100 books like Art Is Everything

By Yxta Maya Murray,

Here are 100 books that Art Is Everything fans have personally recommended if you like Art Is Everything. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Jennifer Savran Kelly Author Of Endpapers

From my list on queer people on the edge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s resilience—how we hold onto life and find meaning in it when everything seems to be falling apart. As a queer and genderqueer author, I especially love to see stories about queer characters in all of their human messiness, characters who aren’t forced to be models of perfection in order to earn readers’ empathy, stories that show us queer people don’t deserve dignity because we’re perfect; we deserve it because we’re human. These five novels have affected me deeply because they don’t shy away from the complexities of grief, love, parenting, trauma, sex, social justice, gender identity, and more. 

Jennifer's book list on queer people on the edge

Jennifer Savran Kelly Why did Jennifer love this book?

Lawlor’s novel gave me the best gift a book can offer: it changed my mind halfway through.

I had been so intrigued by the premise of a shapeshifting character who can change their gender at will, that I forced myself to read on even though I wasn’t enjoying the emphasis on sex, especially as conquest, and I was sorely disappointed the story didn’t seem to go deeper.

But as I continued, I was happy to be proven wrong. By the end of the novel, I was checking my own biases and prejudices and empathizing deeply with Paul and his/her/their struggles. Reading this novel was an emotional experience unlike any I’ve had with a book.

By Andrea Lawlor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is quite simply one of the most exciting - and one of the most fun - novels of the decade.' Garth Greenwell

It's 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a lesbian best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul's also got a secret: he's a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women's Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in…


Book cover of Edinburgh

Alina Grabowski Author Of Women and Children First

From my list on exploring how place shapes community.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer who grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Austin, Texas. Though I haven’t lived in Massachusetts for over a decade now, I find myself drawn back to the state’s coast in my fiction. My novel, Women and Children First, takes place in a fictional town south of Boston called Nashquitten. I’m obsessed with how where we’re from shapes who we become and the ways we use narrative to try and exert control over our lives. 

Alina's book list on exploring how place shapes community

Alina Grabowski Why did Alina love this book?

This is a book about many things—guilt, artmaking, and love among them—but when I think of it, I think of a novel that depicts the complexities of making and sustaining a life more deftly than anything else I’ve read. How things like cruelty and beauty, innocence and evil, truth and lies all coexist. How we move forward despite this uneasy balance.

The novel follows Fee, a boy who grows up in Maine and sings in an all-boys choir. The choir director turns out to be an abuser, and his actions haunt Fee and the other boys in the choir into adulthood.

On a prose level alone, Chee’s writing is unparalleled, his sentences sharp enough to cut glass. I don’t see how anyone could read this book and come away unchanged. 

By Alexander Chee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A poignant work of mature, haunting artistry, Edinburgh heralds the arrival of a remarkable young writer. Fee, a Korean-American child growing up in Maine, is gifted with a beautiful soprano voice and sings in a professional boys' choir. When the choir director acts out his paedophilic urges on the boys in the choir, Fee is unable to save himself, his first love, Peter, or his friends.


Book cover of Crush

Jen Silverman Author Of We Play Ourselves

From my list on to take with you when you’ve blown up your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a playwright and novelist born in the US and raised in a grab-bag of other countries. I grew up moving between cities and languages, and now, as an adult, I move between different modes of artistic practice. My first book, The Island Dwellers, is an interlinked story collection set partially in the US and partially in Japan and my second book begins with someone fleeing NY for LA; perhaps one of the impulses I understand most is to abandon ship and start over. I’m compelled by stories in which people seek to transform themselves or to refashion their lives. I think it takes a great daring (and a great desperation) to do either. 

Jen's book list on to take with you when you’ve blown up your life

Jen Silverman Why did Jen love this book?

When I was 21, I moved back to Japan (where I’d lived as a kid), taking a job in the rural south. I didn’t bring a lot with me, but of the few English books that felt indispensable, Crush was one. For the next twelve months of that particular job, I read Crush again and again. Through poetry – the poems are written in a distinct and unified voice – the book took on the quality of a series of monologues, a one-sided conversation that I was overhearing. It was a conversation about queerness, about attempting to forge and re-forge the self, about tenderness, about violence. I was a young queer person far from home, living in a country where I was simultaneously much physically safer and yet much more visible than I had been in my country of birth. Crush offered me both a window into what I had…

By Richard Siken,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets competition: a powerful, confessional, erotic collection

Finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry

"Siken writes about love, desire, violence, and eroticism with a cinematic brilliance and urgency that makes this one of the best books of contemporary poetry."-Victoria Chang, Huffington Post

Richard Siken's Crush, selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession and love. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism.…


Book cover of Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir

Jen Silverman Author Of We Play Ourselves

From my list on to take with you when you’ve blown up your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a playwright and novelist born in the US and raised in a grab-bag of other countries. I grew up moving between cities and languages, and now, as an adult, I move between different modes of artistic practice. My first book, The Island Dwellers, is an interlinked story collection set partially in the US and partially in Japan and my second book begins with someone fleeing NY for LA; perhaps one of the impulses I understand most is to abandon ship and start over. I’m compelled by stories in which people seek to transform themselves or to refashion their lives. I think it takes a great daring (and a great desperation) to do either. 

Jen's book list on to take with you when you’ve blown up your life

Jen Silverman Why did Jen love this book?

This book is written as a series of letters that could be diary entries, they are so personal and sometimes cryptic. But inside this structure, I felt myself brought into communication: the book offers a series of Mes and Yous, and I became by necessity the you across from that me. The conversation is far-reaching, from art to trauma to love affairs gone bad to the need to live authentically inside a culture that does not have the right words for one’s existence – a culture whose vocabulary actively erases one’s identity. As a genderqueer person raised between multiple places and cultures, reading a book that actively addresses what it is to live around language – just outside the reaches of it – was a revelation to me. 

By Akwaeke Emezi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

FEATURED ON THE COVER OF TIME MAGAZINE AS A 2021 NEXT GENERATION LEADER

“A once-in-a-generation voice.” – Vulture

“One of our greatest living writers.” – Shondaland

A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times bestselling author, “a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self” (Esquire)

In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji…


Book cover of The Ecological Eye: Assembling an Ecocritical Art History

Leopoldine Prosperetti Author Of Woodland Imagery in Northern Art, c. 1500 - 1800: Poetry and Ecology

From my list on the woodlands before the Industrial Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not a naturalist but consider myself a practitioner of ”lyrical naturalism.” My interest is in the descriptions of nature by poets and artists in previous centuries. The dream is to inspire people to look at the natural environment through the lens of art and poetry rather than the somewhat dry frameworks of botany. My great hero is John Ruskin, a British writer whose lyrical prose has never stopped enchanting its readers. I was very happy to publish a book of essays titled Woodland Imagery in Northern Art, c. 1500-1800: Poetry and Ecology. I hope that its richly illustrated essays will inspire readers to look at the environment with renewed wonder. 

Leopoldine's book list on the woodlands before the Industrial Revolution

Leopoldine Prosperetti Why did Leopoldine love this book?

This book accuses art historians of being indifferent to environmental issues… It is a wake-up call for the profession. I certainly took heed and experimented in my essays in a variety of ways to reconnect. The artistic vision of nature to great works of art. 

In 2018 Andrew Patrizio published a book titled The Ecological Eye, which exposed the lack of environmental thinking in the practice of art historians. Here is what he wrote: “How can we awaken, define and orientate an ecological sensibility within the history of art?” Building on the latest work in the discipline, this book provides the blueprint for an 'ecocritical art history,' one that is prepared to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene, climate change, and global warming. Without ignoring its own histories, the book looks beyond – at politics, posthumanism, new materialism, feminism, queer theory, and critical animal studies – invigorating the art-historical practices…

By Andrew Patrizio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the popular imagination, art history remains steeped in outmoded notions of tradition, material value and elitism. How can we awaken, define and orientate an ecological sensibility within the history of art? Building on the latest work in the discipline, this book provides the blueprint for an 'ecocritical art history', one that is prepared to meet the challenges of the Anthropocene, climate change and global warming. Without ignoring its own histories, the book looks beyond - at politics, posthumanism, new materialism, feminism, queer theory and critical animal studies - invigorating the art-historical practices of the future.


Book cover of Seven Days in the Art World

Gareth Southwell Author Of Pale Kings

From my list on understanding the crazy world of contemporary art.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the moment I could pick up a pencil, I’ve loved to draw. Since then, my art career has developed alongside my writing, and I’m now a professional illustrator. Despite this background, I still feel alienated from the “art world”. Contemporary art seems like a scam. Its pieces leave me cold, there’s rarely any skill to be appreciated, and their “meaning” is often obscure or trivial – at the end of the day, a pickled sheep is a pickled sheep, right? Pale Kings is a satire of all this, where a group of chancers set out to scam the scammers at their own game. But would anyone really buy a hole?

Gareth's book list on understanding the crazy world of contemporary art

Gareth Southwell Why did Gareth love this book?

Where Thompson concentrates on the economic aspects of the art market, Thornton takes a sociological perspective.

She is like an anthropologist exploring a strange culture, and in the best participative tradition, takes pains to understand it non-judgementally, on its own terms.

The seven days refer to seven distinct events that make up the ecosystem of the contemporary art world: the auction house where pieces are sold, the university where artists learn their craft, the fair where collectors find new talent, the prize that spotlights tomorrow’s stars, the magazine that critiques and identifies the latest trends, the studio where the artist works, and the exhibition where the triumphant art is displayed and celebrated.

If Thompson’s book is about the finance of art, this is about people.

By Sarah Thornton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seven Days in the Art World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sarah Thornton's vivid ethnography-an international hit, now available in twenty translations-reveals the inner workings of the sophisticated subcultures that make up the contemporary art world. In a series of day-in-the-life narratives set in New York, Los Angeles, London, Basel, Venice, and Tokyo, Seven Days in the Art World explores the dynamics of creativity, taste, status, money, and the search for meaning in life.


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Distant Early Warning: Marshall McLuhan and the Transformation of the Avant-Garde

William J. Buxton Author Of Harold Innis on Peter Pond: Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade

From my list on By or about the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (.

Why am I passionate about this?

William J. Buxton is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies and Senior Fellow, Centre for Sensory Studies, at Concordia University Montreal, Qc, Canada. He is also professeur associé au Département d’information et de communication de l’Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada. He has edited and co-edited five books related to the life and works of the Canadian political economist and media theorist, Harold Adams Innis.

William's book list on By or about the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (

William J. Buxton Why did William love this book?

This book explores McLuhan’s relationship with avant-garde art. While McLuhan’s engagement with artistic endeavours, has received some attention, Kitnick examines in detail not only how McLuhan’s work on art developed over an extended period, but how his views on artistic practice came to inform the work of others. He builds on McLuhan’s contention that art was not primarily a means of self-expression, but rather the basis for cultural exploration and environmental change. Drawing inspiration from figures such as James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis. McLuhan, according to Kitnick, saw members of the avant-garde as artists who work within conventional structures in order to disrupt them, thereby throwing them into relief. 

By Alex Kitnick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) is best known as a media theorist-many consider him the founder of media studies-but he was also an important theorist of art. Though a near-household name for decades due to magazine interviews and TV specials, McLuhan remains an underappreciated yet fascinating figure in art history. His connections with the art of his own time were largely unexplored, until now. In Distant Early Warning, art historian Alex Kitnick delves into these rich connections and argues both that McLuhan was influenced by art and artists and, more surprisingly, that McLuhan's work directly influenced the art and artists of his…


Book cover of I Love Dick

Laura Catherine Brown Author Of Made by Mary

From my list on smart, sarcastic, funny-sad-angry women.

Why am I passionate about this?

My favorite books are funny/sad. In my own writing, I aspire for balance between satire and sympathy, going to dark places and shining a light of hilarity on them. I’m compelled by the psychological complexities of desire, particularly in female characters—flawed, average women, struggling for empowerment. For me, desire is inextricably bound with loss. I’m inspired by loss both superficial and profound, from misplaced keys to dying fathers. Many voices clamor in my head, vying for my attention. I’m interested in ambitious misfits, enraged neurotics, pagans, shamans, healers, dealers, grifters, and spiritual seekers who are forced to adapt, construct, reinvent and contort themselves as reality shifts around them.

Laura's book list on smart, sarcastic, funny-sad-angry women

Laura Catherine Brown Why did Laura love this book?

I love I Love Dick! This is a hilarious, shocking, keenly intelligent interrogative adventure into the art world and ideas about stalking a muse and being female. The book was published in 1997 but I didn’t discover it until a decade later, so I was late to the game. In her forward, Eileen Myles describes Chris Kraus as “marching boldly into self-abasement and self-advertisement,” which is a perfect way of putting it. Shredding the veil between reality and fiction, in her relentless pursuit of Dick (a real person), Chris Kraus embraces the world, no holds barred. If you’re curious about being female, being an artist, being a failure (whatever that means), chasing your desires, and fighting your way out of limitations both within and without, this riveting, lacerating, revealing, surprising book is for you.

By Chris Kraus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Love Dick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.

Blurring the lines of fiction, essay and memoir, Chris Kraus's novel was a literary sensation when it was first published in 1997. Widely considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades, I Love Dick is…


Book cover of Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

Mariah Fox Author Of SAMO©...SINCE 1978: SAMO©...Writings: 1978-2018

From my list on celebrated and controversial artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Why am I passionate about this?

I ardently began research and writing on Jean-Michel Basquiat in grad school (2004), before his paintings demolished sales records and when he was still somewhat misunderstood and marginalized by perplexed art historians. Since then, his potency and intrigue have blazed a global pop culture inferno. I’ve conducted dozens of interviews, befriended those close to him, memorized his lines, colors, words, and spaces in books and real life, and re-read countless pages. Currently I’m writing and compiling a field guide to his work. All Basquiat publications are imperfect. I hope with sensitivity and intellectual intent, fans can move through their initial impressions to better understand his meaningful motives, inclinations, and artwork.

Mariah's book list on celebrated and controversial artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Mariah Fox Why did Mariah love this book?

I am conflicted recommending this book. I detest this bestselling biography’s gossipy tone concerning Jean-Michel Basquiat’s personal and professional drama.

Yet many of these disturbances are unpleasantly true, and Hoban extensively, tediously researched her book. When I forget key names, or need to reference milestones, I look in the glossary and chapters. Chronologically it is helpful, but loosely delivered.

A revised edition would make a lot of sense, with so much discovery since its publication. The expansiveness, thoroughness, and ambition keep this book useful to me. Readers should take this exhaustive bio with a grain of salt, because of its biased fixation on the negative curiosities of Basquiat’s legacy.

In addition, with so much new information being revealed, researchers must cross-reference all facts taken from this title.

By Phoebe Hoban,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The tragic story of the talented painter Jean-Michel Basquiat details his turbulent childhood, explosive dealings with the elite art world, relationships with such figures as Andy Warhol and Madonna, and rise to fame, which led to his death from a drug overdose at the age of twenty-seven. 12,000 first printing.


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