One of my closet friends is a staunch book-giver. Whether or not her parents or siblings or friends or coworkers read anything more than their Instagram captions or emails is unimportant. Perhaps you're like my friend, for whom giving books for the holidays is almost political statement. Read, this friend's gifts demand, or at least pretend like you do. I've sometimes admired this friend. One year, I even followed suit, gifting novels to even my least-literary-minded chums. You guys, it was a disaster. I'm pretty sure that holiday ruined all previously amassed gifting cred.
That's why I'm so glad that coffee table books exist. They're big and beautiful, sumptuous, objets d'art, if you will. They can make even the blandest living room look fashionable and erudite. Best of all, they're easy to choose: you need only know a thing or two about the person for whom you're shopping to find an entire bounty of bound options. Foodies, fashionistas, fangirls and feminists all on your to-buy list? Not a problem. And, if you're a devout book-giver like my friend, you don't need to worry about the word-phobic. Yes, coffee table books have terrific writing but, TBH, the pictures are worth ... well, you know. All those words.
1. Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
Written in a tone that's snarky to the max, this book is full of disturbing/thrilling details that will stick with you for years to come (seriously: why do the grossest things always hang in our memory?). An unromanticized portrait of Victorian women, Unmentionable is funny and even tragic, especially when you consider what our forebears endured in the name of femaleness.
2. Glop: Non-Toxic, Expensive Ideas that Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious by Gabrielle Moss
Bustle editor Gaby Moss lovingly takes on Gwyneth Paltrow's goop brand/lifestyle/cult. A hysterical and perfect gift for the bestie or mom or sister with whom you've begrudgingly detoxed.
3. Wonder Women by Sam Maggs
We could all stand to learn more about women in STEM fields, and Maggs', whose book The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy is a gem, is just the writer to lead the way. The illustrations by Sophia Foster-Dimino are quirky without being overly precious.
4. Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed The World by Ann Shen
Shen introduces readers to innovators from Nora Ephron to Josephine Baker. The illustrations are fun and the bios are quick--perfect blips to give your guests a factoid as they flip pages.
5. Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography by Thierry-Maxime Loriot with photographs by Peter Lindbergh
If you've already got Kate: The Kate Moss Book and Kate Moss by Mario Testino in your collection, you need to meet Peter Lindbergh. Sure, he photographs people other than the great Kate but ... well, enough said.
6. Millennials Of New York by Connor Toole and Alec MacDonald
Light on the text because, um, Millenials?
7. Footnotes From The World's Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein
It's not quite a pop-up book, but Eckstein's illustrated love letter to renowned, indie, and otherwise remarkable bookstores does open up like a garage door.
8. Emotionary: A Dictionary Of Words That Don't Exist For Feelings That Do by Eden Sher and Julia Wertz
Can you use contrangst in a sentence? ("Contrangst: n. the anxiety of not being able to control your or another's behavior, or a course of events.") If you've just found your happy place, this book is for you... and your unnamable feelings.
9. Hair By Sam McKnight by Tim Blanks, Karl Lagerfeld, and Sam McKnight
McKnight has coiffed the fashion world for decades, and this book is a compendium of looks, sure to please and inspire your favorite stylistas.
10. The Book Of Symbols: Reflections On Archetypal Images by Ami Ronnberg
You don't have to value Gisele Bündchen's endorsement to see the need for this book in your life.
11. The Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz
A must-have for anyone on Team Snoopy.
12. Les Dîners De Gala by Salvador Dalí
The artist and his wife and lifelong inspiration, Gala, threw baller dinner parties. What's incredible about this cookbook--other than the stunning Surrealist illustrations--is its unbridled embrace of decadence that you can actually bring to your own kitchen.
13. Nasty Galaxy by Sophia Amoruso
Packed with lush photographs, tips you didn't know you needed (wanna go commando, anyone?), and homages to bad bitches past and present, the Nasty Gal honcho's inspo-book is sure to liven up any living room.
Images: Yana Iskayeva/Moment/Getty Images