Kate Ward
December 07, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

2007’s best coffee-table photo books

Schapiro’s Heroes(powerhouse)
Former LIFE photographer Steve Schapiro compiles a visual ode to some of the most monumental figures of the 1960s. Photos of Barbra Streisand and a young Muhammad Ali are gorgeous, as you might expect, but what really gets the heart pumping are stirring pics of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as one of the civil rights leader’s motel room taken just hours after his death.

Vanishing World(Abrams)
The media may have eaten up Sebastian Copeland’s Antarctica: The Global Warning (thanks, no doubt, to Leonardo DiCaprio’s preface and pics that feature Copeland’s famous cousin, Orlando Bloom). But Mireille de la Lez’s pictures better reveal the harrowing dangers of our changing climate with her dauntingly beautiful shots of thawing ice caps in the Arctic region.

American Fashion(Assouline)
This must-have for nostalgic fashionistas takes a decade-by-decade look at the last 80 years of American clothing. It highlights the designers who created iconic looks (Howard Greer, Betsey Johnson), the stars who wore them (Marlene Dietrich, Sarah Jessica Parker) — and the many photographers who captured the scene in eye-popping magazine images.

Inspired by Muhammad Ali’s 1964 victory against Sonny Liston, Ken Regan spent much of his career capturing pugilistic moments both intimate (George Foreman reading from his Bible) and impelling (Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield’s earsplitting 1997 bout). Regan, father of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY picture editor Suzanne Regan, even snagged a foreword from Ali himself.

Broken Line(Hatje Cantz)
German photographer and Greenland enthusiast Olaf Otto Becker wields his camera to capture stark, dichotomous images of icebergs planted just feet away from dry land and human habitation. By depicting such aberrations in the region’s terrain, Becker illustrates some of the many changes that have taken place in recent years in Greenland’s steadily warming ecosystem. With his well-trained eye, Becker manages to expose nature as a true work of art.

Planet Ocean(National Geographic)
Did you know that red coral was an integral part of Greek mythology? That’s one nugget from this book, which combines essays on topics like sea turtles with a decade’s worth of compelling underwater scenes.

Aquatique(Insight Editions)
At first glance, the density of Brian Oglesbee’s undersea portraits may be easy to overlook. But study them more closely. Bubble patterns mirror human images. Plant life mimics cascading snowflakes. Currents reflect stunning visages of his nymphlike models. Once you give his photos that second glimpse, it’s hard to turn away.

Vanishing Point(Norton)
In the mid- to late 20th century, photographer David Plowden traveled North America, documenting rural and industrial change in his trademark black-and-white style. This volume compiles some of his best work over half a century, with images of trains, steamboats, and steel mills, as well as his infrequent portraits.

Magnum Magnum(Thames & Hudson)
Magnum Photos, the famed photographers’ cooperative, offers a weighty tribute to many of its most famous artists. Some of the 413 images tug at the heartstrings (see Philip Jones Griffiths’ anguished shots from the Vietnam War or W. Eugene Smith’s photo of a U.S. Marine clutching a dying baby on the island of Saipan during World War II). But check out former Magnum president Cornell Capa’s photo of an unguarded Marilyn Monroe with Clark Gable on the set of 1961’s The Misfits, and you’ll understand why Magnum became a haven for photography’s most talented.

Andrew Zuckerman’s family-friendly images depict creatures that elicit both awwws (baby leopards!) and ewwws (millipedes!). They are so strikingly detailed — the color and texture of the animals’ fur and skin pop against the white backdrops — that expeditions to the local zoo may now seem unnecessary.

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