help! i need big book suggestions


As someone who rarely reads the same thing more than once, I seldom find myself buying books. While I like the idea of a shelf of books with well loved bindings, I have a very well loved library card instead. Recently, though, I’ve been looking for big, beautiful books that I’ll want to revisit often. It’s high time to give that book of crazy cat pictures some competition on the coffee table, but choosing where to begin the collection is difficult. NPR’s list of the Best Gift Books of 2009 was a start, but there are so many big books out there that it’s hard to know which are worth the money, so I’m looking for suggestions. What are your favorite coffee table books? — Sarah C.

From our partners
Kevin M.

1) For the objectivist, what about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged?
2) Infinite Jest- David Foster Wallace
3) something by Leon Uris (trinity perhaps?)

Anything by TASCHEN publishing would be a great addition. Also check out the THE WAY WE LIVE books by Stafford Cliff.


You really can’t beat ‘The Photo Book’. I got it from my Grandma when I was 14, ten years later I still love going back through it.

Some of my favs for coffee table books are The Incomplete Education, Flea Market Decorating, The Gift from the Sea…I am really hoping someone gifts me with this:

or this:

as I think they would both make perfect additions to my collection :)

Hope that helps :)

Two beautiful botanical books spring to mind: Taschen’s The Book of Plants and Plants and Their Application to Ornament. These are both lovely books that I look at for creative inspiration or just as eye candy on a grey winter’s day.


No pictures, but perfect for reading in short bursts or even aloud (and it has pretty stamps on the cover): Letters of the Century, ed. by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J Adler.


Good coffee table books that are fun to revisit don’t have to big or expensive. My favorites are a series called “Decades of the 20th Century” ( They’re small, they’re inexpensive, look good on a shelf and are full of great pictures and information. Another good place for buying Big Books is the sales section in the bookstore; sometimes there’s nothing worthwhile but every once in a while you find a great book at a great price.

All of Taschen’s books are beautiful.

I own Phaidon’s 30,000 Years of Art which is, not surprisingly, enormous! It’s a wonderful book…really interesting, great images, and more information than you can handle!

Ann Marie

There’s a gorgeous book of monkey photographs, called “Monkey Portraits” by Jill Greenberg. I’m sure the appeal will be dependent on how much someone likes monkeys, but the photography is amazing, as are the monkeys’ and apes’ expressions. It’s relatively inexpensive for a coffee table/photography book; you can usually find it for $20 or less.


Anything by David LaChappelle!


The “Splendid Sundays” books that reprint Winsor McCay’s classic “Little Nemo” strips are beautiful, but they’re too expensive for me. I’ve made do with “Little Nemo in Slumberland: 1900-1914, which is still a great book. It’s got a bit of an old timey feel, and the art is whimsical, lovingly detailed, and spectacular. It’s great for dipping into, and visiting friends always seem to love it.


Maybe a LARGE book of LOL Cats?

Any sort of art book — photography, painting, sculpture, “art by era” overviews — makes for great coffee-table material. They’re highly visual, easy to quickly (or slowly) flip through, reading is entirely optional. Can be a great time killer or a great conversation starter.

Megan B.

Hello… the R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book (yes that’s really the title)!
And I also recommend the new special edition version of Ghost World.
Oh! And who wouldn’t love the complete works of Salvador Dali?


A couple cookbooks that I think are gorgeous are The French Laundry Cookbook (lord knows it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to the place) and Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia.

Purchasing “coffee table books” can get quite pricey. I suggest going into a Chapters-Indigo and looking at their sale section. They’ve always got heaps of great picture books for decent prices. I also go for Art History books on the coffee table at my place – but then again, I love art. Pick a hobby that you love and find something that speaks to you about it, then you’ll be guaranteed to look at them, rather than let them just looking pretty on the table.


I’m thinking of collecting the new Penguin Classics with the graphic novel covers. See here:

Also, from Penguin Classics (love my Penguins!) – a series of hardcover classics with the covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. Classy and gorgeous!

Of course, I work in a library….I probably don’t need any more books!

Oh how I do love book recommendations. While the following list may not all be coffee table books, they will definitely be books that you’ll want to read–maybe again and again.
Here’s the list:

Of the books on the list, the one that most assuredly meets coffee table criteria is The Yearling. Get it with the illustrations by NC Wyeth. The pictures are stunningly beautiful. As is the story. Read it!!!

Oh, and if you hit used book sales, you’ll be sure to find lots of vintage text books which I think make fantastic coffee table books. The illustrations and graphics are wonderful. I have them displayed all over my house. I even picked up a Charlie Harper illustrated Golden Book of Biology for a quarter!!! It is one of my most prized possessions. You can’t go wrong with a used book sale.

A topic near and dear to my heart! Heartily second Taschen and Penguin Classics.

My top 10 favorite photo books:

Art, fashion, decor and cookbooks top 10 lists to come.


I have had amazing luck at my local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores when it comes to coffee table books! They usually have some pretty random and interesting books that aren’t on all the other coffee tables in the neighborhood :)

I totally forgot to send you this when you first posted but I have a coffee table book called “The White T” and it is nothing short of fabulous! It is all black and white photography and tells the history of the plain white t-shirt throughout American history. And the book has dual covers – one has a man in a white t, the other side is a woman in a white t. This is a coffee table book anyone can appreciate!