One of my many retail addictions is buying pop culture-themed table books. You know the kind: big, heavy, hardcover books filled concept art, behind-the-scenes photos, and extensive interviews with the people involved. They can provide many valuable hours of entertainment as we find ourselves at home for long periods of time.
If you’re like me though, normally you buy a book, flip through it, then put it on a shelf to rarely look at again. Then you buy another one and the process repeats itself. I never truly fully read or appreciate these expensive books, except as a decoration on a shelf. They deserve more.
Being in self-quarantine has made that appreciation of bulky, beautiful books rise to a whole new level though, as they provide much needed, tangible distractions from sitting on the couch and watching movies. They’re almost like going out to the library to research something fun.
That said, I decided to do a little appreciation thread on some of the pop culture coffee table books I own. Make sure you all tell us your favorites in the comments.
By far the biggest chunk of my collection is dedicated to Star Wars. (A statement that kind of goes for everything I own, but also applies to this topic.)
First and foremost, I can’t recommend J.W. Rinzler’s Making of books on the original trilogy enough. They are as detailed an account of what happened behind the scenes of those films as you’ll find anywhere. That trend of fascinating insight has extended into the sequel trilogy too, with Phil Szostak’s Art of books on The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and, just released this week, The Rise of Skywalker. While not as juicy as Rinzler’s books (shout out to Disney NDAs), the books offer sumptuous looks at what went into designing the films as well as just enough info on the writing and development process to keep you engaged.
There are a ton of other great Star Wars books too, including similar “art of” books for Solo and Rogue One, Star Wars Icons: Han Solo, all the Visual Dictionaries, etc. But the six books diving into episodes 4-9 are truly prized possessions.
Growing up in the ‘80s, there were not many places to learn about your favorite movies. Special features were limited to laserdiscs and magazine articles were sporadic at best. That was about it. Now, fans can dive into some of their favorite movies with great coffee table books. My favorites happen to be Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin, Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace, and Lost in the Shadows: The Story of the Lost Boys by Paul Davis. The fact that books about the making of movies I watched a billion times growing up actually exist is truly remarkable. If you’re a fan of any of those films, I highly recommend them.
The other huge part of my book collection isn’t specifically movie-related but certainly touches on that area. I have many, many books dedicated to the work of my favorite pop culture artists. Among them are:
- The Art of John Alvin by Andrea Alvin
- The Art of Mondo
- Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham
- Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies by Andrew DeGraff
- Crazy4Cult: Cult Movie Art
Each of these offers unique looks at different ways people use pop culture art, be it for fun, advertising, or collecting, etc. Obviously, listing “art books” is about as insightful as saying the sky is blue but, again, these are the favorites that I wanted to show some love to. They’re all highly recommended.
Then, of course, there are those books that may not fall into a specific category, so here are some miscellaneous bullet-points.
- The Lost Encyclopedia by Paul Terry and Tara Bennett is as large and impressive a pop culture book as one can get. Just bursting with great information.
- To Infinity and Beyond: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios by Karen Paik explores the early years of Pixar better than most anything else.
- Dungeons and Dragons: Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer (yes, him)—I don’t even play D&D but this book is stunning nevertheless.
- And, this won’t be a popular inclusion, but I have to give a shout out to The Art of Ready Player One by Gina McIntyre. It was the first place I saw the behind the scenes details on that Shining sequence.
Of course, there are thousands more. Books from the world of comics and video games and everything else. Tell us your faves in the comments.
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