Despite countless reports of its demise over the decades, the printed book is still alive and kicking. In fact, even in this era of e-readers and audiobooks, a recent Pew Research Center study found that the vast majority of American readers are still doing it the old fashioned way. And it’s because of this that books remain one of the go-to presents for the people on your gift list.
Still, it can be hard to pick the right reading material for your friends and loved ones. Do you get them a first edition of a personal classic? Or perhaps something new from an award shortlist? One choice that will always go over well—especially during the holiday season—is the coffee table book. As much art objects as books, these gorgeously illustrated tomes are great to read, look at and show off. Below, 10 books published this year that everyone on your gift list will love.
‘The NASA Archives. 60 Years in Space’
2019 wasn’t just the 50th anniversary of Buzz Aldrin’s historic walk; it was also a chance to reflect on NASA’s 60 years—now 61—of boundary-breaking work. This book, which features prose pieces from Piers Bizony, Roger Launius and Andrew Chaikin, is a comprehensive and fascinating way to relive the agency’s history spent pursuing what was once thought impossible.
‘Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography’
The late Bill Cunningham basically invented street fashion photography as we know it. And this new book, compiled by editors at his longtime employer, The New York Times, shows the photographer’s unique and discerning eye for fashion. Charting his entire career at the paper, the book, which features a cover the same blue as Cunningham’s trademark French worker’s jacket, is perfect for the more fashionable among your loved ones.
‘Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design Classics’ by Esther Choi
Equal parts art and cook book, Choi’s playful monograph combines the contemporary art and design worlds with home cooking to delirious results. Based on a series of actual dinners the author hosted for friends and acquaintances, the book is filled with beautifully shot dishes with recipes inspired by some of the biggest names in sculptures, paintings, architecture, and design. Easily one of the weirdest coffee table books you’ll see this year.
‘Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses’ by Dominic Bradbury
Sometimes, it’s not easy to judge a movement’s importance until it’s in the rear view. Was it just a flash in the pan or something with real staying power? More than 70 years after the mid-century modern design movement began, it’s pretty clear it was one of the more important aesthetic trends of the last century. Bradbury’s book, which takes a close look at 400 houses from around the globe by architects like Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra and Oscar Niemeyer, examines the movement’s widespread impact.
‘Web Design. The Evolution of the Digital World 1990–Today’ by Rob Ford and Julius Wiedemann
Whether it’s on a computer, smartphone or tablet, the entire globe is interacting with countless sleekly designed web pages on a daily basis. But anyone who remembers the screech of a dial-up modem knows it wasn’t always this way. For years, websites ranged from clunky to donwright ugly. Ford and Wiedmann’s extensive tome explores how web design has evolved over the course of over 1 billion web pages to arrive at the eye-catching aesthetic we have today.
‘Ralph Lauren: In His Own Fashion’ by Alan Flusser
It’s a simple concept really: a legendary fashion designer wearing their own clothes. And Flusser’s book, which includes several interviews with Lauren himself, is proof that sometimes the simplest idea is also the best one. In this photo-heavy volume, Flusser dives into the designer’s archives and picks his brain to illustrate how he spent the last 50 years becoming the American master of style.
‘Cinema on Paper’ by Dwight M. Cleveland
In this era of visually homogeneous cinematic universes and straight-to-streaming films, it’s easy to forget that there used to be a real art to movie posters. Shot from one of the world’s most extensive private collections, Cinema on Paper is a throwback to a time when some of the most talented illustrators and painters from around the world were tasked with capturing a film’s essence in one image. Featuring over 100 posters ranging from iconic to the criminally underappreciated—including everything from The Godfather to Le Samorai—Cleveland’s book is perfect for film and art lovers alike.
‘The Art of Game of Thrones’ by Deborah Riley and Jody Revenson
There were many reasons why viewers loved Game of Thrones, which completed its eight-season run on HBO earlier this year. Chief among them was the fact that every single episode looked as visually rich as a movie, if not better. In this heavily illustrated tome, the show’s Emmy and BAFTA-winning production designer Riley shows all of the inspired conceptual and behind-the-scene work that went into making the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series look so good.
‘Hi-Fi: The History of High-End Audio Design’ by Gideon Schwartz
As any true audiophile will tell you that perfect sound comes down to detail. That attribute also makes for a perfect history of a niche topic like high-end audio design. Schwartz’s striking new book explores why the world fell in love with the look, feel and sound of top-of-the-line audio equipment. Filled with gorgeous photography, it also shows that the perfect sound system is sometimes about more than just acoustics.
‘Bentley Centenary Opus’
Celebrating the British automaker’s 100 years in business, this massive doorstop of a book illustrates in painstaking detail how Bentley has been able to position itself atop the luxury car world. While the one-of-three $254,000 “100 Carat” version of this book may have sold out, there are still three other variants still available. Two of them are limited—the 1-of-100 “Mulliner” edition sells for $16,000 and the 1-of-500 “Centenary” version for $3,950. For those that don’t want to plunk down four or five figures for a gift book, more casual enthusiasts can get their hands on the “standard” version for $300.