Coffee Table Curator: Barbie Dolls, Vampire Weekend, and A Whole Lot of Cats

Published May 14, 2019

Coffee Table Curator is a monthly series showing—no, telling—you which art and culture books to add to your living room repertoire; your remote control and beer-stained coasters will look chic by association. Here’s what we have to recommend for the month of May. Let them be the perfect yin to your spring cleaning yang.

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Barbie: 60 Years of Inspiration, Assouline, $175

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Come on Barbie, let’s go party … and read this expensive book. (Speaking of, is that Barbie movie ever going to happen?) It comes as no surprise that Mattel’s platinum blonde golden girl has reigned over kids and their toy collections since debuting in 1959, but this monograph focuses less on the plastic and more on the cultural significance. Or rather: come for the clothes, stay for her influence on women’s roles in society. And the cute clothes.

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Marc Jacobs Illustrated, Phaidon, $59.95

We don’t want to say the lede is buried in the title, but this isn’t your standard “musings about and photographs of a designer” kind of book—rather, it’s completely illustrated by the noted Marc Jacobs stan Grace Coddington, providing an indelible balance to the brief history of Jacobs’s work from the past 25 years. Coddington was given carte blanche to draw whatever she loved most from his collections, all in her signature style of fun-for-all whimsy. We love a good friendship goal!

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The Big Book of Rock & Roll Names, Abrams, $19.99

One could spend hours and hours browsing through the anecdotes in this book, all of which provide concise—and very amusing—stories about how your favorite bands got their names. The entries are arranged alphabetically, if you’re not in a rush and want to enjoy a long, strange trip down sonic memory lane. (Some good ones to look out for: Vampire Weekend, Led Zeppelin, and Arcade Fire.) 

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Scrawl: An A – Z of Famous Doodles, Rizzoli, $39.95

Everyone loves a good doodle, especially when it comes from the hands of a famous doodler. (As a certain tabloid would say: The stars, they’re just like us!) From Joan Miró to Mark Twain, this nifty book collects a bunch of scrawls from creative maestros that are less like what we were drawing to pass time in sophomore year, and more like… worthy of hanging in the MoMA. We may be biased, but the ones from Andy Warhol are particularly cool.

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Brian Eno: Visual Music, Chronicle Books, $27.50

The godfather of ambient music—and proud snubber of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame‎—originally released this book about a decade ago, but lo and behold, it became so popular that it’s getting a fancy reissue. This time around, Eno has participated in a brand-new Q&A, contributed some of his “drawings,” and has written an essay about his time working with David Bowie. (The two were good pals.)

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Cats, Photographs 1942–2018, TASCHEN, $50

Let’s reclaim the word cat person with the help of Walter Chandoha, who essentially became the Wes Anderson of feline photography following his start in the 1940s. (Sadly, he died earlier this year.) Tabbies, calicos, persians, you name it—Chandoha found beauty in every cat, so much so that he might just sway canine lovers into cracking open a few pages to bask in those furry faces. Meow!