Illustration for article titled The Glow Ups Guide to Giving: The Biggest, Blackest, Most Beautiful Reads of the Year
Screenshot: Aperture, Abrams, Aperture

“Coffee is the color,” sang Roy Ayers—and the lyric proves true on the gorgeous crop of coffee table-worthy tomes published this year. From fashion icons to iconic works of art, black representation was strong in the publishing world this year, leaving us with books that are as powerful as they are pretty to look at. And since coffee table books tend not to be at the top of the list of items we purchase for ourselves, we’ve done a roundup of our favorites—and the best part? Aside from many of them currently being on sale for the season, they’re all so beautiful, wrapping is entirely optional.

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Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion

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We are currently enjoying a watershed moment in the fashion industry when black models aren’t only booked and busy but are being celebrated on an international scale. But what of the women who made this moment possible? Enter Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion (currently on sale for $26.78); a stunning retrospective in tribute to the black beauties who paved the catwalk. Endorsed by no less than fashion legends Bethann Hardison and Iman and with a foreword written by The Glow Up’s co-founding editor, supermodel Veronica Webb, this is a model moment not to be missed.


The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion

Who got next in the world of photography? That question is answered in The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (now $34.95), in which Antwaun Sargent throws open the gates on the still white-dominated profession of fashion photography, introducing us to an international cadre of its melanated rising stars, including Campbell Addy, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Micaiah Carter, Awol Erizku, Nadine Ijewere, Quil Lemons, Namsa Leuba, Renell Medrano, Tyler Mitchell, Jamal Nxedlana, Daniel Obasi, Ruth Ossai, Adrienne Raquel, Dana Scruggs, and Stephen Tayo, with added context gleaned through conversations with photographer-artists Shaniqwa Jarvis, Mickalene Thomas, and Deborah Willis.

Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful

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The aforementioned Deborah Willis also had a hand in bringing black fashion photography pioneer Kwame Brathwaite to the forefront this year, as she, along with co-author, fashion historian and 2019 Root 100 honoree Tanisha C. Ford celebrated his groundbreaking work in Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful ($28.37). The Black Arts Movement photographer and Grandassa Models co-founder’s iconic 1960s-70s imagery not only empowered a movement, but continues to inspire, both in a currently traveling exhibition and via fans like Rihanna, who crafted one of her inaugural Fenty Maison campaigns in homage to Brathwaite’s vision.

The Rihanna Book

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Speaking of Rihanna, the megastar issued her own book this year, aptly titled The Rihanna Book. “It’s a piece of art that I am really proud of...” she has said of the achievement, which is saying a lot when you consider the many successful ventures the multihyphenate musician juggles. Available in an over 500-page hardcover (now on sale for $100.99) and an even more epic edition featuring a stand inspired by Rih’s own tattooed hands (currently $164.35), this is the bible the “Navy” has been waiting for.


Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem

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Black art has existed as long as black people, and the Studio Museum of Harlem is one of its biggest champions and guardians. Now, you can bring the experience of the famed New York City museum home in Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem ($30.35). Artists featured include Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Nari Ward, Norman Lewis, Wangechi Mutu, and Lorna Simpson, all impactful and prolific artists whose work centers us, and has found a home in the Studio Museum’s collection, among others.


AphroChic Magazine

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AphroChic began as an interior design blog and became a book, brand, web series and now, a collectible quarterly magazine ($25.99 per issue) featuring the best influencers, interiors, ideas and inspiration from throughout the African diaspora. While the magazine may not be available in hardcover, with its high-quality pages and photography, its issues will occupy a well-earned place of honor on any table or bookshelf.

We’re now officially two weeks from Christmas, kids—with lots of ideas to go. Happy shopping!

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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