6 Design Experts Share Their Favorite Coffee Table Books by BIPOC Authors

published Sep 1, 2020
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Credit: Reid Rolls

With many people spending more time at home than ever before, they’re likely to be doing one of two activities at any given moment at least once a day: reading or thinking about the books they’d like to be reading. I must admit that I fall more into the latter category right now—I’ve been buying books faster than I can read them. My main vice? Coffee table books

A couple months ago, I went on a serious shopping spree, eager to cover the top of my vintage Lane coffee table with as many books as possible. As I began my search, however, I noticed that it’s kind of easy to fall into the pattern of buying a lot of the same titles from the same places, often because they fit a certain aspirational aesthetic (Translation: They’re easily “grammable”). 

While that’s all well and good, that doesn’t always correlate with a diverse collection of books that showcase a variety of backgrounds and experiences. I wanted to know: Where are the books authored by Black people and people of color? So I turned to a group of influential designers and tastemakers to learn more about the diverse titles currently on their coffee tables. Let’s just say I might need to invest in a larger table because I want every book on this list. Here’s where to turn to right now for a much needed dose of coffee table book inspiration

Shanelle Campbell, interior designer and professional organizer at HippyKitten Decor

Credit: Amazon

1. “Black Light” by Brian Keith Jackson and Krista Thompson

“The bold patterns and striking poses of his muses makes Kehinde Wiley’s work such a great go-to when styling spaces, especially when you’re trying to create impact.”

Buy: “Black Light” by Bran Keith Jackson and Krista Thompson, $75.00 $15.30 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

2. “Crowns” by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry

This one is a lovely table addition because who doesn’t want to see black-and-white images of Black women in their infamous church hats? The nostalgia is incomparable.”

Buy: “Crowns” by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, $35.00 $24.98 from Amazon

Phantila Phataraprasit and Caitlin Ellen, co-founders of Sabai

Credit: Steidl Books

3. “RongRong’s Diary: Beijing East Village” by RongRong

This book is a statement piece with the impactful monochrome color and really feels both beautiful and informative, as RongRong’s personal diary entries give the reader an insider look into Beijing’s art scene in the ‘90s.”

Buy: “RongRong’s Diary: Beijing East Village” by RongRong, $57.33 from Steidl Books

Credit: Phaidon

4. Rihanna: Fenty x Phaidon by Rihanna

“If you want to go all in on your FENTY fever, this is a fun splurge for your coffee table.”

Buy: “Rihanna: Fenty x Phaidon” by Rihanna, $175.00 $120.00 from Phaidon

Emily Motayed, co-founder of Nurture& Nursery and co-founder of Havenly

Credit: Amazon

5. “Prabal Gurung: Style and Beauty with a Bite” by Prabal Gurung

“For any fashion lover, this book offers a gorgeous, colorful cover that adds a bit of glam to any decor style. It’s perfect for times like these when you want a moment to escape from the real world, and having the window into his design process is so inspiring.”

Buy: “Prabal Gurung: Style and Beauty with a Bite” by Prabal Gurung, $75.00 $48.99 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

6. “A Is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World” by Eva Chen

“I love this book for its uniquely gorgeous illustrations and the great way it introduces powerful women like Malala, Oprah, and RBG to kids. The author is a mother and former fashion editor, and the way she combined great design with real-life heroes makes this book a perfect addition to any coffee table or nursery to inspire little ones.”

Buy: “A Is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World” by Eva Chen, $9.99 $6.22 from Amazon

Linda Hayslett, founder of LH.Designs

Credit: Amazon

7. “Vintage Remix: The Interiors of Kishani Perera” by Kishani Perera

“She’s a very inspiring fellow Los Angeles-based designer. I love this book because of Kishani’s eclectic style and tips on how to get the look. It’s fun and light with great photos.”

Buy: “Vintage Remix: The Interiors of Kishani Perera” by Kishani Perera, $52.75 from Amazon

Juliana Oliveira, founder of Beyond Interior Design

Credit: Amazon

8. “Afros: A Celebration Of Natural Hair” by Michael July 

“I love the colors and layers of the images—each bringing so much depth. When you flip through the book, it’s full of culture, authentic beauty, and pride. It’s also an ideal size for stacking when it comes to accessorizing coffee tables and bookshelves.”

Buy: “Afros: A Celebration Of Natural Hair” by Michael July, $44.99 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

9. “Global and Local/New Projects: EAA-Emre Arolat Architecture” by Philip Jodidio and Suha Ozkan

“I’m a sucker for a good architecture book. This one encompasses a wide variety of projects from luxury to industrial spaces. My favorite thing to do is travel. This piece definitely transports you with its compilation of projects around the world, all rooted in modern design philosophies but with an international lens—very much like my design philosophy.” 

Buy: “Global and Local/New Projects: EAA-Emre Arolat Architecture” by Philip Jodidio and Suha Ozkan, $95.00 $75.43 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

10. “Vintage Black Glamour” by Nichelle Gainer

“The pages celebrate the beauty of Black performers with a vintage yet glamorous touch from the early part of the 20th century. Each photo gives you a snapshot of their story while bringing inspiration through their fashion and glamour, which exudes elegance. The book cover is timeless and classic, making it the perfect item to style any room.”

Buy: “Vintage Black Glamour” by Nichelle Gainer, $189.99 from Amazon

Teddy Phillips aka StatTheArtist

Credit: Target

11. “How to Slay” by Constance R. White

This book is a love letter to Black fashion. It covers and celebrates decades of Black people influencing and creating a different identity in fashion across all genres. It allows Black fashion icons to get their flowers for their contributions.”

Buy: “How to Slay” by Constance R. White, $55.00 $40.49 from Target

12. “Black Boy Fly” by Joshua Renfroe

‘Black Boy Fly’ celebrates Black male culture and experiences with beautiful images. The spectrum of Black males shown in the book provides deep representation of the Black male diaspora. Education, hip hop culture, social justice, and street culture are some of the many stories told through the lens of Joshua Renfroe. It shows that even though we are Black men, we can all be equally as different.”

Buy: “Black Boy Fly” by Joshua Renfroe, $50.00 from Joshua Renfroe Photography

Credit: Amazon

13. “History of Painting” by Kerry James Marshall

‘History of Painting’ takes Kerry James Marshall’s art, which is deeply rooted in allegories and symbolism related to life as a person of color experiencing America. His catalog of art is very diverse with Black figures depicted in everyday life, mainstream abstract art, and thought provoking pieces that challenge what is art, what is the value of art, and who determines that value.”

Buy: “History of Painting” by Kerry James Marshall, $60.00 $42.37 from Amazon

Credit: Amazon

14. “Unseen” by Dana Canedy

This book is a collage of stunning photographs ranging from sports icons, civil rights activists, musicians, and everyday people. Dana Canedy ties the amazing photography together with powerful stories to provide context to the images. It’s a huge page turner and one of my favorites.”

Buy: “Unseen” by Dana Canedy, $29.99 $26.99 from Amazon