I love coffee table books. I really do. But I can never bring myself to buy any because (1) they’re often so expensive and (2) they’re not terribly practical. They’re often awkwardly big so(/because?) you don’t really just read them through – they’re usually intended to be thumbed through in small doses. Not to mention, (3) I don’t have a coffee table (or any good place!) to display them. I don’t like to add coffee table books to my Goodreads TBR because they’re more of “wishlist/maybe never” items. So I’ll put my coffee table wishlist here (maybe I’ll make it a semi-regular instalment because I have several). The ones I’ve chosen to feature today are affordable, books that I’d actually read through and books that I am actually planning to get my hands on…eventually.
Very simple concept: can you find Momo (the dog) in these beautiful photographed landscapes? A Where’s Wally of sorts. Each photo is so beautifully choreographed and Momo acts as a little ‘easter egg’ for you to find. It makes the landscapes that tiny bit more interactive and encourages you to really spend time to look at them thoroughly rather than just glance over them.
Lisa Hanawalt is sort of like a comedian on paper. She draws those funny concepts you verbalise in stupid conversations with friends and the imagery is often hilarious (or at least humorously odd). Her images are laced with silliness and sarcasm, and I imagine this book would be a really great conversation starter.
3) Stories in the Stars: An Atlas of Constellations by Susanna Hislop
I have always loved astronomy, since I was very young. This is a book I can imagine poring over, but not in the same way you would a novel. It doesn’t necessarily need to be read linearly. This is the type of non-fiction that I tend to think of primarily as a reference book – like a textbook – where you can dip in and out in any order when you have a quiet, introspective moment. Although I don’t much care for astrology, I feel humbled by the majesty of space and the thought of ancient civilisations looking up to the night sky and trying to find their myths and themselves in the stars, in the universe.
Eleanor Davis is another amazing illustrator whose work I am truly enamoured with. She is also witty and the feminist voice in her work is strong (like Lisa Hanawalt’s). However, where Hanawalt’s work is unabashedly silly, Davis’ work often merges lewd and elegant so perfectly it makes you double take then want to keep looking. It has a way of erasing all embarrassment from the most (ostensibly) rude of concepts. It reveals sexuality (not just between cis-men and cis-women) to be nothing less or more than a human expression of love in a very grounded, earthy way. Her work can be silly too…but in its silliness there are obviously very real, very serious conversations taking place. How to be Happy would be a great coffee table book to beautifully slide into animated, important discussion. Her work is rich with raw emotion and graceful playfulness and experimenting and confessed human anxiety. It is also questioning and satirical. I love it.
5) The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin
A fun encyclopaedic tome for when you’re stuck for what to read next. The concept is great: a book to cure what ails you. Have a headache? Indigestion? Diarrhoea? Heart burn? Anxiety? Heartbreak? Here are some bookish suggestions to cure it. As the subtitle says, “From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You”. By the way, 751 books is a little more than a book every day for 2 years. And who can resist that punny title??