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Ask HN: Coffee table books
53 points by tue4Iezi on Sept 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments
I was wondering what coffee table books people could recommend that would be relevant to the HN community? Aside from the obvious "Designed by Apple"



I think any of the Edward Tufte books qualify, starting with _The Visual Display of Quantitative Information_:

https://www.amazon.com/Visual-Display-Quantitative-Informati...


I consider the omplete Calvin & Hobbes collection to be the perfect coffee table book. Bust it out at a random moment and receive the sum of all human wisdom in bite sized cartoon form.


Oka, Hideyuki. How to Wrap Five Eggs. 1975.

If you're a designer, this book might just make you lose your mind.

[1]: https://books.google.com/books/about/How_to_Wrap_Five_Eggs.h...


One I have (and use as a coffee table book) is "Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers". May be out of print though...

https://www.amazon.com/Core-Memory-Visual-Vintage-Computers/...


The Art of Electronics, 3rd Edition, by Paul Horowitz

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Electronics-Paul-Horowitz/dp/0521...


I use C.G. Jung's "The Red Book". It's imposingly large, very red, and full of impenetrable medieval-style German handwriting and disconcerting drawings documenting Jung's dreams and visions circa World War I. There is an English translation at the end, and if people ask, it's fair to pretend that I've read it because I do skim a few pages occasionally.


The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' by Taschen. This isn't a book so much to be read is it is to be /studied/.



Information is beautiful. All kind of statistic visualised in a beautiful but still informative way.

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/books/


The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan.

https://www.amazon.com/Medium-Massage-Marshall-McLuhan/dp/15...

He combines words and images in a style that inspired Wired magazine. The book is about the influence of technology on how and what humans communicate and think.

Your guests will be flipping the book upside-down and looking at the reversed image in a mirror at times. It's entertaining as well as informative!


While not bad (I have it) this is not Marshall Mcluhan's work. It is some other guy's. The text is ripped from Marshall Mcluhan's work of the same name which is a for more exploratory work and not fit for a 2017 coffee table.


I have this one sitting out and it's a joy to flip through:

Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed

The beauty of Soviet brutalism: A photographic record of 90 weird and wonderful buildings from the last decades of the USSR

https://www.amazon.com/Frederic-Chaubin-Communist-Constructi...


A couple on that theme:

Soviet Bus Stops http://fuel-design.com/publishing/soviet-bus-stops/

Gas Tanks, Water Towers, Blas Furnaces or anything else by the Bechers

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/03/bernd-a...


"Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company" by IBM Press

https://www.redbooks.ibm.com/Redbooks.nsf/ibmpressisbn/97801...



I really liked "Visual Complexity" by Manuel Lima:

https://www.amazon.com/Visual-Complexity-Mapping-Patterns-In...



I think 'Revolution in the valley' could qualify, it's not really a coffee table book, but the stories are so short you can pick it up and read one in a few minutes.

There is also 'Appledesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group', it's old and out of print but it's got some really interesting prototypes in there.

As others have mentioned there is also Dieter Rams book and Core Memory.

Might I also suggest Knuth?


My favourite is by the illustrator Mr Bingo - it is called Hate Mail, and it features illustrations and hand-drawn typography on real postcards that were sent to real people - features lots of swearing NSFW

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hate-Mail-DEFINITIVE-COLLECTION-Bin...


I just picked up "Reading the Past: Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet". It's actually a combination of 6 smaller "books" that goes over:

- Cuneiform - Egyptian Hieroglyhps - Linear B - The Early Alphabet - Green Inscriptions - Etruscan

Much of what's in the book are things I've already learned. However, it makes for a great summary for people that are over and have questions.


Off topic, but you should get this if you see it for cheap.

https://www.amazon.com/City-Darkness-Life-Kowloon-Walled/dp/...

It's amazing.



Books by/about landscape-photographer Edward Burtynsky https://www.google.com/search?name=f&hl=en&q=burtynsky+book

Photos of landscapes overused by humanity, e.g. quarries, dried-up land, oil fields, etc


I really need to get the online store for my three-foot wide graphic novel back up. It's about a robot lady with Philip K. Dick problems, and is generally the Kind Of Sci-Fi Fiction Nerds Like.

Trust me, you need a coffee table to read it.

http://egypt.urnash.com/rita/


A Basquiat book by Taschen. Can't go wrong with Basquiat among liberal people

https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/art/all/49203/fac...


"Designing Interactions" by Bill Moggridge https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Interactions-Press-Bill-Mog...

He passed away in 2012. I wish someone wrote a worth revised edition.


I really like Around the World: The Atlas for Today[1]. Fascinating content and great graphical presentation.

[1] https://smile.amazon.com/Around-World-Atlas-Andrew-Losowsky/...


Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly - a must own if you're interested in making things.

https://www.amazon.com/Cool-Tools-Possibilities-Kevin-Kelly/...


I like to leave copies of Mein Kampf lying next to copies of Das Kapital, just to keep my guests alert and on their toes. Also I've found it tends to lead to a general decrease in the amount of time it takes for someone to be labelled as Hitler during discussions.


Had a friend who put Ayn Rand next to Marx because he said the repulsion helped hold up his books on the shelf.


Not computer related, but I really enjoyed flipping through

The New Age of Ceramics, 2016

https://www.amazon.com/New-Age-Ceramics-Hannah-Stouffer/dp/1...


Tales From The Loop

https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Loop-Simon-St%C3%A5lenhag/dp/16...

Received it as a gift from my brother-in-law.


“accidents in north american mountaineering”, a publication of the american alpine club.


or 50 classic/100 favorite climbs books


Freedom of the Hills is actually a great coffee table book. The material is somewhat dated for free-climbing, but it's a great book to read.


Poorly Drawn Lines is a great set of comics to have on your coffee table. Check it out!


Obligatory : Seinfelds episode about the 'Coffee table book about coffee tables'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5ROl2YPbs

This Ask HN must be a prank.





Principia Disordia.

But you didn't read that, and this fnord does not exist.


I recently bought Haynes' SR71 Blackbird Owner's Workshop Manual. It's a great book about a great airplane, not just a fun title.


How about a coffee table book about coffee tables?


This exists, and I have it on my coffee table.


If not super related to HN, Blink and Outliers are good options to both read and have laying around :P


Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe is a book of blueprint-like diagrams drawn in xkcd style explaining complex systems simply. Its great fun!


‘Gravitation’ by Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler. It is still a tremendous resource for all of the science and math of Special and General Relativity.

A bit off topic, but I’d add the complete collections of Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Bloom County.


Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible is quite a nice one.


Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers


I like "Lies my Teacher Told Me"


Watchmaking by George Daniels




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