Coffee table books – we’ve all leafed through them. Some are clearly there to fill time and space, not to serve a legitimate purpose (see: The Automatic Millionaire.) As silly as some of them may seem though, coffee table books can be the investment that keeps on giving. Or, put into realer terms — the investment that keeps guests occupied while you run frantically around the kitchen cooking dinner and “no, don’t be silly, of course they can’t help with anything.” Some coffee table books can even gain a second wind and live on to entertain guests elsewhere when their pages have been leafed through one too many times to make your living room look magazine-worthy. (Read: they can retire as bathroom books!).

Lucky for those of us with barren tables, “coffee table books” is practically a genre all its own in bookstores nowadays. Historical fiction? Pass. I’m looking for something that friends and family can leaf through when they are over at my house trying to avoid small talk with [insert name here]. Something that makes me look cool, but without too many words…

Here are some ideas:

book1-2Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel

This book is exactly what it sounds like, and that’s why you need it. There’s something about playing in pools that makes dogs even more loveable than normal. This book features over 80 images, snapped just after pups break surface with the water. Wet, fun, adorable bliss. Bonus points because this is definitely a conversation starter. What’s your dog’s name, again?

book2-1What if? by Randall Munroe

The extended title of this book is “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.” Need I say more? It’s the perfect launch of conversation between any two acquaintances, no matter how obscure their connection to each other (or you) might be. Munroe is funny and informative, giving up answers to questions you didn’t know you had a burning desire to have answered. Some examples include: How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

humanHumans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

The Humans of New York blog has captured the hearts of people worldwide – not just in New York City, and the book is certainly a reflection of the best it has to offer. Stanton walks New York City’s streets and captures photos of the city’s wide array of personalities – plus gets interviews to clue readers in to snippets of his subjects’ background stories. It’s like people watching from your couch!


beachbook2Beaches by Gray Malin

If you can’t be on the beach, you might as well be enjoying pictures of one, right? Gray Malin, the forward-thinking mind behind “Beaches” goes beyond the traditional shot of waves meeting the land – he snaps aerial photographs from the comfort of door-less helicopters, making beaches even more aesthetically pleasing and blissful than usual. Careful, though. Put this on your coffee table and there’s no telling how high the risk of you spontaneously booking time in the sand will be. (My guess is sky high).

lettersLetters of Note by Shaun Usher

Let’s be honest: we all want to intercept a good letter. Personal correspondences are juicy and with the slow, drawn out death of snail mail…there’s something to be said for something that starts with “dear” and ends with “sincerely.” As described on Amazon, “this spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history – the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday.” From Hemingway to Kennedy to Earhart, this book is like having history’s mailbox in plain sight – right next to those coasters nobody is using.


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