Feb 28, 2024

Coffee Table Books You Won’t Want To Put Down

Elly Christopher has found a selection of books more delicious than your first sip of coffee in the morning

Elly ChristopherArt Editor

Coffee table books are a genre I never really understood. Why would a book exist for the sole purpose of decoration? They’re big, they’re heavy, and half the time they just end up as coasters. Plus, living in Dublin, space is a commodity, and it is hard to justify books that no one reads taking up precious storage space. However, in my mind, I can see the use for these books if they are ones that you can’t put down. In search of the perfect coffee table book, I went to the gift shop of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). The cashier at the store helped to point me towards their best-sellers, which I perused, searching for ones that grabbed my attention but were (mostly) compatible with a student’s budget and accommodation space constraints. 

Gothic: An Illustrated History by Roger Luckhurst 

This book explores the word ‘gothic’ and all it implies from its many different angles. As a genre, as an aesthetic and as an architectural style, Luckhurst’s book seeks to show readers the many different ways this style has arisen throughout history. The book goes theme by theme. It begins with architectural traditions such as archways and ruins, then moving on to the ways the gothic tradition has been celebrated in different cultures. Finally, Luckhurst explores its use in modern media through films, books, and even video games. The book is richly illustrated throughout, which draws the reader in. They are what make the book stand out, and make it hard to put down. As Carol Davison, author of History of the Gothic, wrote in her review: “Gothic is a lavishly illustrated compendium of the Gothic that ranges across three centuries… It is a page-turning treat for seasoned scholars and novices alike, a must-have for every Gothicist’s library.” 


One Thousand Years of Manga by Brigitte Koyama-Richard 

This book once again draws you in because of the illustrations. It explores the art of Japanese illustration, from the first use of paper to modern-day manga. Many of the decorated scrolls and temple paintings were the beginnings of the genre we see today, and the book creates a connection between ancient Japanese themes and the plots of manga today. Over four hundred images and illustrations are spread out throughout this book, some of which have not been seen much outside of Japan. This book draws in those who are fond of manga, or those who have never thought about it in a historical context, and neither of these readers will be able to put it down. 

Hockney, Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature by Hans den Hartog Jager

This book revolves around nature, drawing parallels between the two painters. It was a theme that both of them focused on in their work, and the book explores the ways in which the artists used various techniques to portray the way they saw the world. Although the artists both have very different styles, this book puts them together in a way that allows them to complement each other, and the reader can see how Van Gogh has influenced Hockney. In addition, included at the end is an exclusive interview with Hockney, which highlights the inspiration he drew from Van Gogh throughout his career. Flipping through the pages of this book in the gift shop, I definitely drew a sideways glance from the cashier. I was looking through it for at least ten minutes, which lands this book a spot on this list, especially for those who are fans of Hockney or Van Gogh. 

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