50 Sublime Coffee Table Books for the True Sophisticate

Let’s face it: the coffee table book is not just a book; it’s an item designed to indicate the relative level of sophistication of its owner. It’s a fetish object which ideally turns the sophistication dial up to “high.” Displaying coffee table books is, thus, essentially an invitation to people to judge you.

A lot of people go wrong there, in my opinion. They acquire every coffee table book put out by every two-bit magazine on the planet. Every stupid supermodel/celebrity photography book is there, too. And it’s those people who I suspect had their coffee table books chosen by a long-suffering, underminer-y clerks at Restoration Hardware. You don’t need to be an art critic to know that no one buys books full of Madonna pictures “for the art.”

So here are 50 books that should be populating your coffee table instead of the latest collection of Vanity Fair‘s photo morgue. My list skews heavily towards photography — because I think paintings and sculpture look better in the original — but otherwise represent a broad cross-spectrum of the best in arts, nature, and politics in this format.

Art Book

The Art Book

A classic, which everyone is the better for owning, and which can give even the biggest philistines a crash course. Suggests you are open-minded to those less aesthetically educated than yourself.