: it is all on the page.
6. Kwame Brathwaite (with authors Tanisha C. Ford and Deborah Willis),
Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful
As the Civil Rights era gathered steam, Kwame Brathwaite contributed to the national conversation around race and identity like few other artists of his generation. Black Is Beautiful immortalizes his monumental work and serves as a poignant reminder that great art truly can change the course of history.
Bring something interesting to the table
If you have read this far, you are worldly enough to know that this list is far from a definitive accounting of the world’s top coffee table books. Indeed, the six volumes described herein are but a smattering of the staggering range of hardbound conversation-starters available at your local bookseller — or Amazon, in most cases.
Your living room is begging for you to bring something interesting to the table, literally. Your guests will surely appreciate the icebreaker. And your eyes will thank you for the feast. So, what is it you are waiting for, again?