In addition to the great food and cocktails at your next party, entertain with beautiful coffee table books. They definitely keep a conversation going, and make perfect gifts for friends and family.
Coffee table books are meant to inform, inspire, or engage the reader on a particular subject. You’ve probably even seen people use them as decorative objects, which means they can add to the design of a room. This also makes them great conversation starters in a living room setting.
What better way to honor the Black community, spread the word of our well-deserved triumphs, and even learn more about our history along the way. With thought-provoking anecdotes, essays, and illustrations, these 7 gorgeous hardcovers centering Black artistry are guaranteed to keep everyone talking and entertained for hours.
AphroChic: Celebrating the Legacy of the Black Family Home
This book invites you into the intimate spaces of actors, artists, executives, and curators. It’s a powerful, visually stunning celebration of Black homeownership, told through glorious interiors, along with actual stories of family, community, and history. What I love is that AphroChic provides history behind Black people’s efforts to achieve the goal of homeownership. It speaks to our generational creativity, including the use of treasures from flea markets, family heirlooms, and the African diaspora to create a beautiful, comfortable, safe space.
Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments
Chronicling Black actors from leading roles in Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster films, this gorgeous anthology is a love letter to all people who rarely see themselves in their totality on screen. It includes a foreword by Forest Whittaker and afterword by Niecy Nash. I read this because I truly love looking at photographs and I loved growing up watching pretty much all the movies showcased in this book. Carell Augustus has an amazing eye for the way he blends these movies with just the right actor to pull off his creative take on iconic movies of the past. The photographs are beautifully and unapologetically Black. This book is what I would’ve loved to have had growing up.
The New Black West: Photographs from America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo
Bay Area photographer Gabriela Hasbun captures the joy that happens at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which honors the historic accomplishments of Black cowboys and hosts a vibrant community dedicated to continuing their legacies. This book is packed with high quality photographs of California and its Black cowboys. I’m almost pressed to say that this is a fashion book as well, with the amazing outfits, boots, hats, and saddles. Even the horses look designer. It was amazing to take a glimpse into a culture I didn’t even know existed.
Comrade Sisters: Women of the Black Panther Party
Stephen Shames, Erika Huggins
This is a beautiful collection of historical photographs and contemporary conversations with female members of the Black Panther Party. It will absolutely stir up conversation about race, politics, and the ongoing journey of female empowerment in the fight for Black freedom. Did you know the majority of the Black Panthers were women? This is a collection of photographs with notes and reflections from everyday women of the Black Panther Party who were running testing centers for sickle cell, teaching classes, taking care of babies at rallies, running food drives, making art. This is one of those coffee table books that is more than a coffee table book. It is a history lesson. The photographs are organic and hold such beauty. These women are from all over the world. They are resilient. They are the movement.
A Time Before Crack: Photographs from the 1980s
Hip hop fashion photographer Jemal Shabazz shares photographs of stylish Black men and women on the streets of New York City from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, before major municipalities were engulfed in the crack cocaine epidemic. It felt like I was stepping back through time to a period where style and colors looked so amazing. Of course, in seeing this I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing this is a precursor to the crack epidemic. This is a book of photographs but it takes you just as long to get through it as a non-fiction book. In my opinion, the photographs are an act of resistance, and remind you that we can be that way again.
Doris Berger, Rhea L. Combs
As Black artists continue to carve out their own spaces in the entertainment industry, this book sheds light on the impact Black performers have had in perfecting the craft of American film. A curation of essays and academia, the book is a monument to 70 years’ worth of Black cinema and highlights Black filmmakers and creatives. This book accompanies a first-of-its-kind exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Amplifying this underrepresented history in colorful and striking detail, the book features an in-depth essay and case-study on topics such as early Black independent filmmaking, Black spectatorship during the Jim Crow era, and home movies as an essential form of Black self-representation. There are also interviews from contemporary filmmakers. This is an essential resource, especially if you are a movie lover.
Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and the Unseen
Artist George McCalman provides the stunning artwork of 145 portraits celebrating Black excellence in politics, science, literature, music and more. Featuring writers like James Baldwin and lesser-known names like Madeline Anderson (who produced I Am Somebody, an ode to the 1969 strike of mostly female hospital workers), it’s a true celebration of Black achievement. This book is both beautiful and extensive. I learned about people I had never heard of before and also learned new information about people as well, not to mention the gorgeous art work. This is a great overview of Black history and the people who make up that history. It also is really cool how the author created art for each of the people who were spotlighted. This art really makes this a book that I could see having as a reference. It’s one of those books you may not return if you check out at the library because it’s that gorgeous.
All of these beautiful books are available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Consider purchasing from Bookshop.org. The platform gives independent bookstores tools to compete online and financial support to help them maintain their presence in local communities.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.