The Definitive Coffee Table Book Gift Guide for Every Friend on Your List

Pacific Natural
credit: Jenni Kayne

Check out the full Hunker Holiday Gift Guide for more ideas and inspo. Whether you're shopping for midcentury modern lovers, ceramic fiends, self-proclaimed foodies, or budding astrologers, we can help.

A perfectly styled coffee table is a delicate dance, and one that cannot simply be applied, one-size-fits-all style, by an uncaring third-party stylist. A good coffee table arrangement says something about the person who lives alongside it — something about their interests, aesthetics, or sense of humor. (That's why furniture store floor-model coffee tables are often so lacking in personality.) So it's impossible to gift someone a styled coffee table. It's not impossible, however, to gift someone a great coffee table book.

The basis of any number of tried-and-true coffee table vignettes, a sturdy art book (or design retrospective or travel guide) sets the tone for the whole "moment." And best of all, as a gift, coffee table books give you the chance to say something personal yet aspirational to the giftee — sort of an informal "I see you," or at least, "I think you're the kind of person who could really get into Finnish architects." After flipping through it a few times, your gift recipient need only add a candle, some tchotchkes, and a succulent or two to yield Insta-ready coffee table style. It's the gift that keeps on giving, really. Here are some of our favorites:

If you haven't been introduced to Ashley Longshore yet, you're in for a treat. The maximalist New Orleans artist is known for combining snark, consumerism, and a whole lot of color in her oversized art pieces — so her similarly bold coffee table book is perfect for that friend who's unabashedly "extra." The book drops on October 22, but pre-orders are available now.

The Touch by Kinfolk and Norm Architects
credit: gestalten

For your BFF who was an early adopter of Kinfolk, this stately tome from gestalten is a shoe-in. It delves into some of the most stunning personal spaces in the world, focusing on environments that delight not just the eye but all the senses. And since it's curated by Kinfolk and Norm Architects, you know it'll be overflowing with inspo.

Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert
credit: Amazon

Now that Marfa has secured its spot as an influencer-approved destination (Beyoncé visit: check), we all have that one friend who won't shut up about how magical and mysterious the population-1,772 West Texas town is. For such a small city, it has more than its fill of style inspiration. This substantive interiors book explores some of the most creative and "uniquely Marfa" homes — expect lots of exposed concrete and industrial materials à la Donald Judd.

Alvar Aalto: Architect
credit: YOOX

Architecture buffs have long lusted after Alvar Aalto's designs, but the Finnish architect and furniture designer is experiencing something of a resurgence right now (blame it on millennials listening to 99% Invisible), making it an apt moment to gift this retrospective to your most design-conscious (or Roman Mars-stanning) friend.

WA: The Essence of Japanese Design
credit: Best Made Co.

The Japanese term "wabi-sabi" might have actually eclipsed buzzword "hygge" this year — so it seems as fitting a moment as any to delve into the trademarks and particularities of the culture that birthed it. From everyday objects designed exceedingly well to sparse interior spaces, WA brings a thoughtful eye to deconstructing the elements of a country's aesthetic impulses.

Herman Miller: A Way of Living
credit: Amazon

When your name comes up at practically every critical moment of the last decade in design, you know you're onto something. Phaidon's Herman Miller volume chronicles how a Michigan-based company came to epitomize modern design throughout America.

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide
credit: Phaidon

For the intrepid traveler who always seems to find a way to make a detour for a good architectural marvel, Phaidon's West Coast guidebook is a must for lovers of Midcentury Modern style. Alternately, this tome makes a great gift for the California-dweller on your list who never seems to leave L.A.

NASA Graphic Standards Manual
credit: Best Made Co.

Whether they're a big Tom Sachs fan or just looking for some space-age inspiration, the remarkable NASA Graphic Standards Manual will bring some serious shine to their space. A point-for-point reproduction of the actual visual brand guidelines of the iconic agency, it's more than just a treat for typography nerds — it shows how America's imagination for (and conception of) space travel diffuses into all different areas of modern design.

Scandinavia Dreaming
credit: Need Supply

As we all know, Scandinavian design never really dies — it just changes form. gestalten's homage to all that Nordic aesthetic goodness is the ideal coffee table tome for your _fikka-_loving friend who starts tagging all her Instagram photos #hygge as soon as it hits September.

Pacific Natural
credit: Jenni Kayne

Jenni Kayne's season-based entertaining guide has the Martha Stewart stamp of approval (she wrote the foreword), so even your hostess-with-the-mostest bestie will want to take notes. A bonus perk of gifting this volume: Expect to get invited to the kind of laid-back, California-casual gatherings Kayne has become known for once your giftee has had time to digest this book's insights.


Emily Bihl

Emily Bihl

Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.