There are three things that every self-respecting homeowner needs: a full-length mirror, an Ikea bookshelf (in a thrilling, look-what-the-internet-delivered today sidebar, have you met the very NSFW Just Another Ikea Catalog?) and a coffee table.
It doesn’t really matter what variety of coffee table it is, as long as it’s not one of those 1970s numbers with the inset glass panel that serves only to gather all manner of dust beneath it. With these three items of furniture, you can gauge how good (or bad) you look, store your food/cosmetics/collectable Manga characters and rest your feet while watching TV/eat off/store coffee table books on.
Ah, the coffee table book – not to be confused, crucially, with the toilet book. What’s the difference, you might ask. Well, let me tell you. The toilet book serves one function, and one function only: to pass time. You can add other happily accidental purposes, such as expanding one’s lexicon (try Foyle’s Philavery, €11.56), adding to one’s movies-to-watch list (New York Times Guide 1000 Movies, €21.16) or learning languages that are fairly useless except to impress a very specific variety of man (How to Speak Klingon, €9.10) – but the main function must be to pass time while you pass … well.
Coffee table books, on the other hand, have several reasons for being. Firstly, they must look good. That may sound shallow and silly and frivolous, but let’s get real here: the only reason you would buy a book that you can not hold open without immediately developing RSI is to impress visitors (or to swat enormous spiders).
Similarly, they must make you look good (bonus points for something French). It is always good if they interest guests, so that they pick them up and ooh and aah over them – although this means you must know the contents of each and every book, in case they begin to casually quiz you about them.
Oh and, of course, you must stack them in order of size.
1. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, €33.49
This picture-heavy book is one of the most definitive works on McQueen’s career – and the creepy cover is guaranteed to draw attention. There’s also an interview with Sarah Burton, the woman tasked with taking over after McQueen’s death in 2010, which, alone, makes it worth the investment.
2. Design Sponge at Home, €15.26
As you may now have guessed, I’m a sucker for interiors blogs and ideas – even if my own endeavours rarely stretch past replacing a lightbulb (and yesterday I even made my dad come with me to the hardware shop to make sure I bought the right ones). This is a book to get lost in, an illustrated guided tour of 75 incredibly beautiful homes, of, crucially, incredibly normal people.
3. It by Alexa Chung, €13.35
Full and thorough disclaimer: This is rubbish. I mean really, quite frighteningly, rubbish – and what’s more disturbing, it’s managed to almost totally put me off Vogue, the magazine that single-handedly championed Chung’s whole “I’m a writer” delusion. Still, it’s a great talking piece and you’ll find endless, entertaining paragraphs to read aloud during parties. And you can talk about John Crace’s hilarious Guardian send-up, to boot.
4. Harper’s Bazaar, Greatest Hits, €26.78
This 320-page door-stopper is a catalogue of photographs from the fashion magazine under the editorship of Glenda Bailey, when Demi Moore was thrust up a ladder for the sake of fashion, and shoots became works of art and artistry. It is a seriously beautiful book and a great one for fashion inspiration in a pinch. (Obviously I never need it; obviously.) Plus, Lauren Conrad loves it too! (We have so much in common, Loz, call me!)
5. Vanishing Ireland, €26.30
Obviously it can’t all be fashion and foreigners; time to take things home with this book of interviews by Turtle Bunbury (best name ever?) and photographs by James Fennell, whose country house burtownhouse.ie I recently visited (and was utterly charmed by). The book chronicles people they term “vanishing Ireland”: men and women from all over whose ways of life are disappearing. Mammy’ll love it.
P.S. Yes, all of these links go back to bookdepository.co.uk. No, they’re not paying us for the pleasure – what they are doing is providing seriously cheap books with free delivery. Bob at Gutter Bookshop wrote an excellent post on purchasing books, Amazon and competition that’s worth a read, and while I wish I could buy Irish, and local, and support bookshops, I’m voting with my wallet.