The best books about how art is more than art

Why am I passionate about this?

Creative expression has been one of my most cherished values since childhood. I've always had a creative hobby of some kind since I was a kid. Not sure how that happened – my parents were tolerant of my interests at best. I made my day job career in the arts, fostering the creativity of community members and supporting the work of artists. Art (in the general sense of all forms of creative expression) is, to me, a defining characteristic of humanity, it makes life worth living, and the way it’s devalued under Capitalism both saddens and inspires me as a creator myself. I’m a writer of speculative fiction and I write about creative people.

I wrote...

The Circus Infinite

By Khan Wong,

Book cover of The Circus Infinite

What is my book about?

Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon where everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort casino where he lands a circus job, and when the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him or face vivisection.

With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Sol Majestic

Khan Wong Why did I love this book?

One of the main characters in this book, the love interest actually, is on a quest to make the perfect chicken broth. Not art, exactly, but an act of creation. The multiple iterations and the constant tweaking of the recipe comprise a deep dive into an artist’s process as they strive to make the most perfect version of the thing in their head. That thing could be a painting, or a novel, or in this case, broth. This isn’t the main storyline, but it’s a significant side story and an indication of the author’s off-kilter take on space opera. All set in an imaginative world and the creative crucible of a high-end restaurant. Bonus points for the found family and community elements.

By Ferrett Steinmetz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sol Majestic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sol Majestic is a big-hearted and delightful intergalactic hopepunk adventure for fans of Becky Chambers and The Good Place

"A feast of a book.”—Hugo Award-winning author Seanan McGuire

Kenna, an aspirational teen guru, wanders destitute across the stars as he tries to achieve his parents' ambition to advise the celestial elite.

Everything changes when Kenna wins a free dinner at The Sol Majestic, the galaxy's most renowned restaurant, giving him access to the cosmos's one-percent. His dream is jeopardized, however, when he learns his highly-publicized "free meal" risks putting The Sol Majestic into financial ruin. Kenna and a motley…

Book cover of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Khan Wong Why did I love this book?

The tension between art and entertainment, the way creative collaboration brings people together, and the impact of commercial success on creative partners are all themes the narrative dives into. Beyond that, it explores the impact of the ambition and drive of creatives, and of the inevitable ups and downs of the creative process, on their lives and relationships. These are all themes I love reading about and grapple with myself. Bonus points for centering a platonic relationship between a man and woman.

By Gabrielle Zevin,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* AMAZON'S #1 BOOK OF 2022 *

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest, examining identity, creativity and our need to connect.

This is not a romance, but it is about love.

'I just love this book and I hope you love it too' JOHN GREEN, TikTok

Sam and Sadie meet in a hospital in 1987. Sadie is visiting her sister, Sam is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there, but playing together brings joy, escape, fierce competition -- and a special friendship. Then all too soon that time is…

Book cover of The Thirty Names of Night

Khan Wong Why did I love this book?

The main character is a painter experiencing a creative block after the death of his mother in a suspicious fire. The book is mainly about heritage, legacy, family relationships, and the hidden histories of trans and queer people in the Syrian American community – the protagonist is a trans man of Syrian heritage. More than that, it explores how making art can help a person process these different aspects of existence, and connect people through generations. These themes resonate across culture and identity. Bonus points for absolutely gorgeous prose, and the magic of birds.

By Zeyn Joukhadar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Thirty Names of Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction
Winner of the ALA Stonewall Book Award—Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Named Best Book of the Year by Bustle
Named Most Anticipated Book of the Year by The Millions, Electric Literature, and HuffPost

​​From the award-winning author of The Map of Salt and Stars, a new novel about three generations of Syrian Americans haunted by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts—a “vivid exploration of loss, art, queer and trans communities, and the persistence of history. Often tender, always engrossing, The Thirty Names of Night…

Book cover of Station Eleven

Khan Wong Why did I love this book?

The throughline that art is as important to civilization as the more obvious elements required for survival is also one of my thematic obsessions as a writer. Art in all its forms, from comics to theater – and all the steps involved in bringing it to life from the initial idea through the creation process, to performing, to experiencing it, is central to the story. In particular, I appreciate the thesis of how even after a collapse of society, art can help people understand themselves and others and forge connections among disparate individuals. Bonus points for showing how a personal, just-for-self-expression project can have an impact beyond what the creator imagined for it.

By Emily St. John Mandel,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked Station Eleven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Best novel. The big one . . . stands above all the others' - George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones

Now an HBO Max original TV series

The New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award
Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
National Book Awards Finalist
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in…

Book cover of Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

Khan Wong Why did I love this book?

This memoir by the artist David Wojnarowicz deeply impacted me when I was a young queer man just setting off to make his way in the world in the early ‘90s. It’s a look at America during the AIDS crisis, and also delves into the author’s rage and lust and creativity and hope for a better world. The prose is electric, confrontational, and not at all concerned with decorum or coddling delicate sensibilities. It’s a raw and honest deep dive into the heart and soul of an artist living life on the edge of a society actively antagonistic to his existence and is a testament to art as a mechanism of survival. I can only hope to write something this invigorating one day. Bonus points for existing.

By David Wojnarowicz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Close to the Knives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I am glad I am alive to witness these things; giving words to this life of sensations is a relief. Smell the flowers while you can.

Close to the Knives is the artist, writer and activist David Wojnarowicz's extraordinary memoir. Filthy, beautiful, and sharp to the point of piercing, it is both an exploration of the world seen through the eyes of an artist, and a moving portrait of a generation living, grieving, and dying through the AIDS crisis. It is a triumphant hymn of resistance, and a dizzying celebration of the joys of seeing and living in the world.

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Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

Book cover of Returning to Eden

Rebecca Hartt Author Of Rising From Ashes

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Idealistic Storyteller Teacher Mother Seeker

Rebecca's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Looking for clean romantic suspense with spiritual undertones?

Look no further than the Acts of Valor series by Rebecca Hartt. With thousands of reviews and 4.7-5.0 stars per book, this 6-book series is a must-read for readers searching for memorable, well-told stories by an award-winning author.

A dead man stands on her doorstep.

When the Navy wrote off her MIA husband as dead, Eden came to terms with being a widow. But now, her Navy SEAL husband is staring her in the face. Eden knows she should be over-the-moon, but she isn’t.

Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has no recollection of their fractured marriage, no memory of Eden nor her fourteen-year-old daughter. Still, he feels a connection to both.

Unfit for active duty and assigned to therapy, Jonah knows he has work to do and relies on God, who sustained him during captivity, to heal his mind, body, and hopefully his family.

But as the memories lurking in his wife's haunted eyes and behind his daughter's uncertain smile begin to return to him, Jonah makes another discovery. There is treachery in the highest ranks of his Team, treachery that not only threatens him but places his new-found family in its crosshairs.

Returning to Eden

By Rebecca Hartt,

What is this book about?

Presumed Dead, Navy SEAL Returns Without Memory of His Ordeal in the Christian Romantic Suspense, Returning to Eden, by Rebecca Hartt

-- Present Day, Virginia Beach, Virginia --

A dead man stands at Eden Mills' door.

Declared MIA a year prior, the Navy wrote him off as dead. Now, Eden's husband, Navy SEAL Jonah Mills has returned after three years to disrupt her tranquility. Diagnosed with PTSD and amnesia, he has no recollection of their marriage or their fourteen-year-old step-daughter. Still, Eden accepts her obligation to nurse Jonah back to health while secretly longing to regain her freedom, despite the…

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