Author Art historian Occult enthusiast Bibliophile Traveller
The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,686 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Marquis de Sade and the Avant-Garde

Nadia Choucha Why did I love this book?

I was engrossed while reading this meticulously researched book which explores the impact of the Marquis de Sade upon European art and culture.

In each chapter, the author examines a different aspect of the ‘Sadean imagination’ – a dark, cruel, and sexually explicit fantasy world – and analyses how Sade exerted such a powerful impact upon art, poetry, philosophy, politics, cinema, and theatre. The book explains why Sade functioned as a symbol of subversive inspiration to so many revolutionary thinkers and artists, with numerous examples of Sadean imagery.

The book is extensively illustrated with prints, drawings, paintings, and photographs and comes with a full scholarly apparatus of reference notes, bibliography, and index. This is an indispensable guide to anyone wishing to understand the nature of Sade’s cultural significance and influence.

By Alyce Mahon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Marquis de Sade and the Avant-Garde as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How the notorious author of The 120 Days of Sodom inspired the surrealists and other avant-garde artists, writers, and filmmakers

The writings of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) present a libertine philosophy of sexual excess and human suffering that refuses to make any concession to law, religion, or public decency. In this groundbreaking cultural history, Alyce Mahon traces how artists of the twentieth century turned to Sade to explore political, sexual, and psychological terror, adapting his imagery of the excessively sexual and terrorized body as a means of liberation from systems of power.

Mahon shows how avant-garde artists, writers, dramatists,…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of The Fern Loved Gully

Nadia Choucha Why did I love this book?

This is a definitive study of the work of Ithell Colquhoun, a long-neglected Surrealist artist and writer, which really does justice to its subject.

The author does a masterful job weaving together biography and art history with explanations of the esoteric context and obscure occult philosophies and practices that permeate and inform this singular artist’s work.

I found the book accessible and enjoyable while at the same time erudite and detailed as it is based upon research into primary sources and archives. It provides a captivating insight into a uniquely creative imagination and legacy. The book is beautifully designed with a wonderful selection of paintings, drawings, and diagrams to illustrate the work of this intriguing and idiosyncratic artist-magician. 

By Amy Hale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ithell Colquhoun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first in-depth biographical study of the British surrealist and occultist Ithell Colquhoun,

This book offers the first in-depth biographical study of the British surrealist and occultist Ithell Colquhoun, situating her art within the magical contexts that shaped her imaginative life and work. After decades of neglect, Colquhoun's unique vision and hermetic life have become an object of great renewed interest, both for artists and for historians of magic.

Although her paintings are represented in such major collections as Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery, Colquhoun's rejection of both avant-garde and occult orthodoxies resulted in a life of relative…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity

Nadia Choucha Why did I love this book?

This is a wonderful, comprehensive, and lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogue which surveys how magic as a metaphor and creative paradigm was used to liberate the imagination in the Surrealist movement.

The essays covering a number of different themes and topics are written by leading scholars and academics of Surrealism and serve to illuminate the processes and ideas underlying magic and how these manifest in the art of some of the most important artists of this international art movement.

Supported by numerous appendices with glossary, notes, bibliography, and lists of works, this book will appeal to the scholar as well as the general reader. 

By The Museum Barberini (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Surrealism and Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Like no other 20th-century movement, Surrealism was keenly inspired by tropes of magic, myth and the occult. In their engagement with the irrational and the unconscious, numerous of its members looked to magic as a poetic and deeply philosophical discourse, related to both arcane knowledge and individual self-empowerment. In their works, they heavily drew on esoteric symbols and cultivated the image of the artist as a magician, visionary, and alchemist. This catalog explores the myriad ways, in which magic and the occult informed the development of the Surrealist movement in international perspective, from the "metaphysical paintings" of Giorgio de Chirico…


Plus, check out my book…

Surrealism and the Occult: Shamanism, Magic, Alchemy, and the Birth of an Artistic Movement

By Nadia Choucha,

Book cover of Surrealism and the Occult: Shamanism, Magic, Alchemy, and the Birth of an Artistic Movement

What is my book about?

Surrealism and the Occult is an accessible survey of the occult, magical, and esoteric ideas that influenced artists and writers of the surrealist movement, which began in Paris between the two world wars. The book takes the reader on a journey revealing how and why the occult, an obscure and heretical undercurrent of European culture, became such a strong source of inspiration in the art and poetry of important figures such as Salvador Dalí, André Breton, Max Ernst, and Leonora Carrington, to reveal how these ideas created some of the most intriguing and revolutionary works of art of the twentieth century.