Top 10 coffee table books
Good coffee table books serve a number of purposes: they're decorative, informative, attractive and, above all, interesting; they give your guests something to flip through while you're out of the room; they often become a topic of conversation. They also make fantastic gifts for housewarmings or other special occasions. No matter what your interests, there's a coffee table book for you. This selection of 10 books will catch your eye and keep you coming back for more.
1 Seeds: Time Capsules of Life by Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy
(Firefly Books, 2006)
The images in this book are astounding, thanks to the latest in microphotography; full-page close-ups of millimetre-long seeds possess an almost alien beauty. These photos are accompanied by text explaining the function of the seeds' design; the book also explains topics such as basic seed botany, the evolution of seeds and how seeds are dispersed and contains a section on seed-inspired architecture. With a preface by the Prince of Wales, a keen supporter of conservation issues, and a chapter on the Millennium Seed Bank, which aims to gather some 24,000 species of seeds by 2010, this volume covers everything you could ever want to know about these astonishingly diverse feats of nature.
2 100 More of the World's Best Houses by Robyn Beaver
(Images Publishing Group, 2006)
This volume, third in a series, presents 100 of the world's most stunning houses. The featured homes vary greatly in style, location, climate and culture, ensuring there's something appealing for everyone. The book includes full-colour photographs of each house as well as architectural plans and drawings, showcasing the best in international residential architecture and offering a wealth of inspiration for anyone interested in decorating and design.
3 The Maple Leaf Forever: A Celebration of Canadian Symbols by Donna and Nigel Hutchins, with photography by Matthew Beverly
(The Boston Mills Press, 2006)
Anyone with an interest in Canadiana will find hours of entertainment in this collection of national memorabilia. From maple leaves to beavers, from hockey to the RCMP, the significance of popular symbols of Canada throughout its history is explored alongside photos of various collectibles. The authors have assembled items as diverse as vintage toys, war medals, old bottles of Canada Dry ginger ale and kitschy souvenirs to create a book that is sure to amuse and entertain.
4 Rainforest by Thomas Marent
(Dorling Kindersley, 2006)
The plants, animals and insects of the world's tropical rainforests jump off the pages of this gorgeous book in a frenzy of colour that is almost overwhelming. Swiss photographer Thomas Marent spent 16 years travelling across five continents to capture these images, which display the astounding biological diversity of rainforests in such places as Indonesia, New Zealand, South America and Madagascar. The book is accompanied by an audio CD of rainforest sounds, and two per cent of the royalties will be donated to the Rainforest Foundation. An added bonus: The book was printed on paper from sustainably harvested European forests, and the publishers promise that no wood from rainforest areas was used.
5 Furniture: World Styles from Classical to Contemporary by Judith Miller
(Dorling Kindersley, 2005)
Covering more than 3,000 years of furniture design, this encyclopedic guide is packed with more than 3,500 photos of chairs, sofas, tables, cabinets, tallboys and longboys, and every other form of furniture that can be -- or has been -- imagined. Along with descriptions of particular furniture styles you'll find profiles of designers, workshops and movements as well as outlines of key periods. Both an indispensable reference book for collectors and a fascinating history for anyone interested in style and design, Furniture won't stay unopened on your table.
6 Canadian Art: From Its Beginnings to 2000 by Anne Newlands
(Firefly Books, 2002)
This essential reference guide to Canadian art contains information on 300 Canadian artists, from painters in oil and watercolour to sculptors and photographers. Newlands chose to arrange the artists alphabetically, each with more or less the same amount of space in the book, thereby giving no one artist, style or time period precedence over another. This dictionary-like structure makes the book difficult to sit and read, but ideal as a coffee table book -- consider leaving it open on a different page each day to offer a variety of artistic inspiration to your household and guests.
7 New Zealand: A Natural History by Tui De Roy and Mark Jones
(Firefly Books, 2006)
Due to its millennia-long geographical isolation from other landmasses and its lack of mammalian predators until the first arrival of humans about a thousand years ago, New Zealand contains a wealth of flora and fauna unseen elsewhere on the planet. Though many species -- such as the moa, a giant flightless bird, and the Haast's eagle, with its impressive 10-foot wing span -- have gone extinct since European settlers arrived, countless others remain, such as the kakapo, the world's heaviest parrot (which is also flightless) and the tuatara, a reptile that was a contemporary of the dinosaurs and is now the last of its kind. De Roy and Jones have combined their photographs of New Zealand's remarkable beauty with informative descriptions of its natural environment, creating a book that serves as a reminder of how fragile the planet's ecosystem really is.
8 Old Ontario Houses: Traditions in Local Architecture by Tom Cruickshank, with photographs by John de Visser
(Firefly Books, 2000)
Anyone who doubts that Ontario has its own unique architectural style will be persuaded otherwise after perusing this collection of photographs of more than 150 homes dating from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Addresses are varied -- from downtown Toronto to the shores of Lake Erie -- but what they share is the connection they give us to Ontario's past. The author, the editor of Harrowsmith Country Life magazine, found many of the featured houses through his travels along the province's back roads, and a number of them have never before been seen in print -- a testament to his devotion to the subject.
9 The World of the Polar Bear by Norbert Rosing
(Firefly Books, 2006)
The North is an enigmatic place to most Canadians, even foreign, with its vast, treeless spaces and unforgiving climate. It is also a significant place when it comes to global climate change -- it is the polar regions of the planet that are experiencing the biggest rises in temperature and changes to the landscape, threatening the very survival of the polar bear. Photographer Norbert Rosing has spent almost 20 years visiting the western shores of Hudson Bay and chronicling the lives of its animal inhabitants, not just the bears but also the foxes, hares, muskoxen, walruses and other creatures that share the land. This collection of photographs is an intimate portrayal of their existence through the seasons, from springtime mating to a winter on the Arctic ice, accompanied by explanations of how the bears survive and thrive in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
10 One People Many Journeys
(Lonely Planet, 2005)
This collection of images of everyday life across the globe aims to show, in the words of Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler, that "what travel teaches us is that we are all essentially the same. There is not a 'them' and an 'us'; there is really only 'us.'" The stunning photographs capture humanity in all its variations and stages, from newborn babies in Australia and Uzbekistan to funerals in China, Indonesia and Nepal -- and all the events in between -- showing that we are, in fact one people, more similar than we are different.