The Case for the Coffee Table Book: Solving All Your Adventure-Gift Crises
Though it is humble, it will always come to the rescue when nothing else seems right
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There are two types of adventurous souls who are easy to buy gifts for: those who have told you in exact terms what they want, or those who you're so close with that you know their size, their favorite color, the terrain and climate in which they regularly hike, and whether or not their jacket must have pit zips. For the rest of the people on your list, we would like to make the case for one gift that never fails: the coffee table book. It doesn't sound all that sexy, but it always does the trick. You've got choices for every outdoors obsessive in your life. You only need a basic understanding of their interests to find a book that says, “Hey, I get what's important to you, and I want you to be able to share it with the world through a tasteful conversation piece.” And the concept really doesn't age out—you can't argue with the allure of the hard cover, the oversize pages, and the beautiful photos.
Here are our all-time favorites that come with a 100 percent recipient-satisfaction guarantee.
‘Velo 3rd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Stories’ by Sven Ehmann
Bicycle design is a fascinating rabbit hole—endlessly customizable to fit rider personality and purpose, while utilizing the latest technology and still staying true to the original two-wheel design. Velo 3rd Gear illustrates the most current innovations in some of the world’s most covetable bicycles, features stories from cyclists, and provides an introduction to the next generation of products and accessories evolving to meet the growing demand for pedal power.
‘Home Is Where You Park It’ by Foster Huntington
Huntington documented the campers of travelers he met on his own 80,000-mile, two-year North American road trip. He published about 100 of his favorite shots in this coffee table book. Each van is a lifestyle enabler and reflects the personality of its owner. Read: the photos are very fun. This one is sure to inspire wanderlust in anyone who still can't resist #vanlife inspiration (rest assured, we all know this person).
‘Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs’ by Fred Beckey
The climbing legend shares intimate knowledge of his favorite climbs, mixing photographs, route descriptions, hand-drawn maps, historical information, and influencers from the sport in this guidebook. It acts as the ultimate reference book, offering climbing beta and a comprehensive tick-list for every alpinist.
‘Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse’ by Richard Mosse and Adam Hochschild
Photographer Richard Mosse captures conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo using Kodak Aerochrome, an infrared color film originally used for military reconnaissance. The film’s infrared light turns lush green landscapes into an array of electric crimsons and hot pinks. The book documents not only the country’s topography but also the conflict between rebel groups and the country’s national army, telling the Congo’s story through a completely unexpected look.
‘Going Out Is Going In’ edited by Jeff Johnson and James Joiner
When you’re gifting for a true Renaissance outdoorsperson, Going Out Is Going In has your back. You get a whole spectrum of the outdoor world, from kayaking to climbing to hiking, oceans to arctic landscapes, extreme adventure to natural serenity. The book features work by leading adventure and outdoor photographers including Becca Skinner, Chris Burkard, and Forest Woodward.
For Off-the-Grid Obsessives
‘Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere’ by Zach Klein, Steven Leckart and Noah Kalina
Inspired by the Tumblr blog “Cabin Porn,” this book features some of the site’s most popular photographs of handmade homes around the world, nestled away from civilization. The book showcases unique architecture and idyllic settings, offers tips for setting up a quiet escape, and provides a sense of peace that simply can’t be quantified with Insta likes.
For Startup Enthusiasts
‘The Outsiders: New Outdoor Creativity’ edited by J. Bowman, S. Ehmann and R. Klanten
Hiking, biking, paddling, and other outdoor pursuits are more than hobbies—they inspire entire lifestyles and cultures. The Outsiders documents the rise of the creative outdoor entrepreneurs helping cater to these passions, featuring interviews with gear manufacturers, industry innovators, and explorers and adventurers.
For Wildlife Lovers
‘On This Earth A Shadow Falls’ by Nick Brandt
This is the third book in a trilogy Brandt created to document East Africa’s wildlife, capturing elephants, giraffes, lions, and gorillas in sepia and blue-tone photos without the aid of a telephoto lens. The result is a portfolio of intimate wildlife portraits. This installment has a darker tone than the previous books in the series and provides a starker view of the plight of East Africa’s rapidly disappearing animals.
‘Surfing: 1778-Today’ by Jim Heimann
Graphic designer Jim Heimann charts surfing’s culture and history through more than 900 images, starting in 1778 and tracing the evolution of the sport and lifestyle to present day. Historical and contemporary photographs, along with essays by surf journalists, create a visual history of surfing, its athletes, and its influence on the world through fashion, film and music.
‘Genesis’ by Lelia Wanick Salgado and photographs by Sebastiao Salgado
There are still places in the world that are unchanged by humans as though trapped in the time of Genesis. Sebastiao Salgado spent eight years finding and documenting these mountains, deserts, oceans, and animals relatively untouched by modern society. He traveled by foot, canoe, and even balloon through extreme conditions to create the black and white images in this love letter to the planet.
‘Craft Cocktails’ by Brian Van Flandern
Mixologist Brian Van Flandern shares some of his favorite recipes created while working at New York’s Per Se restaurant. He includes other recipes from famous craft cocktail lounges in the city. The book covers exotic ingredients found in many of Van Flandern’s famous drinks, as well as garnishes and glassware for crafting your own cocktails at home.
‘Oxford Atlas of the World’
Gone are the days when hard-backed reference books were considered practical, but Oxford’s atlas should still have a place in every geography nerd's home library. The annually-updated book is filled with urban and backcountry maps, illustrated tables and graphs, and striking satellite images. And yes, it’s still a helpful resource for trip planning.
For Fly Fishers
‘50 Places to Fly Fish Before You Die’ by Chris Santella
The thrill of the pull on the line while fly-fishing is matched only by the beautiful places the sport can take a devoted angler. 50 Places takes readers to some of the most stunning and famous spots in the world among devoted casters. Seek tarpon in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba, cast for peacock bass in the Rio Negro in Brazil, and reel in taimen in Mongolia—no permits necessary.