In a world of Kindles and £3 paperbacks with dog-eared pages, shipped overnight and landing unceremoniously on your desk wrapped in brown cardboard, there is truly no better, nor more thoughtful, Christmas present than a really beautiful book.
From design tomes to childhood classics and odes to old-school Hollywood, here are 10 sumptuously presented coffee table reads to wrap up with ribbons and give to your loved ones this Christmas.
Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes
If the person you’re buying for is a makeup maven, then look no further than this pink-and-red parcel of prettiness, authored by the most definitive voice on cosmetics of our era. By turns nostalgic, funny and honest, Sali details over 200 beauty icons, from face wipes to blush to baby oil.
It’s not the biggest, thickest stocking stuffer you could come up with this season, but it’s both beautiful and beauty-filled from the first page to the last. Plus, as an added bonus, your giftee will now have an arsenal of presents for you to choose from until their last, lipstick-scented breath.
Dream a World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America by Museum of African American History and Culture
How much can you say you know about slavery, reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Great Migrations through Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement? This is an American book written on American history, but the lessons within it are for everyone.
Penned brightly, honestly and powerfully, it’s a tome with a message – for the person whose coffee table can be a place for education as well as decoration. With the stories recognizing art, dance, theatre and literature, as well as politics, it’s also pure entertainment.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
As a Harry Potter lover, you’re probably already a believer in magic – but the artistic talents of Jim Kay will leave you in no doubt that there really are wizards in the world.
A book that most people have owned since the age of 10 might seem like an odd Christmas gift, but this hard-backed edition, released only a month ago, is more a work of art than anything else. Replace Warner Brothers’ rendering of this magical favourite in your mind with pencils, paint and pixels, and witness the wizarding world come to life like never before.
Designed by Apple in California by Apple
It’s £169. Let’s get that out of the way first. It’s also not a joke – and it might, if you’re very rich and completely out of ideas, make the perfect gift for the tech-lover in your life. You know the one – who has the new iPhone on the day of its release, runs Beta software on their Apple watch, and gives away their old MacBooks like they’re pieces of gum.
The book, comprised of 450 Apple products, and the processes used to make them, looks exactly like you would expect it to look: crisp, spare and futuristic. With gilded silver edges and a dedication to Steve Jobs, it certainly makes a statement.
Because Of The Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple
Persephone Books are an establishment who reprint neglected fiction and non-fiction works by women writers of the 20th century.
Each book is selected on its literary merit and is printed with a beautiful grey cover, bespoke endpaper and a preface from a well-regarded author – and each book, therefore, would make the ideal present for the feminist fiction fancier in your life.
Because Of The Lockwoods tells the tale of the struggle between two families, the Lockwoods and the Hunters, and is notable for its subversive portrayal of family. Complicated, moral, and fraught, you’ll be hooked through until the last satisfying word – made doubly-satisfying by the knowledge that you’ve helped dig another impressively talented author out of obscurity.
Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear by Sharon Sadako Takeda
This is the very definition of a perfect coffee table book: weighty, attractive, and laden with detailed illustrations. Tracing the history of men’s fashion since the 1800’s, this book is as full of facts as it is of photographs, exploring the makings of Saville Row, the origins of the word “macaroni” and the omnipresent connections between history and high-fashion.
An obvious choice for the self-styled dandy in your life, this book will appeal to anyone with an eye for haute couture and an interest in fashionable dress.
Hollywood Icons by Robert Dance
Marlon Brando. Marilyn Monroe. Greta Garbo. Charlie Chaplin. Clark Gable. Marlene Dietrich. Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. If you’re a fan of an arched eyebrow and a high cheekbone; a shadowed brow or a knowing gaze, then this book, comprised of over 200 photographs taken from 1930 onwards, is for you.
Even as the allure of the stars themselves springs forth from the page, the book aims to draw attention to the talents of the photographers themselves, who knew how to take a better-than-ordinary face, and make it speak.
Created to accompany an exhibition currently touring North and South America and Europe, this is a stunning compilation of mostly-monochrome big-screen beauty.
The Art of Aardman by Aardman Animations
The lover of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep in your life will delight in this technicolour celebration of the art of animation, produced by the studio who brought you all your childhood favourites.
Filled with outlines, sketches and concept art, this book explores what it takes to bring a classic cartoon to life – one to page through while waiting for dinner, or delve into on a quiet evening.
Ansel Adams’ 400 Photographs by Ansel Adams
While most of the books on this list are new to print, this one hails from 2007 – but there’s nothing wrong with adorning your coffee table with a classic; not when it’s this good. If you’re a lover of photography + an appreciator of the natural world (even if you largely conduct this appreciation from indoors, via David Attenborough) then you’ll love this full collection of this prolific photographer’s work – from his first shots in 1916 through to his last famous image in 1968.
Noticeably short on text, this is not a book for anyone who needs background or explanation, as the images therein are expected to speak for themselves. 1000 words - you know...
Francois Nars by Francois Nars
If a coffee table book is the most narcissistic of books, than what better one to buy than an autobiography? Beauty lovers will know Mr Nars as the makeup artist and founder of NARS cosmetics, a French luxury brand that has become a staple in most beauty kits – and this book shows how he got there through 500 photographs detailing his visions, inspirations and creative process.
Featuring the likes of Tilda Swinton, Naomi Campbell and Marc Jacobs, this is a book best paired with a negroni and an appreciation for vanity – and, of course, an orgasm. NARS Orgasm, that is.