100 books like Art

By Clive Bell,

Here are 100 books that Art fans have personally recommended if you like Art. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Poetics

David Baboulene Author Of The Primary Colours of Story

From my list on how stories work and how to write your story.

Who am I?

I was lucky enough not only to get published in my thirties, I also got a film deal for those first two books. I was flown to Hollywood and it was all very grand. However, what they did to my stories in translating them into film scripts horrified me. And ruined them. And the films never got made. I started to look deeper into what ‘experts’ did, and it was awful. I became obsessed with how stories work, developed my own ‘knowledge gap’ theory, proved it through my Ph.D. research, and became a story consultant in the industry. Story theory has completely taken over my life and I love it!

David's book list on how stories work and how to write your story

David Baboulene Why did David love this book?

Aristotle was the world’s first story expert.

As a story consultant myself, it was incredible to have a man from 2,300 years ago talk to me about story theory! And more than that… everything he says is spot on. 

The real meaning of much of what Aristotle said has been debated for millennia. However, when I used his principles as story dynamics in real stories, they became very clear to me; so, in my own work, I have distilled Aristotle’s principles into a modern three-part interpretation, and I give examples of them working in classical and popular modern stories.

Aristotle’s principles are not only applicable today, but they are still better than almost any other new thinking of the last 100 years. Aristotle is amazing. I love him! 

By Aristotle, Joe Sachs (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most powerful, perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history

In his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examines the dramatic elements of plot, character, language and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Taking examples from the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the Poetics introduced into literary criticism such central concepts as mimesis ('imitation'), hamartia ('error') and katharsis ('purification'). Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals. The Poetics has…


Book cover of Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism

Noël Carroll Author Of Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction

From my list on philosophy that surveys the arts.

Who am I?

I am a professor of philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of art at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. When I was a practicing critic, notably of cinema, I backed into philosophy insofar as being a practitioner forced me to ask abstract questions about what I was doing. I have written over fifteen books as well as five documentaries. I am also a former Guggenheim fellow. 

Noël's book list on philosophy that surveys the arts

Noël Carroll Why did Noël love this book?

Originally published in 1958 as a textbook, when Aesthetics was updated, it was recognized as the “summa” of the aesthetic theory of art. This is the view that something is art just in case it is made with the intention to afford a certain magnitude of aesthetic experience. Because of his emphasis on aesthetic experience, Beardsley defended the notion of the autonomy of art – the idea that art is essentially independent of all other social practices. Using this lens, Beardsley explores an impressive range of topics including literature, fiction, pictorial representation, criticism, and interpretation.

By Monroe Beardsley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This second edition features a new 48-page Afterword--1980 updating Professor Beardsley's classic work.


Book cover of Languages of Art

Noël Carroll Author Of Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction

From my list on philosophy that surveys the arts.

Who am I?

I am a professor of philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of art at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. When I was a practicing critic, notably of cinema, I backed into philosophy insofar as being a practitioner forced me to ask abstract questions about what I was doing. I have written over fifteen books as well as five documentaries. I am also a former Guggenheim fellow. 

Noël's book list on philosophy that surveys the arts

Noël Carroll Why did Noël love this book?

Because of his prior reputation as a metaphysician and epistemologist, when Nelson Goodman turned his attention to the philosophy of art, he lent unprecedented prestige to aesthetics. In his book, Goodman treats art as a matter of symbol systems whose major structures include representation, exemplification, and expression. Given his emphasis on symbolism, Goodman regarded artistic projects, like picturing, as conventional and he maintained that our conviction of the realism of pictorial representations was merely an affair of our habituation to various styles. Languages of Art is a book noteworthy for its bold and bracing literary style.

By Nelson Goodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Like Dewey, he has revolted against the empiricist dogma and the Kantian dualisms which have compartmentalized philosophical thought. . . . Unlike Dewey, he has provided detailed incisive argumentation, and has shown just where the dogmas and dualisms break down." --Richard Rorty, The Yale Review


Book cover of After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History

Noël Carroll Author Of Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction

From my list on philosophy that surveys the arts.

Who am I?

I am a professor of philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of art at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. When I was a practicing critic, notably of cinema, I backed into philosophy insofar as being a practitioner forced me to ask abstract questions about what I was doing. I have written over fifteen books as well as five documentaries. I am also a former Guggenheim fellow. 

Noël's book list on philosophy that surveys the arts

Noël Carroll Why did Noël love this book?

This book is an amazing combination of the philosophy of art, the philosophy of art history, and art criticism. The late Arthur Danto was not only a distinguished philosopher but also an award-winning art critic. In this book, Danto tracks the decline and fall of Modernism (which he describes as “the end of art”) and the advent of our present artistic moment which can be critically characterized as an era of post-historical pluralism. Danto, following GFW Hegel, proposes a partial definition of the artwork as an embodied meaning – thereby addressing the challenge to say what art is -- as it was posed by Clive Bell.

By Arthur C Danto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked After the End of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally delivered as the prestigious Mellon Lectures on the Fine Arts in 1995, After the End of Art remains a classic of art criticism and philosophy, and continues to generate heated debate for contending that art ended in the 1960s. Arthur Danto, one of the best-known art critics of his time, presents radical insights into art's irrevocable deviation from its previous course and the decline of traditional aesthetics. He demonstrates the necessity for a new type of criticism in the face of contemporary art's wide-open possibilities. This Princeton Classics edition includes a new foreword by philosopher Lydia Goehr.


Book cover of The Cultural Politics of Analytic Philosophy: Britishness and the Spectre of Europe

Felipe G.A. Moreira Author Of The Politics of Metaphysics

From my list on the relation between politics and metaphysics.

Who am I?

I am a philosophy post-doc at Unesp and a poet who has always felt that politics is not the exclusive business of politicians; that violence is not the exclusive business of warfare or of “vulgar” people, say, drunkards in bars. Violence, I have felt while doing philosophy in the USA, Brazil, Germany, and France, is likewise expressed by well-educated and apparently “peaceful” philosophers who are engaged in implicit politics and practice “subtle” violence. To handle the relation between politics and metaphysics is to do justice to this feeling. The Politics of Metaphysics, I hope, does that. I believe that though more tacitly, the same is done by this list’s books. 

Felipe's book list on the relation between politics and metaphysics

Felipe G.A. Moreira Why did Felipe love this book?

I love this book because it problematizes a popular assumption among contemporary Anglo-American authors who like to call themselves “analytic philosophers” and who only care to acknowledge the existence of a few past philosophers, e.g., Russell and Ryle. The assumption is that philosophers, such as the latter two, tackled in an apolitical “noble” fashion metaphysical matters.

Akehurst, by his turn, indicates how the likes of Russell and Ryle aligned themselves with a right-wing British policy whose “vulgar” propaganda is echoed throughout works published by British philosophers in the first half of the 20th century.

Also, I appreciate Akehurst’s way of showing that while contributing to the creation of the so-called “analytic-continental gap,” this attitude helped to naturalize the attribution of the shortness of logos to German philosophers like Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. 

By Thomas L. Akehurst,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cultural Politics of Analytic Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

British Analytic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century examines three generations of analytic philosophers, who between them founded the modern discipline of analytic philosophy in Britain. The book explores how philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, A.J. Ayer, Gilbert Ryle and Isaiah Berlin believed in a link between German aggression in the twentieth century and the nineteenth-century philosophy of Hegel and Nietzsche. Thomas L. Akehurst thus identifies in this political critique of continental philosophy the origins of the hugely significant faultline between analytic and continental thought, an aspect of twentieth-century philosophy that is still poorly understood. The book also uncovers a tripartite…


Book cover of Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays

Andrew B. Newberg Author Of The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives

From my list on the science of spiritual experiences.

Who am I?

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the question, “What is the nature of reality, and how can we know it?”  To engage this question, I have explored neuroscience throughout my career, trying to understand how our brain perceives reality. During that time, I have also come to recognize the profound importance of religious, spiritual, and philosophical approaches to this question. I have been particularly fascinated by the intense spiritual experiences that people throughout time and all cultures have described. My work in this book and throughout my career has looked at this intersection of spirituality and the brain, a field, sometimes referred to as Neurotheology.

Andrew's book list on the science of spiritual experiences

Andrew B. Newberg Why did Andrew love this book?

Mysticism and Logic is a significant work written by British philosopher Bertrand Russell. It has always been a favorite of mine as it engages two seemingly contradictory aspects of human thought: mysticism and logic.

He delves into the nature of mystical experiences and attempts to analyze them with the principles of logical reasoning. By exploring these contrasting perspectives, Russell invites readers to question and critically examine different ways of understanding the world and reality. While acknowledging the profound influence of mystical experiences on human thought and culture, he subjects mystical beliefs and experiences to logical scrutiny.

By applying principles of rationality, he challenges the coherence and evidential basis of mystical claims. This critical evaluation encourages us to approach mystical experiences with a balanced and critical mindset that I feel is at the heart of neurotheology.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1918, this collection from famous philosopher Bertrand Russell contains previously published works slightly refined for their new printing. Among these essays are: . "Mysticism and Logic" . "The Place of Science in Liberal Education" . "On the Notion of Cause" . "The Ultimate Constituents of Matter" As an analytic philosopher, Russell's work focuses on the use of logic and science to explore philosophical ideas. And, conversely, he uses philosophy to study scientific systems and scientific inquiry. He opens the book with "Mysticism and Logic," a discussion of the two major impulses in human and philosophical thought. Here…


Book cover of Philosophy and Model Theory

Rocco Gangle Author Of Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy

From my list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined.

Who am I?

Philosophy’s core questions have always obsessed me: What is real? What makes life worth living? Can knowledge be made secure? In graduate school at the University of Virginia I was drawn to mathematically formalized approaches to such questions, especially those of C. S. Peirce and Alain Badiou. More recently, alongside colleagues at Endicott College’s Center for Diagrammatic and Computational Philosophy and GCAS College Dublin I have explored applications of diagrammatic logic, category theory, game theory, and homotopy type theory to such problems as abductive inference and artificial intelligence. Philosophers committed to the perennial questions have much to gain today from studying the new methods and results of contemporary mathematics.

Rocco's book list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined

Rocco Gangle Why did Rocco love this book?

Far too many math books are written in a style so terse and ungenerous that all but the most mathematically gifted readers hardly have a fair chance of understanding.

On the other hand, the discursive style of much philosophy of mathematics gains readability at the expense of formal rigor. Button and Walsh strike the perfect balance in this exceptionally rich introduction to model theory from a distinctively philosophical perspective.

There’s no getting around the fact that the mathematics of model theory is hard going. But this book works through all the relevant proofs in clear and detailed terms (no lazy “we leave this as an exercise for the reader”), and the authors are always careful to motivate each section with well-chosen philosophical concerns right up front.

An Everest, but worth it.

By Tim Button, Sean Walsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophy and Model Theory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Model theory is used in every theoretical branch of analytic philosophy: in philosophy of mathematics, in philosophy of science, in philosophy of language, in philosophical logic, and in metaphysics.
But these wide-ranging uses of model theory have created a highly fragmented literature. On the one hand, many philosophically significant results are found only in mathematics textbooks: these are aimed squarely at mathematicians; they typically presuppose that the reader has a serious background in mathematics; and little clue is given as to their philosophical significance. On the other hand, the philosophical applications of these results are scattered across disconnected pockets of…


Book cover of The View from Nowhere

David Edmonds Author Of Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

From my list on read before you turn 25.

Who am I?

David Edmonds is a philosopher, podcaster, and curry fanatic. A distinguished research fellow at Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, he is the author of many books including Wittgenstein’s Poker (with John Eidinow), The Murder of Professor Schlick, Would You Kill The Fat Man?, and Undercover Robot (with Bertie Fraser). If you eat at his local restaurant, The Curry Paradise, he recommends you order the Edmonds Biriani.

David's book list on read before you turn 25

David Edmonds Why did David love this book?

Perhaps my favourite philosophy book of all time. Humans have the unique ability to take a detached view of our lives and actions. Call this an objective perspective. Thomas Nagel argues that many of our philosophical problems – such as the attempt to understand free will, or consciousness – stem from a clash between the subjective and objective standpoints. For example, we believe (subjectively), that we are free, that we have free will, that we can raise our right arm, or choose whether or not to go to shopping. But from an objective perspective we might reflect that, like everything else in the universe, we are governed by causal laws. A beautiful writer, Nagel can make the most complex issues seem simple.  He will make you feel cleverer than you are! The View From Nowhere is my model for how philosophy books should be written.

By Thomas Nagel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Much philosophical debate has attempted to reconcile the human capacity to view the world both objectively and subjectively. Thomas Nagel's ambitious and lively book tackles this fundamental issue, arguing that our divided nature is the root of a whole range of philosophical problems, touching, as it does, every aspect of human life. He deals with its manifestations in such fields of philosophy as the mind-body problem, personal identity, knowledge and scepticism,
thought and reality, free will, and ethics.
From reviews of the hardback:

`Remarkable ... all of his discussions are clear and insightful, but some reach a level of originality…


Book cover of Art As Experience

Frank Jacobus Author Of Archi Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture

From my list on design sensing.

Who am I?

I'm a designer, a teacher, a father, a husband, and a friend. I love beautiful things and personally want to know why I find certain things more beautiful than others. I love learning about the world and finding connections between everyday experience and art. When I say “art” I really am blending art, design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, etc. I believe everything is connected in some way. If I were to pigeonhole myself in any way I would call myself a generalist design thinker. I draw, I write, I make little objects, I make big objects – I see very little difference in any of these things.

Frank's book list on design sensing

Frank Jacobus Why did Frank love this book?

This book is essential to anyone who wants to come into the meaning of art, design, and architecture.

Give it time and it will undoubtedly change your life. Dewey’s central argument is that experience itself is aesthetic, that we need to pay deep attention to the quality inherent in every experience.

By John Dewey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Art As Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on John Dewey's lectures on esthetics, delivered as the first William James Lecturer at Harvard in 1932, Art as Experience has grown to be considered internationally as the most distinguished work ever written by an American on the formal structure and characteristic effects of all the arts: architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and literature.


Book cover of Learning to Be a Sage: Selections from the Conversations of Master Chu, Arranged Topically

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Zhu Xi (also written Chu Hsi; 1130-1200 C.E.) was among the very greatest Confucians both as theorist and as teacher. I love how contemporary his concerns seem; when he worries about students who are "just hurrying through the texts, reading for their literal meaning and taking little pleasure in them," he might as well be talking about most of us today. In Gardner’s fluid translation, Zhu’s millennium-old ideas about how and why to learn—ultimately aimed at becoming a “sage”—turn out to be remarkably relevant. 

By Chu Hsi, Daniel K. Gardner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Learning to Be a Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Students and teachers of Chinese history and philosophy will not want to miss Daniel Gardner's accessible translation of the teachings of Chu Hsi (1130-1200)--a luminary of the Confucian tradition who dominated Chinese intellectual life for centuries. Homing in on a primary concern of our own time, Gardner focuses on Chu Hsi's passionate interest in education and its importance to individual development. For hundreds of years, every literate person in China was familiar with Chu Hsi's teachings. They informed the curricula of private academies and public schools and became the basis of the state's prestigious civil service examinations. Nor was Chu's…


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