There are few things I enjoy more than curling up in a soft throw with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Yet somehow life always seems to get in the way. Despite my lack of time to snuggle up with new titles, my love for reading and admiration for beautiful books continues to grow.

I find that it is easier for me to flip through coffee table books and short reads that encompass my interests than the daunting task of starting a new novel. There are gorgeous books that are made to browse and discover again and again whenever your schedule allows. I use these guides to brush up on my entertaining skills, which have gotten rusty these last few months, and to push my creativity. Traditionally these books are found in your living room; however, I find the typical to be too predictable.

I will be going in a different direction and instead focus on books for your dining room, kitchen and even your bar area — why should coffee tables have all the fun?

Stay entertained

While it is true that this first book is versatile enough it can be displayed in any space, I think it best fits a nice dining room vignette or a formal sitting room. “The Art of Entertaining: Relais & Chateaux” by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins shares intriguing menus and bright ideas from the most exciting hotels, inns, chefs and restauranteurs in North America, from Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm to Meadowood in Napa Valley. Being stuck at home, it is a treat to be able to explore these locations.

It is the perfect inspiration for all hosts and hostesses looking for fresh ideas. It covers everything from menus and flowers to table settings while you get lost among the beautiful photography from Melanie Acevedo and David Engelhardt. With Halloween around the corner, it is the perfect time to peruse this gem and find out all about the wonderfully magical Halloween Costume Soiree at The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia. This book has encouraged me to try and elevate my typical spook fanfare this year.

With party hosting not looking likely in the near future, I have also been experimenting with grazing boards (think charcuterie with even fewer rules). Boards are fun to create and stunning to look at. They are also the perfect casual family dining experience. It can be a bit intimidating to start creating your own grazing board, as there are a lot of ingredients competing and many places to start when it comes to organization. Enter “Beautiful Boards” by Meagan Brown.

This visually compelling kitchen book has 50 boards to get you started on your journey to grazing glory. Her shopping lists and setup instructions make it easy to substitute your own preferred snacks into your creations. It was helpful in reminding me that just because you can’t have guests over to enjoy your divine and delicious arrangements, it still feels good to make something that is beautiful, even if it’s only your family appreciating it for a few minutes before you dig in. Plus, it is a great excuse to bring more boards and charcuterie accessories into my home.

At the bar (cart)

“Drinking with Saint Nick: Christmas Cocktails for Sinners and Saints” by Michael P. Foley is a must-have on my bar during the holiday seasons. Eye-catching and wholly tongue-in-cheek, this book is a fun one to read and for guests to browse through while you make their cocktail of choice (once guests are allowed back over). Between the drink recipes for every day in December, and both cocktail and wine/beer selections for every verse in “Twelve Days of Christmas” — I’m partial to the Chocolate Turtle Dove Martini — and the witty “Last Call” toasts that accompany each beverage, you will have no problem keeping your family and friends entertained and merry throughout the holiday season.

If a more classic approach to a bar display is your desire, I love the simple and beautiful style of “The Craft Cocktail Party” by Julie Reiner. This book is specifically tailored for home bartenders, perfect for those of us that love the fanfare of libation creation and gorgeous glassware as much as we love the cocktails. Along with recipes you will find a great guide to glassware and bar tools to help even the most novice bartenders get acquainted with proper technique.

Not only is “The Craft Cocktail Party” full of refreshing and yummy drinks for every occasion, from a summertime garden party — like The Maria Sin Sangre made with fresh garden tomatoes and basil — to holiday gatherings — The Ruby Punch serves 10 and is a great way to use the port wine you no doubt have received as a gift during the year — but the photography is absolutely stunning as well. I like to leave the book propped open to the cocktail of the night to add a bit of fun to my bar scape.

There are so many more favorites I want to share with you (perhaps a part two?), from books I know my husband and father will love — I’m getting some of that Christmas shopping done early — to the design books that inspire me when decorating my own home. For now, I’ll just leave you with a quote from one of my (and Graham’s) favorite authors, Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

Adapted from Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design destination Nell Hill’s. For more information, contact Katie at [email protected]

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