Coffee tables and kitchen counters today are in sad shape. Strewn with gossip rags, newspaper-snipped recipes and those wrinkled promotional postcards that are the bane of distinguished coffee-tables everywhere, the days of urbane counter tops and coffee-tables seem to be gone forever. Or are they? If the sleek, svelte tomes produced by publishing dynasty Phaidon are any indication, then no. Movie sirens, global cuisine, gardens, design prodigies and photographers have all been muses for Phaidon’s legendarily meticulous books.
Anyone looking to spruce up a derelict coffee table, look no further: The exquisite photography and captivating text of the books makes them simultaneously sophisticated and accessible. Cave Art, with text by Jean Clottes, for example is a beautiful, informative work on the art our distant ancestors, from 35,000 and 11,000 years ago. It also happens to be wholly unpretentious, which is refreshing in a world of decorative books that take themselves far too seriously.
For the cooks who have equal appreciation for content and images, Phaidon cookbooks are more cultural explorations than cookbooks, tapping regional experts, world-renowned photographers and rooting out traditional dishes to fill the pages. The clarity, depth and authenticity of The Silver Spoon, long considered the bible of authentic Italian cooking, has been successfully and gloriously replicated by Phaidon presses for the Greek, Indian and Spanish cultures.
Available at phaidon.com and high-end booksellers, Phaidon books bring a little dignity back to our neglected living rooms and kitchens.