20 conversation-starting coffee table books by Black authors, photographers, and artists
By Maliah West Mar 24

Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Gilbert Espinoza/Insider  A great coffee table book will look great on any table and initiate thoughtful conversations.  We’ve compiled a list of 20 coffee table books all created by Black authors, photographers, and artists. These books feature images of everyday life, never before seen images, and capture historic events and people. Whether you’re drawn to coffee table books with gorgeous images, riveting essays, or books that simply represent your various interests, choosing books by diverse authors is key to having an interesting collection. We’ve compiled a list of 20 books by Black authors, photographers, and artists that will make a great fit on any coffee table. Many of the books feature photographs and stories that give an in-depth look into Black communities in major cities such as Brooklyn, Harlem, and Baltimore. Others feature never-before-published photographs of celebrities, musicians, and civil rights icons. And some study the major strides that Black creatives are currently making in their respective industries. Above all, the books capture Black Americans in scenes of everyday life and express themes of love, loss, resilience, hope, and strength.  POPULAR REVIEWS Best mattresses according to experts Best iPhones to buy in 2021 Best robot vacuums for every home Best espresso machines for home baristas Best pillows for every kind of sleeper Here are 20 coffee table books by Black authors, artists, and photographers to add to your collection: “Moonlight Screenplay Book,” by Barry Jenkins A24 “Moonlight Screenplay Book,” available at A24, $60 This gorgeous book is a film lover’s dream and one of the more unique books you can add to your collection. In addition to being visually appealing with stunning stills from the film, the book contains an imaginative foreword by Frank Ocean, and an essay from Pulitzer Prize winning critic Hilton Als. Other important features of the book include acceptance speeches from Director Barry Jenkins, actor Mahershala Ali, and playwright Tarell McCraney. The film’s win for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards, while frenzying, was the first win by an all-Black cast, solidifying the cultural significance of the film.  “I Can Make You Feel Good,” by Tyler Mitchell Amazon “I Can Make You Feel Good,” available at Amazon, $34.86 Tyler Mitchell first attracted attention by being the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover at only 23 years old. Since then, Mitchell has kept the momentum going, photographing Vice President Kamala Harris, director and actress Michaela Coel, and singer Harry Styles for Vogue. Mitchell’s 2020 release, “I Can Make You Feel Good,” features images of young Black men and women in various natural settings. The book notably includes no white spaces, which is an unusual feature for a photography book. “The Modern Day Black Alphabet,” by Arial Robinson Barnes & Noble “The Modern Day Black Alphabet,” available at Amazon, $34.99 Initially started as an ambitious quarantine project by young creative Arial Robinson, “The Modern Day Black Alphabet” features images that represent various parts of the Black experience. Each image in the book was shot by Robinson throughout her home and neighborhood. The book serves as a fun educational book for children and also makes for a great coffee table centerpiece. “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” by Antwaun Sargent Amazon “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Fashion and Art,” available at Amazon, $45.49 A familiar face among coffee table books, “The New Black Vanguard” includes images of Black models by Black photographers and focuses on the intersection of fashion, art, and Blackness. The images in the book are curated by art critic and writer, Antwaun Sargent. Sargent states that the book “tracks the emerging global movement of young image makers reclaiming and reimagining the black image, beauty, and identity.” The book features photographs from famed photographers Tyler Mitchell, Renell Medrano, Campbell Addy, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Adrienne Raquel, and Dana Scruggs, and its goal is to bring awareness to the great work that Black photographers are creating across the fashion industry.  “Roy DeCarava: the sound i saw,” by Roy DeCarava Amazon “Roy DeCarava: the sound i saw,” available at Amazon, $42.49 Roy DeCarava is best known for capturing soulful photographs of the everyday lives of Black Americans as well as images of Black icons of the mid-1900s. Some of Decarava’s notable subjects include musicians Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane. While many of the photos in this collection were shot in the 1960s, the book wasn’t published until 2001. DeCarava, who grew up during the Harlem Renaissance, features images of jazz musicians, as well as poems, and other images throughout this book. “The Rihanna Book,” by Rihanna Amazon “The Rihanna Book,” available at Amazon, $116.95 By far the largest book featured on this list, “The Rihanna Book” is a work of art itself. The book features many never-before-seen images of Rihanna on vacation, on tour, and other iconic moments from the singer’s multi-decade career. The book is the perfect addition to any Rihanna fan’s home, and even comes with extras such as a removable poster, and other inserts. “Woman of Color,” by LaTonya Yvette Amazon “Woman of Color,” available at Amazon, $13.59 Lifestyle blogger and stylist LaTonya Yvette uses images of herself, her children, and other women in her first book “Woman of Color.” Throughout the book, Yvette addresses themes of motherhood, womanhood, sisterhood, racism, beauty, and style with her thought-provoking essays.  “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times,” by Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns Amazon “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times,” available at Amazon, $20.97 “Unseen” features a large collection of photographs that were captured but never published by The New York Times. Editor Darcy Eveleigh first discovered the photos in the publication’s massive photo archive and worked with other NYT editors to sort through thousands of photos and then share them first on the Times’ website, and later in this curated collection. Many of these never-before-seen photographs include images of musicians, civil rights activists, and scenes of everyday life in predominantly Black communities. The book documents pivotal moments in Black American history, leaving readers to ponder the reasons why the photos were never published. “Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves,” by Glory Edim Amazon “Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves,” available at Amazon, $13.76 Initially a book club that expanded into a literary festival, Well-Read Black Girl’s mission has always been to bring together Black women to read books by Black authors. Founder Glory Edim explores what it means to be a well-read Black girl through feature essays from Black women who describe defining moments in their literary journeys, going back to reading their first books by classic Black authors such as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. Although this book doesn’t feature many images, it’s well-written, rich essays make it an option fit for any coffee table. “Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply,” by Dawoud Bey Amazon “Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply,” available at Amazon, $50.66 I first came across Dawoud Bey’s striking photographs at the San Francisco MOMA and was impressed at how easily and accurately he captured his various subjects. A self-taught photographer, Bey got his start photographing his Harlem community. Bey’s “Seeing Deeply,” contains 40 years of his photographs and includes many images from his Harlem neighborhood. Throughout this time, Bey was dedicated to capturing the Black community in a favorable and flattering way, a goal that was not common among other photographers of the time. “A Beautiful Ghetto,” by Devin Allen Amazon “A Beautiful Ghetto,” available at Amazon, $18.45 After the wrongful death of Freddie Gray, while protests began to erupt due to tensions between Baltimore citizens and police, photographer Devin Allen captured images of the protests and then shared them with the world on his Instagram account. In “A Beautiful Ghetto,” Allen shares powerful black and white images of Baltimore before, during, and after the protests. The book offers a peek into everyday life in Baltimore and features essays from Baltimore natives Wes Moore and D.Watkins. “Jamel Shabazz: Sights in the City, New York Street Photographs,” by Jamel Shabazz Amazon “Jamel Shabazz: Sights in the City, New York Street Photographs,” available at Barnes & Noble, $50 Jamel Shabazz is best known for capturing photographs throughout various New York City neighborhoods. His book “Sights in the City” features many never-before-seen photos taken from 1985 through the early 2000s. Throughout the collection, Shabazz uses both color and black and white techniques to truly capture the diverse experiences that exist in NYC. Shabazz, who considers himself a “curator of insightful images that stimulate and provoke thought,” has authored other books that include images from NYC subways, gay pride events throughout NYC, and images from the early hip hop scene. “Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists,” by Antwaun Sargent Amazon “Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists,” available at Amazon, $49.94 A second feature on this list by Antwaun Sargent, “Young, Gifted, and Black” continues Sargent’s exploration of Blackness through art. In Sargent’s own words, the book is “about black collectors, artists, and curators doing the work to ensure black art is made, seen and valued.” This collection features interviews, images, and essays from artists themselves, as well as art curators, and writers. “Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,” by Marcellas Reynolds Barnes & Noble “Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,” available at Barnes & Noble, $50 This book is the first of its kind to feature solely images of iconic Black models such as Beverly Johnson, Iman, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, and more. Each model is given an in-depth feature that pays homage to the barriers they broke through to achieve success. Author Marcellas Reynolds, who is a celebrity stylist and journalist, shows the evolution of Black models in the fashion industry through various magazine covers, runway shows, and campaigns from a 75+ year period. “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats,” by Michael Cunningham Amazon “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats,” available at Amazon, $28.82 This book gives readers an in-depth look into the wardrobe of Black churchgoers while focusing on the extravagant church hats that many Black women are known to wear every Sunday. Photographer Michael Cunningham captures images of everyone from grandmothers to young children wearing unique hats. “The Notebooks,” by Jean-Michel Basquiat Amazon “The Notebooks,” available at Amazon, $22.54 Enter the mind of famed artist Basquiat with this collection of conversation-starting notebooks. The collection includes copies of eight notebooks that belonged to Basquiat himself and feature drawings, musings, poems, and notes. The notebooks give readers an intimate look  into the creative processes of one of the most well-known artists of all time. “Black Futures,” by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham Amazon “Black Futures,” available at Amazon, $22.40 When creating “Black Futures,” authors Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham sought to answer the question “what does it mean to be Black and alive right now.” Through this curated collection of interviews, essays, memes, recipes, and song lyrics, the book serves as a snapshot of the Black experience at this moment in time. “Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful,” by Kwame Brathwaite Amazon “Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful,” available at Amazon, $32.96 “Black is Beautiful,” titled after a phrase Kwame Brathwaite himself is responsible for popularizing, addresses themes of Black culture and freedom through photography. Brathwaite is well-known for using photography to show flattering images of his subjects by perfecting techniques that capture Black skin in a more vibrant way. This is clearly evident in the stunning book cover that features his wife Sikolo, and the soulful feelings his images evoke. “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers,” by Bobby Seale and Stephen Shames Amazon “Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers,” available at Amazon, $29.31 Authors Bobby Seale and Stephen Shames offer an in-depth look into the often misrepresented Black Panther Party through photographs and short essays in this riveting coffee table book. The book features stories and thoughts from members themselves and includes everyday images of party members, rallies, and meetings, and offers an accurate and unbiased look into the group. “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” by Eugenie Tsai Barnes & Noble “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic,” available at Barnes & Noble, $16.99 Kehinde Wiley, who painted former President Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait, is best known for his photo-based portraits. Wiley uses classical European paintings as inspiration to create detailed portraits of his mostly Black subjects. Wiley has traveled the world to recruit subjects for his portraits. Through “A New Republic,” Wiley explores themes of race, gender, politics, and power, with his stunning portraits. Although the physical version of this book is currently out of stock online, it is available for purchase digitally through Barnes & Noble.  or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. 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