Great science-minded coffee table books

Decorative books that are beautiful and fascinating. Just like you.

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Haters don’t understand “the point” of coffee table books. These thick decorative tomes can do a lot, though. They offer something for your guests to flip through while you’re grabbing beers or brewing tea. They’re good for gussying up Instagram photos and can serve as appealing monitor stands. Even if your coffee table books don’t do anything, per se, they’re still a fun way to express your personality and interests.

We’ve picked out some stunning volumes for folks who love science. These books showcase photos from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and feature deconstructed Swiss Army knives. Read on.

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The Life and Love of the Sea is an amazing collection of underwater photography. The book shows things such as packs of penguins darting to the surface and gives access to bonus footage through a scannable QR code.

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Things Come Apart: A Teardown Manual for Modern Living deconstructs electronics and other machines, then artfully arranges the pieces. See all the parts that make up a watch, a bicycle, or a blender from the 1960s.

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Underwater Dogs might be the best thing on the planet. View dogs as they jump into water. It’s the cutest.

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The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy captures the compulsive organization of everyday items by color, size, and letter of the alphabet. Some of the objects include spices, drying laundry, and soup.

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Just a bunch of lovely pictures of water.

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Learn about cheetahs, jaguars, penguins, and a whole lot more in the 480 pages of Wildlife of the World.

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Taste: The Infographic Book of Food explores food through infographics. The book visualizes things like how many types of apples exist in the world, nutritional stats, and how acids in fruit give them their tastes.

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Star Wars: The Blueprints takes a look at the Star Wars universe through over 250 blueprints and more than 500 photographs of spaceships, droids, and designs the different worlds.

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Sea is a beautiful compilation of deep sea critters. On inky, eerie backdrops find jellyfish, sea horses, and eels.

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Earth and Space: Photographs from the Archives of NASA gives you a glance at the solar system and the celestial bodies of space. Each photo is accompanied by text, so you’ll be able to learn about Pandora’s Cluster, solar flares, and space dust.

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In his Evolution: A Visual Record, Robert Clark uses photos of reptiles, plants, and mammals as a springboard for a discussion on evolutionary biology.

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Geek-Art: An Anthology: Art, Design, Illustration & Pop Culture has over 750 images of geek-inspired art, including Lego-created Star Wars sets and superhero cards styled as antique baseball cards.

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The Geometry of Pasta explores the history and shapes of your favorite noodles. Also included: sauce recipes, instructions about when you should salt your water, and a look at how shapes were created to optimize sauce delivery. You’ll have a lot to say at dinner parties.

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Hubble: Imaging Space and Time has more than 200 images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. The book, published in 2008, shows the birth of a star, how black holes affect other galaxies, and a ‘giant galaxy cannibalizing a smaller galaxy.’

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These LEGO structures span seven architectural styles, including Neoclassical, Prairie, and Art Deco.

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Overview: A New Perspective of Earth showcases over 200 photos of how humans have influenced industry, agriculture, architecture, and nature from above. For example: the book shows areas where we have extracted ore and left ‘scar tissue’ and ‘artificial’ colors.

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The authors of Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color point to over 200 art pieces that they match to specific Pantone colors in order to examine color trends over time.

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Philographics: Big Ideas in Simple Shapes attempts to merge philosophy and graphic design by illustrating complex ideas—absolutism, relativism, and existentialism—through geometric shapes and colors.

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Plant: Exploring the Botanical World takes a look at plant-life through photography, watercolor, and micrograph scans (which shows microscopic details about an item’s surface composition and topography).

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Take a look at 100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod to check out influential designs, like early versions of the color wheel.

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Above the World: Earth Through A Drone’s Eye is a book of photos from professional and nonprofessional drone photographers.

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Animalium: Welcome to the Museum has 200 full-color illustrations—a collection intended to mimic the experience of attending the actual natural history museum.

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Interested in nature and parks? Take a look at Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places. It has over 200 unpublished photos. Adams, of course, was an American photographer and environmentalist famous for his work with the American wilderness.

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Drool over cabins and the woods with Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere.

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Beaches lets you take a quick vacation around the world. View beautiful images of beaches from Capri to Cape Town.

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The Designer’s Cookbook: 12 Colors, 12 Menus is a cookbook with a design twist. Each ‘menu’ is color coordinated, so you can have an entirely red meal, with red onion soup, red velvet salad with raspberry dressing, and red wine sherbert.

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Crap Taxidermy is exactly what it sounds like.

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Dogs is a photographic tribute to man’s best friend. See Afghan hounds, Dalmatians and Hungarian Komondors as they run, jump, and nap.

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Earth On Fire: How Volcanoes Shape Our Planet features photos of flowing lava, plumes of smoke, and ash-coated scenery.

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EarthArt: Colours of the Earth is a collection of 150 aerial photos of the world, including vast deserts, oceans, and bubbling mud pools.

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Billy Cadden Avatar

Billy Cadden

Senior Director of Commerce

Billy Cadden is the Senior Director of Commerce for the science, tech, and outdoor group at Recurrent. He began working as the Commerce Editor at PopSci in 2017, where he spent 5 years diving deep into every product he could get his hands on. Cadden splits his time between Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and Woodstock with his dog Wanda. He spends his time seeking new coffee shops and writing for his solo music project

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