8 Awe-Inspiring Coffee Table Books for Poets to Display

The coffee table book plays a quintessential role in a cozy, literary home. With their bold covers and intricate pages, most coffee table books are a true example of literature as art—with the books serving both as creative inspiration and statement décor. These recommendations will delight both you and your guests.


1. Writers: Photographs by Sally Soames


This multimodal work features intimate, black-and-white photos of more than 50 writers, including Maya Angelou, Edmund White, Kazou Ishiguro, and many other beloved figures. Award-winning photographer Sally Soames brings a personal approach to these photos, spotlighting writers who have influenced her life and whose works she has an emotional connection with. The book begins with an evocative introduction by iconic writer Norman Mailer and pairs each photo with a memorable quote from each author’s works. 


2. The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson


Poets are well-aware of the power and significance of public libraries, and will appreciate Robert Dawson’s encompassing, historical look at them. Dawson spent more than 18 years taking the photos in this book, which pay homage to more than 100 libraries throughout nearly every state in America. The photos take library lovers back to a nostalgic past—inspiring them to recall getting their first library card or participating in children’s programming—but are also an urgent response to the present and future, as libraries fight against banned books and funding crises. Gorgeous photos intermingle with essays by writers including Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, and E.B. White. 


3. Nox by Anne Carson


Nox celebrates poetry as a physical object. Each copy is a facsimile of a handmade book Anne Carson created after the death of her brother. The collection draws together poetry, letters, collages, and sketches and folds out from a sculptural accordion style. Readers must unfurl more than 10 feet of paper, making for a tactile and indulgent reading experience. Though the collection contends with grief, it also glints with humor and cleverness. This literary artifact promises to take readers through a full range of emotions. 


4. Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein


The whimsy and color of New Yorker cartoons come even more alive in this collectible book from Bob Eckstein, with a forward by Garrison Keillor. The book is a tribute to books, indie bookshops, and booksellers, acknowledging how books bring people and communities together. Quotes and anecdotes from Alice Munro, Terry Gross, David Bowie, and other famed book lovers can be read alongside illustrations of Scribner’s Books, City Lights, and dozens of other literary institutions. 


5. The Enneagram Letters by Sarajane Case


Writers relentlessly pursue self-examination and reflection, often making them fans of astrology, the Enneagram, and other personality tools. Taking inspiration from her at once playful and introspective Instagram account, which has gained nearly half a million followers, Sarajane Case brings a poetic writing style to her expert Enneagram musings. No matter what your Enneagram type is, you’ll find lyrical and heartfelt advice, guidance, and inspiration in The Enneagram Letters


6. Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America by Frances Denny


Poetry possesses a long-standing connection to witchcraft, with many poems reading as manifestations or incantations. Just as the tradition of poetry has evolved over time, witchcraft has gone through numerous shifts and transformations. Major Arcana gathers diverse and multi-faceted perspectives on what it means to be a witch today, with photographer Frances Denny having interviewed and photographed dozens of modern-day witches across America. Several of these witches, including Annie Finch and Kate Belew, have successful poetry careers. Major Arcana also showcases the inherent feminist dynamics at play in witchcraft, recalling how the term “witch” has often been used to stigmatize, silence, and even kill women, then celebrating how it’s been reclaimed today. 


7. Rooms of Their Own by Alex Johnson


The title of this illustrative coffee table masterpiece comes from Virginia Woolf’s essay of the same name, which remarked that to write, one needs a room of one’s own. Bookish journalist Alex Johnson and watercolor artist James Oses teamed up to reveal the physical places where some of history’s best writers wrote, spanning libraries, hotel rooms, apartments, and bathtubs. While some of the rooms depicted in this book glimmer with luxury, others are tiny, messy, or simply aren’t rooms at all—like an example of writing at the bottom of a tree. In this way, the book both takes inspiration from Virginia Woolf and challenges her central assertion, making the argument that good writing can and does happen everywhere. 


8. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou


Published in honor of the 25th anniversary of Maya Angelou’s poem of the same name, this commemorative edition sees the poem put into the format of a children’s book, paired with daring, innovative illustrations by Jean-Michel Basquiat. As you flip through the pages and read the sing-songy stanzas—which include Shadows on the wall / Noises down the hall / Life doesn’t frighten me at all—it’s easy to see why the time-honored poem has found an audience with kids, but equally easy to apply its lessons to adulthood. 


Want to explore more ways to add literary flair and intentionally to your space? Check out our tips for stocking up your writing station