10 Books you need to have on your coffee table

Chantelle Pattemore

Blending stunning imagery with punchy insights, these statement tomes are an essential for any living room 

Far more than just the antidote to a text-heavy novel or something to pick up while the TV plays in the background, coffee table books offer vivid insights into other worlds. Their large images and smaller sections of text allow us to easily dive in and explore; and, as they cover topics from music and history to travel and food, there’s something for everyone. With so many to choose from, it can be tricky to narrow down your search—so we’ve compiled ten of the best to help get you started. 

 

1. Secret Gardeners: Britain’s Creatives Reveal Their Private Sanctuaries by Victoria Summerley 

When thinking of some of Britain’s most famous names—such as Richard Branson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rupert Everett and Sting—images of busy, jet-set lifestyles probably spring to mind. But, away from the public eye, these individuals are just like us, and love nothing more than whiling away hours in their gardens.  

The glossy pages of this beautiful book share captivating images from the gardens of 25 well-known personalities, accompanied by enchanting insights into how the spaces are enjoyed. 

 

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings by Kathryn Calley Galitz

If you’re unable to meander the corridors of this world-renowned museum yourself, panic not: this substantial tome offers an impressive insight into some of the masterpieces housed here.  

The Met’s collection spans 5,000 years, so everything from Medieval antiquities to revered works by Picasso are showcased. Stunning images will appease the casual reader, while insights from Galitz—a curator at the museum—into different pieces are set to engage art and history lovers alike. 

 

3. Buckingham Palace: The Interiors by Ashley Hicks 

Media insights mean we’re more privy to Royal lives than ever, yet the rooms within Buckingham Palace remain shrouded in mystery. Here, interior designer and photographer Hicks offers an enticing peek behind the scenes—with vibrant photos of the Palace’s most opulent rooms and decor, accompanied by astute commentary around how different monarchs have made their own design marks. 

 

4. Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age edited by Graydon Carter 

Since its launch in 1913, the pages of magazine Vanity Fair have melded a heady mix of politics, society, celebrity, culture and fashion. This is the definitive telling of its journey to the present day—with enthralling photographs, essays, poems and illustrations incorporated behind its elegantly embossed cover, all serving to demonstrate why it’s held in such high esteem.  

 

5. Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places by National Geographic 

Brimming with large, striking photos, a mere flick through this book will get that travel bug biting. A few of the usual suspects are included, but there are plenty of destinations you may not have heard of—such as The Alhambra, Majlis al Jinn and Caño Cristales. Alongside captivating images of dramatic landscapes, accompanying text reveals highlights at each spot and handy tips on experiencing them like a local.  

 

6. The Story of Food: An Illustrated History of Everything We Eat by DK 

If you’re a food fan, this is the encyclopedia you need in your life; as the origins and facts of different ingredients—from cacao and apricots to monkfish and cassava—are delved into, along with explorations into the development of cooking over the ages.  

The book is more text heavy, but don’t let that put you off: there are still plenty of beautiful photos and vivid illustrations throughout. 

 

7. The Art of Looking Up by Catherine McCormack 

So often we focus on what’s directly in front of us—but, as this book exquisitely demonstrates, in doing so we’re missing out. While the walls of many buildings are adorned with stunning artworks, so too are the ceilings.  

High-quality images bursting with colour transport us to places such as Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo, Stockholm’s Metro stations and the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas—and reveal why the masterpieces that adorn their roofs are worth craning your neck for. 

 

8. Japanese Gardens: A Journey by Monty Don and Derry Moore 

Thoughts of outdoor spaces in Japan are usually centred around Bonsai trees, Zen rock gardens and cherry blossom—but there’s so much more to Japanese horticulture.  

Don and Moore transport us into gardens across Japan, exploring how they are linked to the country’s culture and history; while high-quality images spread generously throughout are ideal for inspiring our own garden designs or simply lulling us into a sense of tranquillity. 

 

9. The Library: A World History by James W P Campbell  

From plush floorings and spectacular art, to impressive glass ceilings and towering bookcases, libraries have always succeeded in making an impression. This stunning tome is an appreciation of these buildings: from the ancient ruins of Turkey’s Library of Pergamum (built in 159BC), to the modern cubist stylings of the Grimm Center in Berlin.  

Revel in large, rich images beautifully encapsulating their unique ambience, and engaging text delving into their history, development and little-known facts.  

 

10. The Complete Classical Music Guide edited by John Burrows 

With a striking yet simple black, blue and gold cover, this book is as elegant as the works detailed within. Perfect for those newer to the classical scene or readers looking to refresh their existing knowledge, the quality pages are packed with details of composers, musical eras and the evolution of classical music.  

Accompanied by detailed colour illustrations that bring history to life, the clear design makes it easy to dip in and out—whether you’re reading or referencing. 

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