Coffee table books were never meant to be read.
Rather, they’re meant to sit there — hardbound and handsome-like — so guests may read you.
Because a good coffee table book showcases fine taste. Promotes conversation. And perhaps above all else, makes for a foolproof gift.
Which is why we’re rounding up the year’s most stunning Chicago-centric coffee table books for your looking and learning pleasure.
The Arts Club of Chicago at 100
An end note of a year-long centennial celebration, this title celebrates the cultural bedrock that is the Arts Clubs of Chicago, the arts institution that has long welcomed all manner of Modern art, from visual art and music to theater, dance and architecture. BUY IT HERE
The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21+ Years of Music / Friendly / Dancing
“The Bottle,” as its affectionately called, may seem like a small hole-in-the-wall corner tavern, but its place in Chicago’s music history is immense. The Empty Bottle book offers a collection of firsthand accounts from those who know the landmark music venue the best. For the music geek who loves local folklore. BUY IT HERE
Kerry James Marshall: Mastry
As Chicago’s most celebrated living artists, Kerry James Marshall is not afraid to question what it means to be Black in America, and his stunning multi-faceted paintings unabashedly challenge viewers to do the same. This book comes from the MCA’s sterling retrospective of Marshall’s lifework, which recently moved on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Hands down the year’s most memorable exhibitions. BUY IT HERE
The Chicago Coloring Book
Have you ever considered an adult coloring book? Everyone else has. This one is dedicated to all things Chicago, featuring 25 original images spanning the city’s architectural wonders, along with intricate patterns inspired by Chicago food, nature and more. BUY IT HERE
The Space Within: Inside Great Chicago Buildings
There are hundreds of Chicago architecture books, but few as wall-to-wall as The Space Within, a book from longtime Frank Lloyd Wright tour guide Patrick Cannon and shutterbug James Caufield that takes readers inside some of the city’s most treasured structural gems. BUY IT HERE
The Secret Birds
A book that pairs art and prose from Chicago artist, actor and playwright Tony Fitzpatrick, The Secret Birds takes its name from a series of Fitzpatrick paintings of the same name. A beautiful collection of the Chicago maverick artist's interdisciplinary work. BUY IT HERE
The Adventures of Fat Rice
Think of this one as a coffee table book for the kitchen. The celebrated Logan Square eatery released one of the most exciting cookbooks of the year, and the title comes with a lovely dose of comic book illustrations. A book the Chicago food lover would be proud to display. BUY IT HERE