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8 great coffee table books

Just like the beverage they’re associated with, coffee table books should be rich, satisfying and stimulating. With eye-popping photos and graphics that are the signature of a handsome coffee table book, these eight works are the cream of the crop.

“Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s”

Jazz royalty from Duke Ellington to Lady Day
Credit: Harper Design

Jazz royalty from Duke Ellington to Lady Day (aka Billie Holiday) are represented in Jeff Gold's snazzy paean to what were America's coolest clubs for the hottest jazz. The book is divided into three sectionS--East Coast, Midwest and West Coast--and looks at the jazz capitals in each of those regions. The more than 200 stunning photos of legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis; club menus; posters, and news clippings are interspersed with interviews from jazz masters like Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins who discuss music as well as issues like the Civil Rights Movement.

(Harper Design, $39.99)

“Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978–1991”

Local talents including Joan Jett and The Ramones
Credit: Abrams Books

Local talents including Joan Jett and The Ramones helped define the rock scene of the late '70s and '80s, so it's no surprise to find them along with The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Talking Heads and many others in photojournalist Michael Grecco's mesmerizing musical time capsule. In 162 gorgeous color and black-and-white photos, Grecco takes readers back to a vibrant bygone era as his camera captures the performers' raw energy and outrageousness both onstage and off. And break out the "Rock Lobster": the foreword is by Fred Schneider of The B-52s.

(Abrams Books, $40)

“Parallel Perspectives: The Brush/Lens Collaboration”

He paints, she photographs and together they've achieved
Credit: City Point Press

He paints, she photographs and together they've achieved artistic harmony. The bond between Northport watercolor artist Ward Hooper and Bay Shore photographer Holly Gordon permeates this contemporary art book that serves as a tribute to the Long Island landscape as well their close friendship and their talents. The eye-catching images are both striking and complementary, such as the page featuring motorcyclist photo "V-a-r-o-o-m!" on a left-hand page and his watercolor "Tony and His Harley" on the right. Adding insight is a running dialogue between Gordon and Hooper that gives readers a chance to really get to know them. "It's as if we've been friends our whole lives," Hooper says to Gordon. That comes through loud and clear.

(City Point Press, $40)

“Bond: Photographed by Terry O’Neill”

Everyone has their own opinion about which actor
Credit: Terry O'Neill/Iconic Images Cour

Everyone has their own opinion about which actor was the best 007, but there's no question that O'Neill was the foremost James Bond photographer. His breathtaking shots of Bond guys Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan are all assembled in this book that's as beautifully concocted as one of 007's martinis. Even more stunning are the shots of the Bond girls, including Honor Blackman, Ursula Andress, Jill St. John and Jane Seymour, who (along with Lazenby) shares moviemaking memories. O'Neill, who died in November 2019, would have been honored with this tribute to his lens craftsmanship.

(ACC Art Books, $65)

"Time to Act"

Credit: Lannoo Books

"The dressing room is a strange place," writes Cate Blanchett in the foreword. "Intensely private, full of superstitions, whirling with thoughts and emotions." She's absolutely right based on the dramatic photos presented by Simon Annand in this handsome tome that's subtitled "An Intimate Photographic Portrait of Actors Backstage." There's a shirtless Ethan Hawke glaring intensely in his dressing room mirror as he warms up for "A Winter's Tale"; lingerie-clad Kim Cattrall sprawled seductively on a settee; a smiley Elisabeth Moss in curlers, and plenty of actors showing what an art form it is to apply stage makeup. And with a cast of characters that also includes Daniel Radcliffe, Patrick Stewart and Benedict Cumberbatch, this one's a showstopper.

(Lannoo Books, $50)

“This Was Hollywood”

So often the stories behind the making of
Credit: Collection of Cindy Sipala

So often the stories behind the making of a movie is more interesting than what ends up on screen. Case in point: The plight of Margarita Cansino who was painstakingly (emphasis on pain, especially when it came to procedures to fix her low hairline) transformed into "Love Goddess" Rita Hayworth. Hollywood historian Carla Valderrama details her story in this volume from Turner Classic Movies along with others that are soul-stirring (Olivia de Havilland's victory when she sued Warner Bros.) and heartbreaking (the hunting accident that derailed the promising career of  MGM starlet Susan Peters). Dozens of rare photos of stars from Rudolph Valentino to the Nicholas Brothers recapture the glamour of Tinseltown's golden age.

(Running Press, $29)

“Perfect Imperfection”

Prepare to be captivated - and likely moved
Credit: ABC Books

Prepare to be captivated - and likely moved to tears - looking at and reading about the cute canines in this heartwarming book by dog photographer Alex Cearns. Each of the pups featured has some sort of physical flaw, but that doesn't keep them from being totally endearing. There's cover boy Vegemite, who has a permanent wink; stumpy-tailed cattle dog Spike, and Jessie, an Australian shepherd-border collie mix who gets around by wheelchair due to weak hind legs. Their stories of survival and the bonds they share with their owners are nothing short of uplifting. If you gift this book to someone, be sure to wrap a box of Kleenex to go with it.

(ABC Books, $19.99)

"A Wealth of Pigeons"

Credit: Celadon Books

"A Wealth of Pigeons"

"I've always looked upon cartooning as comedy's last frontier ... the idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me." To help him explore this virgin territory, Martin found the perfect partner in New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. The result is a delightful collection of more than 130 clever cartoons punctuated by witty captions that could only come from Martin's wild and crazy mind. "Encourage or discourage?" reads the caption to one panel showing two parents as they watch their toddler riding a unicycle in the living room. A thought bubble for another shows an astronaut musing "I just hope this doesn't define me," as he places a flag on the moon. Like that cartoon, the entire book is out of this world.

(Celadon Books, $28)

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