7 of the best science photography books to put on your coffee table in 2021

Whether you’re a budding wildlife photographer or shopping for a gift for that friend who has everything, these amazingly illustrated books look great on a coffee table or lab bench – and they’re great reads, too.

Each has bright, color images that show expertly captured weather phenomena, 3D representations of cosmic clouds, magnificent birds of prey, and even the macroscopic world of mushrooms. In other words, these are the types of books that will keep your guests entertained while you brew the perfect cup of tea for them (with a little help from science).

This list is our pick of the best photography books for your coffee table, but for even more titles to add to your reading list, check out our list of the best science books or the best science books for kids.

The best science photography books for your coffee table

A Portrait of the Tree: A Celebration of All Britain’s Favorite Trees

Adrien houston

This dedication to British trees features favorites from Joanna Lumley, Alan Titchmarsh, and George McGavin, among others. Photographer Adrian Houston has asked celebrities to answer the question: What’s your favorite tree?

Their responses inspired the pages of A portrait of the tree. Stunning images celebrate trees across the UK – the fragrant magnolia of Regent’s Park, the endangered giant sequoias of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden and the ancient bark of West Country yews.

The Houston book asks us to consider our own experiences in nature and re-appreciate the enduring strength of these 370 million year old plants.

The Universe: The Book of the BBC TV Series

the universe-brian-cox

Andrew Cohen, with a preface by Professor Brian Cox

A companion to the BBC’s new series, this book tells the story of the creation of the Universe like Professor Brian Cox: detailed space landscapes, brilliant galaxies, and simple, accessible answers to some of the biggest questions. of life.

While there are many great table books in the same vein, this recently published title goes to the limits of our scientific knowledge. It’s a must-have for any aspiring astronaut.

Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World


Michael j benton

Do you think the dinosaurs were all big, scaly, and camouflage in color? Think again.

Paleobiologist Michael J Benton set out to question everything we thought we knew about dinosaurs, delving into the latest research to bring these long-extinct creatures to life.

Of course, it’s not technically a photography book, but the illustrations by expert paleoartist Bob Nicholls make this tabletop book a real treasure. It more than deserves its place on this list and will certainly be loved by any recipient this Christmas.

Wildlife photographer of the year: Portfolio 31


You can always count on Wildlife Photographer of the Year to wow us with some of the most amazing and thought-provoking images, and this year’s competition was no exception.

Amazingly diverse images and fascinating stories have been brought together in this stylish coffee table book. Our personal favorites show a group of cheetahs struggling to swim across a raging river and a rather creepy poisonous spider caught hiding under a photographer’s bed.

At a time when the future of our planet is at the center of our concerns, this book is a timely reminder of the challenges.

Macrophotography: The Universe at Our Feet

Macrophotography cover: The universe at our feet

Don Komarechka

A more technical book than some of the others on this list, but the procedures are complemented by incredibly accurate images. Whether you want to capture the bugs in your garden, or the ripple made by adding milk to your coffee, you’ll find macro-photographer Don Komarechka’s wealth of advice accessible and even enjoyable.

Macro photography takes practice and patience! But if you need some inspiration, take a look at these fascinating microscopic images from the Nikon Small World 2021 Photography Competition.

The elements: a visual history of their discovery

Cover of The Elements

Philippe Boule

In this fascinating visual history of the elements, Philip Ball covers more than 3,000 years of scientific discovery from the classical era of Plato to the present day.

Every element and story behind their discovery has been told in detail using engaging imagery, including early scientists in photography, as well as interesting artifacts and beautiful historical drawings.

More than that, the book is practically a story of scientific discovery itself.

Iconotypes: a collection of butterflies and moths

Iconotypes Cover

Richard Vane-Wright (Introduction)

Certainly quite specific, this beautiful reproduction of William Jones’ unpublished Compendium of Butterflies and Moths is a snapshot of a time when insect collecting was starting to become popular.

Many species in this book were first described, and the work of amateur entomologists such as Jones has become a very important reference source for professional scientists.

Containing 1,600 illustrations, this lovingly reproduced volume is finally available more than 200 years after its completion.

The best books of all time

We think this is a nice selection of photography and coffee table books, but if nothing here appeals to you, take a look at a few more of our book recommendations:

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