Book Club / Culture

Tamsin Johnson shares her list for where to buy the best coffee table books

where to buy coffee table books

A good coffee table book should be like the perfect espresso. When life starts to feel a little tired and mundane it offers a jolt of inspiration, a visual spark plug that reignites the creative fire. Those big, glossy, worth-every-penny books are the ones to reach for on rainy days when we need reminding of the rich and varied beauty that exists in the world. They’re the ones we’ll one day pass on to our kids, and until then try our darnedest not to spill something on. 

The titles of Tamsin Johnson’s coffee table stalwarts read like a definitive anthology of human creativity. Filled with a diversity of art and design, culture and history, their pages reflect the interior designer’s affection for cross-cultural references and combining classicism with contemporary refinement. From Peter Beard to Modigliani to the gardens of Bunny Melon, Johnson’s creative inspirations span genres and eras, offering an aesthetic gold mine for image-makers and appreciators alike. 

Where to shop for real books online

Make no mistake, we love a real life bookstore. Spending all day strolling the aisles and leafing through the latest releases before settling on a purchase is one of life’s great pleasures – if all day is something you happen to have. For the times you don’t, we’ve compiled our go-to online reading recourses that will have you venturing outside of your algorithm and discovering a world of horizon-expanding literary gems. 

Selected Objects

Rhian and Dean Podmore have a keen eye for a rare book. Their impeccable curation of art and design led second-hand books is a trove of collectible finds you’re unlikely to stumble upon at your average Dymocks. Based in Australia, Selected Objects will ship worldwide and take orders via DM over Instagram – which makes the whole thing a little too easy.

Hydra Book Club

The Greek isle of Hydra is like a snake charmer for artists. Its magnetic pull for writers in particular is well documented – her craggy Aegean charm inspiring many a magnum opus by some of the greatest authors of all time (Leonard Cohen and Henry Miller not least among them). Literary curator, Josh Hickey, has compiled a comprehensive list of classic works by authors who spent time there, while also engaging emerging writers to share original work inspired by the mythical Hydra vibe.

Toms Books

If you’re looking for incisive, bite-sized, brutally honest and occasionally humorous reviews of obscure titles across all genres, Tom’s your guy. He’ll get you reading outside of your echo chamber and exploring everything from how animals and plants communicate with each other to the life story of Australia’s first female architect. He doesn’t have a huge following (yet) so take note – you heard it here first.

Send Books

The concept behind Send Books is nothing short of wonderful. Each month the founders invite an artist to discuss one of their favourite books and design a postcard in keeping with the theme. The bespoke card then gets sent out to their subscriber base along with the book, looping their international community into the discussion like one big global book club. Send Books is a non-profit organization operating on a donation basis to keep their conversations and send-outs accessible to all. Concept aside, their selection of books is varied, inclusive and always on point.

[1.] ‘Decoration: Collection Connaissance des Artes’, 1973 (Librarie Hachette).  [2.] ‘The Present Moment: The Art of Clarice Beckett’ by Tracey Lock, 2021. [3.] ‘Judd’ by Erica Cooke, 2020 (Moma). [4.] ‘Rooms: Photographs by Derry Moore’, text by Carl Skoggard, edited by Joseph Holtzman, 2006 (Rizzoli). [5.] ‘Modigliani’ by Werner Schmalenbach, 2005 (Prestel). (Art Gallery of South Australia).
[6.] ‘Primer’ by Matthew Craven, 2018 (Anthology Editions). [7.] ‘The Gardens of Bunny Mellon’ by Linda Jane Holden, photographs by Roger Foley, 2018 (The Vendome Press). [8.] ‘Peter Beard’, 2013 (Taschen). [9] ‘Sean Scully: Catalogue raisonné of the paintings volume 2, 1980-1989’ by Modern art museum of Forth Worth. 2018 (Hatje Cantz Verlag). [10.] ‘Jansen: Decoration’ by Jean Leveque, 1971 (Societe D’Etudies Et De Publications Economiques)

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