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These Coffee Table Books Make For Easy and Information-Rich Decor

Photo: Kenny Luo (Unsplash)
Style GirlfriendStyle Girlfriend is the go-to destination for guys seeking not just fashion advice, but lifestyle tips, tricks, and shortcuts - all from a friendly, female editorial team’s perspective. Each week, Team SG will round up the clothes, grooming products and more men need to live their most stylish lives.

A square on the Grown-up Bingo Card of our lives which I’ve yet to see many guys cover is “interior design.” Which is too bad, because the fun begins when you start buying things because that’ll bring an elevated style to your home, not just because you need them. Toaster? Check. Indoor plants? Ehh, you’re working on it.

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One item that’s a great gateway drug into decorating your space is a good coffee table book. Or better yet, a bunch of them.

Because, guys, they’re so versatile! And boy oh boy, do they look stylish and sophisticated. Stack ‘em on your shelves. On your end table. On the floor. Really, any flat surface will do. It’s almost impossible to find a place where “put a coffee table book on it” won’t be sound advice.

Don’t know where to start? Well good news. I have a tried and true trick to decorating with coffee table books. It’s almost diabolically simple, yet guarantees a stylish vibe that feels personal to you to whatever room you’re decorating.

Here it is, my trick to decorating with coffee table books:

Buy what you’re interested in...just make it fancy.

If you like cars in a “see every Fast & Furious movie the weekend it comes out” way, then buy a beautiful hard-bound edition of the most beautiful Porsches to ever race down the Autobahn. If your interest in art begins (and ends) at the latest Banksy spotting on Instagram, scoop up a primer on Andy Warhol with a colorful cover.

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Shelly Lynch-Sparks, founder and principal at interior design firm Hyphen, affirms this deceptively simple strategy. “There’s a pretty amazing variety of coffee table books that you can learn from and are also beautiful.”

Once you’ve nailed down your areas of interest, narrow down what the design goal you want to achieve is in a given room.

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Looking to add contrast to a room full of neutrals? Buy design books with bold, bright covers. Want to add gravitas to a work space? Load up on “how things work”-type tomes.

Below, a few stylish coffee table books that I’m extremely heteronormatively guessing lots of guys are into, like music, architecture, design, and sports. Sorry not sorry for reinforcing the patriarchy!

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An Organic Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright

“In the lectures, Frank Lloyd Wright covers a wide range of topics including his Usonian houses, his visions for the future of cities both in North America and elsewhere, particularly in Britain, Taliesin and the Johnson Waxworks factory, the then-imminent Second World War, and the ‘Future’. In doing so, his charismatic, flamboyant character leaps to life from the pages, not to mention his hugely creative intelligence, making these essays very enjoyable and entertaining.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Most of us would be hard-pressed to namecheck our favorite architect, and that’s fine. Unlike George Costanza, we’re not all secret wannabe architects. So whether you’re a total Falling Waters nut, or simply want to learn the basics behind the art and science of designing buildings, this book is a good place to start your coffee table book collection.

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Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

In these accounts, written with sensitivity as cautionary tales about what to do and what not to do in one of our wildest national parks, Whittlesey recounts deaths ranging from tragedy to folly—from being caught in a freak avalanche to the goring of a photographer who just got a little too close to a bison.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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A little morbid, sure, but funny (and educational!) too. Lynch-Sparks agrees, saying “National parks are beautiful, so this would make a perfect coffee table book for outdoorsy types.”

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Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs

“In Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs, longtime Rolling Stone writer Brian Hiatt digs into the writing and recording of these songs and all the others on Springsteen’s studio albums, from 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. to 2014’s High Hopes (plus all the released outtakes), and offers a unique look at the legendary rocker’s methods, along with historical context, scores of colorful anecdotes, and more than 180 photographs.”
Photo: Amazon
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The Boss. In book form. Praise be to Jersey.

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Ballparks Then and Now

Ballparks Then and Now is a fascinating exploration of ballparks across America. Packed with archival and modern photography, this book documents the development of America’s national pastime by looking at the fields of dreams on which it is played.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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A few years ago, two friends of mine set out to visit every major league ballpark in America. If I remember correctly, they fell a few short of their goal at season’s end. This baseball-themed book could help them make up the difference.

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The Special Day Book

“This personalized Special Day book is a reproduction of The Times newspaper from any date since 1851, containing the headlines, articles, photographs and advertisements that appeared on the day you select.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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A reproduction of the New York Times newspaper from any date you choose since 1851, this bad boy is one of the few coffee table books you could find yourself paging all the way through in one sitting. In it, you’ll find the headlines and articles, photographs and ads that appeared on the day you select. Psst, it would also make a great housewarming gift for someone for whom a) you know their birthday, and b) dropping more than a hundred bucks on a housewarming gift doesn’t seem insane.

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California Moderne and the Mid-Century Dream: The Architecture of Edward H. Fickett

“A dazzling presentation of the mid-century modern California style, offering a fresh perspective on the work of this influential yet widely unknown figure.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Perhaps the only thing more millennial-signaling than avocado toast is a professed interest in mid-century modern design.

Show your bona fides with this MCM-focused book.

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“The Stan Lee Story” Book

Featuring hundreds of treasures of comicbook art, intimate photographs sourced straight from his family archives, a foreword written by Lee himself, a novel-length essay and new epilogue by Thomas, and an appendix with complete reprints of Stan’s comics from throughout the decades, this is a titanic tribute worthy of the Man.”
Graphic: Amazon
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This might be the most on-the-nose manifestation of the interior design strategy stated up top. If you’re into comic books, this beautiful coffee table book gives them the art and design respect they deserve.

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The NASA Archives. 60 Years in Space

“Researched with the collaboration of NASA, this collection gathers more than 400 historic photographs and rare concept renderings, scanned and remastered using the latest technology and reproduced in extra-large size.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Space is cool. So is this book.

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Helmut Newton

“Now, this XL edition celebrates 20 years of SUMO, the result of a project conceived by Helmut Newton some years ago. Revised by his wife June, the volume gathers 464 images and a new booklet that takes us through the making-of this publishing venture―a spectacular tribute to the larger-than-life Helmut Newton, now in a friendly format.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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Displaying vintage Playboys in your home to seem cool but also like kind of a bad boy is so last year. If you’ve been looking for a way to casually display photos of naked women around your space and make it seem CLASSY and SOPHISTICATED, this coffee table book featuring images from famed fashion photographer Helmut Newton is your best bet.

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Walter Chandoa. Cats: Photographs 1942-2018

“Long before the Internet and #catsofinstagram, Chandoha was enrapturing the public with his fuzzy subjects. From advertisements to greetings cards, jigsaw puzzles to pet-food packaging, his images combined a genuine affection for the creatures, a strong work ethic, and flawless technique.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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With Todd Gurley III becoming a proud cat dad, now’s the time to show off your unironic - and unabashed - love of felines with this surprisingly cool cat photo-focused coffee table book.

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Supreme by James Jebbia

“Including collaborations with Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Damien Hirst, Public Enemy, Lou Reed, and Futura 2000 among many others, this richly illustrated book is a survey of sixteen years of contemporary street fashion and culture reflected in the pioneering work of one of New York’s most influential independent labels.”
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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There’s an argument to be made that the reason women decorate with coffee table books more often than men is because so many of the most striking books are about fashion. Show me a #goals living room or office space on Pinterest, and I’ll show you artfully arranged, fashion-focused coffee table books about fashion magazines, photographers, and designers like Vogue, Herb Ritts, and Tom Ford. But guys, there are fashion books out there for you too! Like this ode to iconic streetwear label Supreme by James Jebbia.

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About the author

Megan Collins

Megan Collins started Style Girlfriend to help guys look and feel their best. Today, she and her team share tips, tricks, and shortcuts to a closet that inspires confidence.