While history is full of vitally important events and stories, sometimes it is hard to visualize the past. Bringing fleeting chapters of history back to life, these coffee table books with stunning historical photographs offer a clear and untarnished view into earlier eras. Featuring unique and beautifully displayed images, the books below span a range of topics, decades, and continents.
Related: 32 Colorized Black and White Photos That Will Change How You Look at History
History as They Saw It
With black and white images revitalized in full color, this collection contains 120 distinctive and intriguing photographs, bringing readers face-to-face with both remarkable and everyday moments from history. History as They Saw It includes scenes from the 19th and 20th centuries, including landmark events like the sinking of the Titanic.
America the Beautiful: A Story in Photographs
Known for their striking photography, National Geographic captures a sweeping viewing of America in their compelling new coffee table book. Collecting images across more than 130 years of history, America the Beautiful is filled with snapshots of the country's people and places. From quintessential landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, to vibrant landscapes like the Great Appalachian Valley, America the Beautiful has scenes as varied as they are awe-inspiring.
Apollo: VII – XVII
More than 50 years after its first launch, Apollo: VII – XVII shares brilliant photographs from America’s most famous space missions. Drawn from NASA’s archives, this collection of photographs captures the momentous feats of science and technology that came to define the Space Age. The photos taken by Apollo astronauts feature fascinating moonscapes, pictures of Earth as seen from space, and snapshots of each other at work.
The Colour of Time: A New History of the World, 1850-1960
With more than a century of history in its pages, The Colour of Time displays 200 photographs from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s restored to full color. Captioned by historian Dan Jones and recolored by Marina Amaral, the striking images show prominent figures, ordinary scenes, and singular moments dating back more than 170 years and spanning the globe.
Storm of Eagles
As important as any battlefield, the fight for the skies was crucial to success in World War II. With a focus on the pilots and planes of the second World War, Storm of Eagles pulls together iconic and never-before-seen aviation photographs of both Allied and Axis forces. Alongside beautifully restored images, informative captions provide background on the aircrafts and crews pictured.
Related: This Forgotten Bomber Wreaked Havoc on the Nazis in World War II
Vietnam: The Real War
Awarded six Pulitzer Prizes for its reporting of the Vietnam War, the Associated Press allowed the American public a window into the events and devastation unfolding halfway around the world. Combing back through their records, AP has created a photographic history that showcases the war’s most searing images. Offering an unflinching look at the conflict, Vietnam: The Real War comes with an introduction written by journalist Pete Hamill, who reported from Vietnam at the time.
Revisiting the troves of photographs that went unpublished by the New York Times, Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns reveal unique and previously unseen moments of Black history. Growing out of a 2016 project, Unseen includes photos of remarkable figures like Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin, and Arthur Ashe. The riveting book not only provides context for each photograph, but also explores why so many valuable images failed to be published.
The Story of Baseball
Known as America’s pastime, baseball has long held a special place within American culture. Reminiscing on its most impactful moments, Sports Illustrated's The Story of Baseball contains 100 photographs from ballparks that move and inspire. From Jackie Robinson’s historic entry into the league, to Lou Gehrig’s Luckiest Man speech, the photographs and their accompanying anecdotes go beyond merely documenting the sport.
History of the World Map by Map
Differing from the other books on this list, History of the World Map by Map chronicles history through the lens of maps. Tracing Medieval trade routes, mapping Mongol conquests, and detailing the spread of the Scientific Revolution, History of the World Map by Map provides a fresh glimpse into the most important eras, events, and developments to have shaped societies. Informative passages, pictures, and timelines give context to 140 crisply colored maps that chart the evolution of civilizations and nations through entire ages of human history.
Featured photo: Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" series via Wikimedia Commons