100 books like Basquiat

By Phoebe Hoban,

Here are 100 books that Basquiat fans have personally recommended if you like Basquiat. 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 Widow Basquiat: A Love Story

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?

This is one of my all-time favorite books.

Its prose channels the powerful yet painful relationship of Suzanne Mallouk and Jean-Michel Basquiat as seen through Suzanne’s wise sensitivity, artistic nature, and unconditionally honest heart. Clement is a rich, sentient, masterful poet, and close friend of Suzanne.

I love that the story reads with mysterious, potent fluidity and is peppered with odd, lesser-realized personality traits and historic Basquiat facts.

Widow Basquiat is the unfiltered story of lovers living amidst an 80s NYC cultural renaissance. Their small joys and quirky character traits feel heroically familiar while the poetic style traverses select, revealing content that strikes chords.

Having personally known Suzanne for many years as a scholar and friend, this book generously and deeply shares her authentic human experience.

By Jennifer Clement,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beautifully written, deeply affecting story of Jean-Michel Basquiat's partner, her past, and their life together

An NPR Best Book of the Year Selection

New York City in the 1980s was a mesmerizing, wild place. A hotbed for hip hop, underground culture, and unmatched creative energy, it spawned some of the most significant art of the 20th century. It was where Jean-Michel Basquiat became an avant-garde street artist and painter, swiftly achieving worldwide fame. During the years before his death at the age of 27, he shared his life with his lover and muse, Suzanne Mallouk.

A runaway from an…


Book cover of Jean-Michel Basquiat

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?

This book makes the top of my list simply for the very practical reason that it gathers the majority of available images spanning Basquiat’s entire body of work.

Its small size makes it accessible and affordable, however for that same reason, the images are not reproduced as largely as in other art books. At a chunky 512 pages, this stylish art book is the definitive volume for seeing high-quality reproductions of all of Basquiat’s documented work organized in one volume. It also includes some decent text content.

As a scholar or collector this is a very useful book but it’s also fun for anyone who wants to see comprehensive, or key, specific Basquiat works for an affordable price.

By Eleanor Nairne, Hans Werner Holzwarth (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The legend of Jean-Michel Basquiat is as strong as ever. Synonymous with New York in the 1980s, the artist first appeared in the late 1970s under the tag SAMO, spraying caustic comments and fragmented poems on the walls of the city. He appeared as part of a thriving underground scene of visual arts and graffiti, hip hop, post-punk, and DIY filmmaking, which met in a booming art world. As a painter with a strong personal voice, Basquiat soon broke into the established milieu, exhibiting in galleries around the world. Basquiat's expressive style was based on raw figures and integrated words…


Book cover of Jean-Michel Basquiat 1981: The Studio of the Street

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?

With a range of strong personal essays by some of Basquiat’s closest friends, family, and business colleagues, this elegantly designed art book is a good balance of early Basquiat art, documentary photography, and attractive film stills.

It is extra special because it centers on and helps explain the ways Basquiat and his artist peers were influenced by the streets and hyperactive socio-cultural experiences of the late 1970s and early 1980s in New York City. This includes the rich and fascinating music, art, club, and gallery scenes.

The book features wonderful reproductions of some of Basquiat’s most stunning early works (both written and figurative). I enjoy having this book on my shelf due to its high-quality presentation, uniqueness, and historic appeal.

By Jeffrey Deitch, Diego Cortez, Glenn O'Brien

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jean-Michel Basquiat 1981 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1981 Jean-Michel Basquiat made the momentous transition from the street to the studio. He had attracted considerable attention with his Times Square Show the summer before, and reinforced that nascent notoriety with a wall of phenomenal works in Diego Cortez's New York/New Wave at P.S. 1, which opened the following winter. A few months later, the dealer Annina Nosei offered Basquiat an independent space in which to prepare work for her September group show, Public Address. He was only 20. Between the world of spray-painted poetry and what critic Peter Schjeldahl called "New York big-painting aesthetics" lies a fantastic…


Book cover of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©

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?

No single book on my list is the perfect gateway to Basquiat, but taken as a group, you have a strong primer.

This recommendation includes abundant personal memories, photos, ephemera and artworks from the private collection of Jean-Michel Basquiat, his family, and close associates. After so many publications without input, Basquiat’s sisters finally come out here and share some personal experiences.

Research-wise this book is somewhat useless as his estate was not able to catalog much detailed substance. Yet the works within, which Basquiat withheld in his personal collection—are some of his most brilliant, especially the drawings, dated or not.

The book is also list-worthy because its accompanying KING PLEASURE © exhibit is recent, making this catalog one of the newer Basquiat collectibles available now.

By Lisane Basquiat (contributor), Jeanine Heriveaux (contributor), Nora Fitzpatrick (contributor) , Ileen Gallagher (contributor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Organised by the family of Basquiat, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue feature over 200 never before and rarely seen paintings, drawings, ephemera, and artifacts. The artist s contributions to the history of art and his exploration into our multi-faceted culture incorporating music, the Black experience, pop culture, African American sports figures, literature, and other sources are showcased alongside personal reminiscences and firsthand accounts providing unique insight into Basquiat s creative life and his singular voice that propelled the social and cultural narrative that continues to this day. Structured around key periods in his life, from his childhood and formative years,…


Book cover of This Little Artist: An Art History Primer

Lorie Ann Grover Author Of I Love All of Me (Wonderful Me)

From my list on children's board books to cut your teeth on.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the course of everyday life, when I’m writing books for middle grade and young adult readers, board books spring to my mind. Sometimes they come from catching a glimpse of a child hugging a parent, or they may spring from a phrase I overhear or say myself. That sounds like a board book, I think, and I write it down quickly. Sometimes, I’ll wake in the night, and a board book text will come to me in rhyme. Along with writing board books, I’ve been recommending quality works at the readertotz blog since 2009 in order to raise the profile of the format. Authors, illustrators, and publishers must create the very best quality, and then we must support, enjoy, and celebrate the works. A simple eight words may introduce a first reader to a love of books for life.

Lorie's book list on children's board books to cut your teeth on

Lorie Ann Grover Why did Lorie love this book?

Part of the This Little series, Joan Holub’s This Little Artist is an introduction to art history for our wee ones. Daniel Roode’s stylized figures with big round eyes illustrate greats such as Michelangelo, Mary Cassatt, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. A rhyme and portrait give an introduction on the left-hand page, and several facts follow to accompany the artist in their own setting on the right page. The book concludes with eighteen other artists and their techniques, as well as questioning what your reader might create. This is a little treasure of creativity and inspiration.  

By Joan Holub, Daniel Roode (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Little Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Learn all about artists who changed history in this engaging and colorful board book perfect for creators-in-training!

Painting, shaping, making art.
With creative joy, hands, and heart.

Little artists have great big imaginations.

In this follow up to This Little President, This Little Explorer, This Little Trailblazer, and This Little Scientist now even the youngest readers can learn all about great and empowering artists in history! Highlighting ten memorable artists who paved the way, parents and little ones alike will love this creativity primer full of fun, age-appropriate facts and bold illustrations.


Book cover of Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up

Michael Findlay Author Of Seeing Slowly: Looking at Modern Art

From my list on making modern art exciting.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent an exciting half-century in the New York art world as a dealer and an author and while my passion is to encourage people to enjoy art for art’s sake (rather than money or prestige) my many close friendships with artists demonstrate how much their life informs their art. The authors of these five books bring the art as well as the artists to life.

Michael's book list on making modern art exciting

Michael Findlay Why did Michael love this book?

Of the many biographies of Andy Warhol this early one remains the best, written by a man who worked and partied with the artist in the heyday of the artist’s glamorous world (and I make another brief cameo appearance). Everything about the enigmatic icon of contemporary art continues to inform our culture and I was deeply influenced not only by Warhol’s paintings but by my friendship with him from 1964 until his death in 1987. In books and movies he has been transformed into a cultural icon rather than the complicated amusing hard-working artist I knew. Bob Colacello wrote this book shortly after Warhol died and for me is the best portrait of the “real” Andy Warhol and the era he helped to define.

By Bob Colacello,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 1960s, Andy Warhol’s paintings redefined modern art. His films provoked heated controversy, and his Factory was a hangout for the avant-garde. In the 1970s, after Valerie Solanas’s attempt on his life, Warhol become more entrepreneurial, aligning himself with the rich and famous. Bob Colacello, the editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine, spent that decade by Andy’s side as employee, collaborator, wingman, and confidante.

In these pages, Colacello takes us there with Andy: into the Factory office, into Studio 54, into wild celebrity-studded parties, and into the early-morning phone calls where the mysterious artist was at his most honest and…


Book cover of POPism: The Warhol Sixties

Louis Menand Author Of The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

From my list on memoirs from a wide array of people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career as a graduate student studying the Victorian period, a great age for autobiography. And although autobiography is no longer taught much in English departments, I guess I retain my passion for the genre. The greatest, of course, is Rousseau’s Confessions.

Louis' book list on memoirs from a wide array of people

Louis Menand Why did Louis love this book?

OK, Warhol probably did not write a single word of this book, and OK, you should believe nothing in it (or that Warhol ever said). But Pat Hackett channels Warhol’s voice and attitude uncannily, and the stories, however dubious the provenance, are funny and insightful about the art world of the nineteen sixties.

By Pat Hackett, Andy Warhol,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anecdotal, funny, frank, POPism is Warhol's personal view of the Pop phenomenon in New York in the 1960s.

A cultural storm swept through the 1960s—Pop Art, Bob Dylan, psychedelia, underground movies—and at its center sat a bemused young artist with silver hair: Andy Warhol. Andy knew everybody (from the cultural commissioner of New York to drug-driven drag queens) and everybody knew Andy.

His studio, the Factory, was the place: where he created the large canvases of soup cans and Pop icons that defined Pop Art, where one could listen to the Velvet Underground and rub elbows with Edie Sedgwick and…


Book cover of Art Is Everything

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?

Art Is Everything is a book about obsession, about love, about artistry, about the limits of aesthetics within an industry in which the marketplace is an unspoken but all-powerful factor. When I began reading it, I was amazed and exhilarated by how clearly it is in conversation with the preoccupations of my own novel, although from a different standpoint. Also: this book is hilarious. The humor is sharp, wry, sometimes skewering, but never inhumane. I laughed so hard reading it – and this was in 2020, so I wasn’t doing much laughing otherwise. I would walk up and down the floors of my apartment and read entire sections out loud to my partner. I do believe in the bold declaration of its title, and by the time I finished reading, I felt sure the author did too. 

By Yxta Maya Murray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In her funny, idiosyncratic, and propulsive new novel, Art Is Everything, Yxta Maya Murray offers us a portrait of a Chicana artist as a woman on the margins. L.A. native Amanda Ruiz is a successful performance artist who is madly in love with her girlfriend, a wealthy and pragmatic actuary named Xochitl. Everything seems under control: Amanda's grumpy father is living peacefully in Koreatown; Amanda is about to enjoy a residency at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and, once she gets her NEA, she's going to film a groundbreaking auto-critical documentary in Mexico.

But then everything starts to fall…


Book cover of Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World

Eden Collinsworth Author Of What the Ermine Saw: The Extraordinary Journey of Leonardo Da Vinci's Most Mysterious Portrait

From my list on with a work of art as the narrator.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m not entirely sure how to describe myself other than as a committed writer and a devoted reader. Mine has been a fairly unconventional career. It has moved me from one spot on the globe to another and has placed me on both ends of the publishing equation—first, as a book publisher, and, next, as the author of a variety of books. I’m certain of a single shared fact: that no matter whether fiction or non-fiction, regardless of the subject, a story always rests on the success of engaging the reader.

Eden's book list on with a work of art as the narrator

Eden Collinsworth Why did Eden love this book?

How to begin? In 1520, Albrecht Dürer, the most celebrated artist in Northern Europe, sailed to Zeeland to see a beached whale with the intention of drawing its likeness. But this fact is only the starting-off point for a memorably vivid journey that straddles countless subjects. Each chapter is anchored in a particular image by Dürer. There is a seamlessness to Hoare’s prose in this book and I marveled at his gifts of insight and observation.

By Philip Hoare,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Albert and the Whale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN OBSERVER BEST ART BOOK OF 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2022

'This is a wonderful book. A lyrical journey into the natural and unnatural world' Patti Smith

'Everything Philip Hoare writes is bewitching' Olivia Laing

An illuminating exploration of the intersection between life, art and the sea from the award-winning author of Leviathan.

Albrecht Durer changed the way we saw nature through art. From his prints in 1498 of the plague ridden Apocalypse - the first works mass produced by any artist - to his hyper-real images of animals and…


Book cover of Optic Nerve

Christine Lai Author Of Landscapes

From my list on art and the ways of seeing.

Why am I passionate about this?

In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino writes that “we can distinguish between two types of imaginative processes, one that begins with words and ends with the visual image, and another that begins with the visual image and ends with its verbal expression.” All of my writing projects begin with the visual image. It is difficult for me to verbalize what precisely about art that captivates me. But when I stand in front of certain artworks, I feel a magnetic pull, and something in the piece—the brushstrokes, the colors, the materiality—compels me to write something in response to it.

Christine's book list on art and the ways of seeing

Christine Lai Why did Christine love this book?

A brilliant blend of narrative and non-fiction, Optic Nerve follows the narrator, an art critic, as she frequents art galleries in Buenos Aires and reflects on the artworks, which act as prisms that refract her own memories and experiences.

This is a book that moves forward by dint of impressions and ekphrastic encounters, eschewing a conventional plot. It explores the interconnections between image and text by incorporating art criticism into the fictional space. 

By Maria Gainza, Thomas Bunstead (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Optic Nerve as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A highly original, piercingly beautiful work, full of beautiful shocks... I felt like a door had been kicked open in my brain' Johanna Thomas-Corr, Observer

A woman searches Buenos Aires for the paintings that are her inspiration and her refuge. Her life -- she is a young mother with a complicated family -- is sometimes overwhelming. But among the canvases, often little-known works in quiet rooms, she finds clarity and a sense of who she is . . .

'I was reminded of John Berger's Ways of Seeing, enfolded in tender and exuberant personal narratives'
Claire-Louise Bennett

'This woman-guide, who…


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