Have an ugly table? Cover it with books! Read more on Riffle
Remarkable Books: The World's Most Beautiful and Historic Works by Dk
If you're familiar with DK's books, you know what to expect from this. If you aren't, they publish oversized books laid out a bit like encyclopedias. They're perfect for browsing, as the text is laid out in small doses, along with excellent color photographs and other illustrations. You can kind of dip into it anywhere and be transported for a while. Reading this makes me feel like a little kid, in a good way.
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Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards by Jack Zipes
Fairy tale scholar and enthusiast Jack Zipes has collected more than 3,000 fairy tale postcards from around the world, whereas I didn’t even know fairy tale postcards were a thing that existed to be collected. But I do now, and this book makes me want to be a collector (or at least visit Jack Zipes’ house). There are “only” 500 here, but they are gorgeous, and the size of the book (huge) shows them off wonderfully.
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The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 by Martin Salisbury
This is one of those books that makes you want to track down and buy other books. Gorgeous 20th century cover designs from 50 artists, including Edward Gorey, in an oversized book that traces the trends and treatments of layout, font and visual style, and through them, the values and spirit of their particular eras, marking the emergence of the dust jacket as an art form of its own as well as a marketing tool.
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Monograph by Chris Ware by Chris Ware
You're gonna need a bigger coffee table. This book is SO big and SO minutely detailed, it could take years to read. Not only are there pictures to "ooh" and "ahh" over, and plenty of words about the man and his work, but there are also ITTY BITTY books springing out of several pages as though this big book were giving birth to little baby books. It's a thoughtful, generously designed book that could crush small pets.
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The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures (Gifts for Book Lovers, Gifts for Librarians, Book Club Gift) by
For those of us who miss the card catalog, this book is filled with nostalgia, and images we can show those kids who won’t get off our lawn to teach them about the good old days of library science. It’s also packed with information about the history and evolution of the card catalog, with tons of photos of the cards themselves, some beautiful first edition book covers, and other bookish treasures.
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The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert
As a history of books, it's a good place to start; more broad overview than in-depth history, but let's be honest, you're not reading this for the articles, but for its full-page color photographs of big…beautiful….books. It’s just magnificent.
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The Annotated African American Folktales (The Annotated Books) by
The most recent in Norton's annotated series (and the first one I've ever personally wanted to read), this is a lavishly illustrated collection of 20 traditional African folktales that provide background and context for the 150 African American stories that make up the bulk of the book. Also included are the prefaces to other collections, essays that discuss oral tradition, the Disnification of a culture, and more.
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Chip Kidd: Book Two by Chip Kidd
Some of us have been waiting TWELVE YEARS for this second volume of Chip Kidd's cover art to come out. Just follow the trail of drool and you'll find us.
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Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman
Just as we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, there's no reason to attach significance to what kind of clothing writers wear. But this book goes beyond personal style to address how these authors wrote about fashion as well as checking out the suits, hats, glasses and hairstyles of dapper writers like Quentin Crisp, Colette, and Oscar WIlde. And DFW’s bandanna is pretty iconic, if not truly “fashionable.”
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The Little Free Library Book (Books in Action) by Margret Aldrich
This isn't some freeloading coffee table book that's just gonna sit there looking pretty, this one will actually earn its keep. Starting with the first LFB in 2009, it traces the short but robust history of what has become a trend and a global movement encouraging community bonding, promoting literacy and with many creative approaches, some of which are pictured here with tips and instructions for building your own.
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The Library: A World History by James W. P. Campbell
A historical survey of libraries throughout history and across the world, each reflecting the values and needs of its particular culture, which is fascinating, but it is ALSO a photographic feast for the eyes of libraries so much more majestic than the public library in which I happily spent much of my childhood. This is one of the rare "coffee table books" whose text is as equally-weighted as its images.
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At Home with Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries by Estelle Ellis
The idea of buying an oversized interior design book to help figure out how to accommodate a giant book collection seems counterintuitive, yet there are so many in print. This is one of the better ones, less design porn and more practical tips for maintaining, not just displaying, a collection: preserving and restoring rare books, lighting, organization, and ideas appropriate for many different sizes of living space.
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The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge
Aaaand one for the coffee table in your bathroom! This isn't gilded or fancy; it's just a little paperback of photos of people whose love for a book or author was so great, they paid to have it etched into their skin. Forever. Some are impressive, some obscure or odd, and some poorly considered in terms of artist choice, tattoo placement, and what happens to skin over time. Still, gotta love the enthusiasm!
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