Whether you love interiors, architecture, plant life, or Britpop, there’s a coffee-table book for everyone’s taste. They’re also a good option for a last-minute gift (whether for a friend with a new home, or a hard-to-shop-for relative). Below, we’ve rounded up 21 of our favourites, all of which you can buy on Amazon.
A tribute to the international community of Black photographers, this book uses powerful images from artists like Campbell Addy to Tyler Mitchell (the first Black photographer hired to shoot a cover story for American Vogue).
Featuring the kind of homes you wish you lived in (but probably don’t) — think a New York penthouse, a Bordeaux chateau, and a waterfront estate in New England — this book by collector, curator, and designer Axel Vervoordt is all natural light and considerately placed accent chairs.
This book is about appreciating the nature hidden in and among our cities — so gift it to your kid sister in her first Zone 3 flatshare. It draws inspiration from an 18th-century book, Floral Londinensis, which set out to record every wild plant in London (even now, in 2020, it remains surprisingly relevant). Curated with help from Kew Gardens’ horticulture expert Helena Dove, The Botanical City features reproductions of the original’s ultra-detailed illustrations, as well as modern recipes, contemporary medicinal uses, and unusual facts.
This technicolour book by the Victoria & Albert Museum explores colour in all its guises— from the decorative to the symbolic. Chapters are organised by colour, so if you’re feeling particularly blue (or green, or red), you can bury your nose in the appropriate section.
If you have a friend who finished The Vanity Fair Diaries in a single weekend then they’ll undoubtedly be familiar with Annie Leibowitz’s work for the magazine. This book features some of her most well-known portraits, such as those of Kendrick Lamar, Stephen Hawking, and even the Queen.
Spanning a thousand years, this book chronicles chair designs both classic and sublime — whether it’s Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair (now very popular thanks to influencers such as Abi Marvel and Everett Williams) or the cane chair (a modern take on which you can pick up in H&M Home). As well as inspiration for your own home, there are some decidedly silly entries, too — like the Banquette chair, made by Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana, which is made from sewn-together stuffed animals.
This beauty bible for women of colour, authored by British Vogue contributing editor Funmi Fetto, is packed with useful tips and over 200 hero products across skin care, hair care, and makeup. Fetto’s favourite products, like lipstick or foundation, are shot on striking-coloured backgrounds, and the jewel-green cover with foil lettering would look particularly nice arranged on a coffee table with a vase of fresh flowers. If you have a big sister who just got the keys to her first home, this would be a far more discerning choice than buying her a new toaster.
This best-selling book on the Bauhaus movement was made in collaboration with the Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum fur Gestaltung in Berlin — the world’s largest collection on the history of the famous art school. It features 575 illustrations, including architectural plans, photographs, and sketches, and is considered the “definitive” book on Bauhaus, including the work of Josef Albers, Marianne Brandt, and Walter Gropius. Perfect for a niece or goddaughter who dreams of being the next Zaha Hadid.
With a foreword by Pharrell Williams, photography by Juergen Teller, and contributions from Raf Simmons, this book celebrating the ubiquitous white tennis shoe (and the tennis champion it is named after) would make a nice gift for a sneakerhead cousin or a fashion-y friend with impeccable taste.
If your maidenhair fern is struggling in your kitchen, or you haven’t a clue where to hang your macramé-housed pothos, consider Hilton Carter’s book. It features 12 homes tastefully decorated with plants, and is full of advice on figuring out the optimal plants for your space.
Mirei Shigemori had a huge impact on the development of Japanese landscape architecture in the 20th century, designing 240 gardens and founding the Kyoto Garden Society in 1932. The book looks at his influences, while also showcasing detailed illustrations of 17 of his gardens.
Released in 2019 to mark 50 years since the Stonewall riots, this book combines curated photographs from decades of protests with extensively researched narrative — and would make a great gift for a younger queer relative or friend.
If you know someone who loves hip-hop — maybe they can’t work unless they’ve got Ebro Darden’s Apple Music show on in the background — then this book would be right at home on their coffee table. Curated by culture journalist Vikki Tobak, it features four decades of photography, and outtakes from over 100 shoots — including Nicki Minaj, Tyler, The Creator, Biggie Smalls, and Outkast. It also includes essays from DJ Premier, RZA, and renowned hip-hop journalist Bill Adler.
This book features over 850 brutalist buildings across nine continents, including both the well-known (such as the Barbican estate) and the less famous (such as Preston central bus station). The atlas has useful symbols denoting each buildings’ condition, whether it’s in use or abandoned, and whether it has heritage status or not.
With its almost academic-looking cover, this unusual book by American composer John Cage caught our attention. Cage was a keen mushroom hunter, and even taught a class on it at the New School, and this features his mushroom-themed compositions, photographs from his foraging, and illustrations, as well as other miscellaneous ephemera like his notes, reprinted on Mylar.
Lou Stoppard (who writes for FT Arts and The New Yorker) has written the ultimate tribute to the pool, filled with curated photographs and essays about all aspects of pool life. It’s even waterproof, should you want to take it to the lido with you.
If someone you know couldn’t make it to the Barbican’s Masculinities exhibition before lockdown earlier this year, then this coffee-table book would make a thoughtful gift. It includes the work of more than 50 artists over a 60-year period, and seeks to explore the changing attitudes to what masculinity “is” — from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding shoots from the 1970s to the hypermasculine images of militarism in Nazi Germany.
Assembled by the editors of New York Magazine (a.k.a. the Strategist UK’s big brother) with contributions from Jerry Saltz, Rebecca Traister, Christopher Bonanos, and many more, The Encyclopedia of New York is part deep dive into hidden histories and part city field guide covering the origins of things invented in New York City (for instance, the game of Scrabble was born in Jackson Heights in 1931). It’s out in the U.K. on November 26, but you can preorder now.
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