Design Expert’s 10 Coffee Table Book Recommendations
Curated by Daniel Dejan, Print and Creative Manager at Sappi North America
Coffee table books are having a moment, and as a lifelong creative with a deep love and appreciation for good design, quality printing and engaging content, I am fully on board. Over the years my own collection has grown and evolved, but I have my favorites—and one key thing they all have in common is premier paper. When considering a coffee table book, the feel of the paper it’s printed on has a lot to do with how we perceive quality.
Below are the top ten books I’d recommend to graphic designers, creatives and anybody with a good eye. Bonus: they’re printed on paper that will last for thousands of flips.
Maroc, Albert Watson, Rizzoli
This isn’t just a travelogue; it’s a visual journal of Watson’s Moroccan travels. An intimate view of the real Morocco blending Watson’s rich, collaged style with Arabic writing and subtly textured papers. This topic is particularly near and dear to my heart and yet this is the way I would want to see any country captured.
Paris: Portrait of a City, Jean-Claude Gautrand, TASCHEN
This is a travelogue capturing the City of Lights at its very best, beautifully printed by one of the great coffee table book publishers, TASCHEN. When I really miss the city I lived in, with all of the cartiers and arrondissements, I armchair travel back for a few hours.
Long May She Wave, Kit Hinrichs & Delphine Hirasuna, Ten Speed Press
I am a collector (not of flags), so I appreciate when a collector shows off their years of topic focused accumulation—especially when the text, beautifully written in this volume by Delphine Hirasuna, reveals and explains each of the pieces alongside their significance and value. This book is a special treat as it is designed by one of the world’s very best print designers and a dear friend. Kit and Delphine could pick any topic and make it astounding.
The Art of Gaman, Delphine Hirasuna, Penguin Random House
This is a heartbreaking and tender volume of the arts and crafts produced by American Japanese citizens incarcerated in U.S. internment camps during the Second World War. Beautiful, delicate, and highly artistic sculptures—whittled and carved, painted and etched, stitched and crocheted – and Objets d’Arts crafted from materials found within the camp grounds prove art and the imagination live strongly even under adversity. According to the description, “The Japanese word gaman means ‘enduring what seems unbearable with dignity and grace.’” The book was elegantly designed by Kit Hinrichs.
Hokusai Pop-Ups, Courtney Watson McCarthy, Thames & Hudson
I collect pop-up books. What’s not to love? Beautiful printing, wonderful paper, gorgeous and highly engineered die-cutting bound into a book. This is a superb example of the medium. Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist from the late 1700s whose style influenced Impressionism and Art Nouveau, and a range of contemporary artists working today. The Great Wave is one of his best-known works, but he also captured Japanese urban and rural life.
Peter Beard (Two Volume Set), Owen Edwards & Steven Aronson, TASCHEN
One of the most fascinating tony gentleman, photographer, collector, diarist, and writer of books who lived between Montauk, New York, Kenya, and Europe—drifting between high society, haute couture and the wilds of the Africa. This two-book collector’s set is a very faithful reproduction, beautifully printed by TASCHEN. Within Beard’s diaries were a collage of photos, many of them of rich, famous and world renowned personalities, writings, drawings and images of everyday life in Africa and found objects. This is truly what diarists and those keeping journals should inspire to.
Lady Gaga, Terry Richardson, Grand Central Press
Richardson is considered one of the bad boys of modern photography with an exquisite eye, the ability to capture intimate, impromptu, high fashion imagery and a knack for capturing the subject—whether a high fashion model, a celebrity or the person on the street—relaxed and unselfconscious. This is a beautifully designed oversized book of an artist, Lady Gaga, who merged pop music and performance art in a most memorable style.
Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey, Jordan Sommers, ARIA
One of the ultimate current culture coffee-table books. This 17-pound, 420-page leather-bound collection includes hundreds of poster-sized photographs, incredible images compiled by key eyewitnesses to the culture, including one-of-a-kind Polaroid portraits captured by celebrated photographer Jonathan Mannion. The Ultimate Guide to Hip-Hop Essentials lists the 100 hottest singles and albums from each of hip-hop’s four decades highlighted by an exclusive gatefold illustration by Mike Thompson, celebrating the four elements of hip-hop. Honestly, I am more ‘old school’ hip-hop but my DJ son reads it cover to cover.
The Impossible Collection of Wine: 100 Most Exceptional Vintages of the Twentieth Century, Enrico Bernardo, Assuoline
In this stunning, oversized collector’s edition—16.2 pounds not including the wooden case it nestles within—Enrico Bernardo, one of the world’s best sommeliers, recreates what he believes is the ideal collection of exquisite wines from the 20th Century. Weighing the virtues of rarity, terroir, taste, and historical mystique, Bernardo’s is a list any connoisseur could only dream of. Beautifully printed by one of the world’s premier coffee-table book publishers, this tweaks two of my collections: oversized books and wine.
Helmut Newton: SUMO, June Newton, TASCHEN
This is the crown jewel of my collection. A limited edition with only 10,000 copies worldwide, each book’s signed and numbered by Helmut Newton and includes a bookstand designed by Philippe Starck. SUMO is a titanic book in every respect: it is a tribute to the 20th Century’s most influential, intriguing, and controversial photographer. Weighing approximately 66 pounds, the book contains 464 pages, most of which are published for the first time, covering every aspect of Newton’s outstanding career in photography: from his stunning fashion photographs, which pointed the way for generations of photographers, to his nudes and celebrity portraits.
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