100 books like Beautiful Agitation

By Anneka Lenssen,

Here are 100 books that Beautiful Agitation fans have personally recommended if you like Beautiful Agitation. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Mirror to Damascus

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

I found this book in a bookstore in Damascus in 1977 during a two-year Fulbright teaching post at the University of Damascus. Far more than a travel writer’s account of the city – the first in maybe 100 years it was a ‘love note’ to a city that had enchanted the young traveler. Reading it opened my eyes to the immense charm of the city and many of its secrets. Colin Thurbon returned to Damascus 50 years later in 2017 and found the city empty of tourists again. The first time, because it had not yet been ‘discovered’  by European tourists, and the second time because all the tourists had left. But the old city was much unchanged by the Syrian civil war with only limited damage to the Tomb of Salaheddin next to the monumental and breathtakingly beautiful Umayyad mosque.  

By Colin Thubron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A 50th anniversary edition of Colin Thubron's celebrated first book, a portrait of Syria's capital city, with a new introduction by the author.

Described by the author as simply 'a work of love', Mirror to Damascus provides a rich and fascinating history of Damascus from the Amorites of the Bible to the revolution of 1966, and is also a charming and witty personal record of an extraordinary city.

In explaining how modern Damascus is rooted in immemorial layers of culture and tradition, Colin Thubron explores the historical, artistic, social and religious inheritance of its people. Along the way, he shares…


Book cover of Syria: The Desert and the Sown

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

The Desert and the Sown is perhaps the most personal of all Gertrude Bell’s travel books revealing a deeply affectionate engagement with the people and places of Syria. It is the first of her books that I read while researching the subject of Bedouin tribes in early 20th century Syria. I wanted to know what connection the Bedouin tribal elites had to the major trading cities such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. There, in her description of Damascus, she revealed the evidence I had been looking for: “In Damascus the sheikhs of the richer tribes have their townhouses; you may meet Muhammad of the Hasene or Bassan of the Beni Rashid peacocking down the bazaars on a fine Friday; in embroidered cloaks and purple and silver kerchiefs fastened about their brows with camel’s hair ropes bound with gold…” I can just see those tribal leaders now in my mind’s…

By Gertrude Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'You may rely upon one thing - I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain.'

Gertrude Bell - traveller, scholar, archaeologist, spy - was one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East in the 20th century. With T.E. Lawrence, she was a significant force behind the Arab Revolt and was responsible for creating the boundaries of the modern state of Iraq, as well as installing the Hashemite dynasty, with Faisal I as king, in Iraq and Transjordan. Her knowledge of the Arab world was forged through decades of travel and the relationships she built…


Book cover of The Merchant of Syria: A History of Survival

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

Diana and I published our books with Hurst Publishers at the same time and we shared many book launch events. Her book focuses on one man, Abu Chaker, and uncovers his amazing resilience and business acumen as he moves through life twice losing everything he had. He arrives in England to invest in and revive a struggling textile mill. It is a remarkable story repeated many times by other enterprising Syrian merchants and gives the rich history of a nation built on trade. Over millennia Syria has seen great conflict and turmoil, but like the remarkable story of The Merchant of Syria, it continues to survive.

By Diana Darke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Merchant of Syria tells the life of Abu Chaker, a cloth merchant from Homs who lived from 1921 to 2013. Barely literate, he nevertheless built up a commercial empire based on trust, then lost everything twice through political instability and war, before coming to northern England as an economic migrant. The climax of this devout Sunni Muslim's tumultuous life was to buy and save a Yorkshire wool mill, which still serves as the headquarters of the textile manufacturing company he turned into a global brand. Standing on Little Horton Lane in Bradford, Briggella Mill continues to manufacture the finest…


Book cover of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

Dawn Chatty Author Of Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State

From my list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a social anthropologist who has lived, dreamed, and worked in Syria most of her life. Having spent my childhood in Damascus I always yearned to return. After completing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the economy of modern Bedouin Tribes, I won a Fulbright award to teach at the University of Damascus. Since then, Damascus has been at the centre of my academic and social life. I met my husband there, a British helicopter pilot, sent there to learn Arabic. I'm an emeritus professor of anthropology and forced migration at the University of Oxford and my research has been on the forced migrant communities who make up Syria’s cosmopolitan society.

Dawn's book list on capturing the essence of Syria and its people

Dawn Chatty Why did Dawn love this book?

I cannot ignore the turmoil that has become Syria over the past decade. Many books have appeared about the peaceful demonstrations that turned violent and a civil war and a proxy war for Iran, Russia, the US, and various Arab states. This book provides a detailed history of how Syria descended into such violence.  It gave me a detailed understanding of how the ‘Opposition’ to the Asad government emerged in the country. And engages with the stories of the Opposition fighters in their exile in adjacent countries. Concluding that the war is not yet over, it provides some hope for those of us who watch from a distance as Russia and Iran reposition and redeploy in response to other critical global events.  

By Robin Yassin-Kassab, Leila Al-Shami,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2017*

In 2011, many Syrians took to the streets of Damascus to demand the overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad. Today, much of Syria has become a war zone where foreign journalists find it almost impossible to report on life in this devastated land.

Burning Country explores the horrific and complicated reality of life in present-day Syria with unprecedented detail and sophistication, drawing on new first hand testimonies from opposition fighters, exiles lost in an archipelago of refugee camps, and courageous human rights activists among many others. These stories are expertly interwoven with…


Book cover of John Howe Fantasy Art Workshop

Sandra Staple Author Of Drawing Fantastic Dragons: Create Amazing Full-Color Dragon Art, Including Eastern, Western and Classic Beasts

From my list on art instruction for fantasy artists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been drawing fantasy creatures and characters for over thirty years now, and have collected hundreds of fantasy, art, and art instruction books over the decades. Both drawing and reading are a passion of mine, so I am happy to share some of my favorite fantasy art books that I have in my own personal library.

Sandra's book list on art instruction for fantasy artists

Sandra Staple Why did Sandra love this book?

John Howe is a renowned Canadian Illustrator and artist best known for his artwork depicting Tolkien’s Middle Earth. While this is not a typical how-to or step-by-step art instruction book, it is nonetheless a must-have book full of tips on creating fantasy creatures, scenes, and landscapes, with many case studies showing some of the steps he followed when creating his masterpieces. 

By John Howe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

''Here's how I do it, and why''

This is the premise behind John Howe's first practical exploration of his artistic inspirations, approaches and techniques. This title will appeal to practical artists and fans of John Howe's work by providing step-by-step demonstrations, sketches and oustanding finished paintings, some designed specifically for this book. It covers a wide range of subjects essential to any aspiring fantasy artist, including materials and the creative process, and drawing and painting humans, beasts, landscapes and architecture. The final section of the book provides further inspiration and guidance on presenting work in various forms including film work,…


Book cover of The Fantasy Illustrator's Technique Book

Sandra Staple Author Of Drawing Fantastic Dragons: Create Amazing Full-Color Dragon Art, Including Eastern, Western and Classic Beasts

From my list on art instruction for fantasy artists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been drawing fantasy creatures and characters for over thirty years now, and have collected hundreds of fantasy, art, and art instruction books over the decades. Both drawing and reading are a passion of mine, so I am happy to share some of my favorite fantasy art books that I have in my own personal library.

Sandra's book list on art instruction for fantasy artists

Sandra Staple Why did Sandra love this book?

This book is full of beautiful illustrations and great advice on creating your own fantastic scenes.  It goes into great detail on how to visualize your piece. While there is a full chapter specifically dedicated to drawing, there is also a section that looks at other mediums such as ink and watercolor and what techniques you can incorporate into your art using these materials. It is full of wonderful tips and advice, and is also a pleasure just to flip through.

By Gary A. Lippincott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fantasy Illustrator's Technique Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a heavily illustrated, highly detailed instruction manual for art students seeking professional entry in the fantasy art field. The author guides students from conception of an art idea to publication of the finished work, emphasizing methods for creating magical, mythical, and monstrous characters who inhabit worlds of fantasy and wonder. He starts with practical considerations--setting up a workspace and mastering drawing media, painting media, and digital techniques. Next comes advice on visualizing the details in a story concept, with special attention to. . .

Costumes, landscapes, and interiors Subjects taken from history and well-known legends Methods of depicting…


Book cover of If Picasso Painted a Snowman

Caralyn M. Buehner Author Of Snowmen at Night

From my list on snow and snowmen.

Why am I passionate about this?

The world opened to me in a safe space when I learned to read as a child, and by 6th grade I regularly hauled home stacks of books from the library and, inspired by Jo March, hoped to be an author. I put aside my dream of writing and pursued other career goals until my marriage to Mark Buehner. It was his career as an illustrator that opened a path for me to write, and together we have created many picture books, including the Snowmen at Night series. I’ve learned that stories are told with pictures as well as words, and beautiful picture books can be savored at any age.

Caralyn's book list on snow and snowmen

Caralyn M. Buehner Why did Caralyn love this book?

Local to me, I’ve been familiar with the gorgeous poster and mural art of Greg Newbold. More recently he has teamed up with his wife Amy to create a series of picture books showcasing the styles of renowned artists. This first book takes snowmen and imagines what they would look like if painted by artists such as Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso, O’Keefe, and others. An excellent introduction to the painting styles of famous artists, with informative text to reinforce the idea that “not all artists paint the same.” 

By Amy Newbold, Greg Newbold (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If Picasso Painted a Snowman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

From that simple premise flows this delightful, whimsical, educational picture book that shows how the artist's imagination can summon magic from a prosaic subject. Greg Newbold's chameleon-like artistry shows us Roy Lichtenstein's snow hero saving the day, Georgia O'Keefe's snowman blooming in the desert, Claude Monet's snowmen among haystacks, Grant Wood's American Gothic snowman, Jackson Pollock's snowman in ten thousand splats, Salvador Dali's snowmen dripping like melty cheese, and snowmen as they might have been rendered by J. M. W. Turner, Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Georges Seurat, Pablita Velarde, Piet Mondrian, Sonia Delaunay, Jacob Lawrence, and Vincent van…


Book cover of Memory and Dream

Jami Fairleigh Author Of Oil and Dust

From my list on fantasy featuring art-based magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

At heart, I believe every one of us is creative. It doesn’t matter if you express your creativity through words, notes, metal, wood, food, fabric, or paint. Personally, I love to sketch, paint, write, and sculpt. There is something magical about bringing your imagination to life and sharing it with the world! Our art allows us to share our emotions, dreams, memories, and culture with the world. As a fantasy author, I wanted to create a place where art can transform the physical world too. 

Jami's book list on fantasy featuring art-based magic

Jami Fairleigh Why did Jami love this book?

If you haven’t read any of Charles de Lint’s stories, you’re in for a treat!

Each of his stories feels so fresh and original. His characters jump off the page… but will also break your heart. This novel is about a young artist named Isabelle Copley (Izzy) whose whimsical paintings seem so real they could come to life. But is her art just… art? The writing is beautiful and lyrical, but also dark and scary.

Memory and Dream is also a great entry into de Lint’s story world of “Newford”.

By Charles de Lint,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From her mentor, Rushkin, Isabell Copley had learned to paint creatures that come to life--literally--and years after these creatures have ruined her life, Isabelle returns to painting, haunted by memories, dreams, and the threat of her mentor's return.


Book cover of The Pre-Raphaelites (World of Art)

Kirsty Stonell Walker Author Of Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers and Heartbreakers from the Victorian Era

From my list on aspiring Pre-Raphaelite women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I absolutely love the Pre-Raphaelites, they are my utter passion and these books are the fuel for that fire. Who wouldn't want to be a Pre-Raphaelite woman? Smart, talented, resourceful, these women define what it is to make a mark and great some of the most ground-breaking art in history. I'm particularly obsessed with Pre-Raphaelite women, the artists and muses who created the art we love so much today. After spending almost 30 years researching their lives and loves, it's now my absolute pleasure in telling everyone about these astonishing women, and why we should love them and learn from them.

Kirsty's book list on aspiring Pre-Raphaelite women

Kirsty Stonell Walker Why did Kirsty love this book?

The first time I saw a Pre-Raphaelite painting, I was immediately besotted and this was the first book I could find on the subject. Despite being over half a century old, this is the best starting book, filled with images and engagingly written, which will lead to a life-long passion for the subject. It's a handy size and like all the T&H World of Art books, it's an essential part of your Pre-Raphaelite library.

By Timothy Hilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pre-Raphaelites (World of Art) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The works of the Pre-Raphaelites are among the best known and best loved of all English paintings, and yet there has long been a tendency to dismiss them as mere Victoriana, and to deny them their proper status as works of art. This pioneering critical history places the movement in its historical setting, relating the individual painters and their art to the larger concerns of 19th-century society. Virtually every Pre-Raphaelite painting is discussed in detail and illustrated here, including works by the best known - Holman Hunt, Rossetti and Millais - and the movement's many minor talents.


Book cover of The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques

Robh Ruppel Author Of Graphic L.A.

From my list on timeless art advice.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the “meme-ification” of the world, the long-form version of learning and practicing skills is getting lost. True discovery happens after a thorough and deep understanding of the subject. Truth is a multilayered, complex exploration that is hard to sum up in a single sentence. 

Robh's book list on timeless art advice

Robh Ruppel Why did Robh love this book?

A photo book that breaks down composition into a very simple workman-like manner not relying on formula. Too many times composition is taught as a formula or “rules of thirds,” which simply scratches the surface as to what composition can and should be doing for the artist. The author offers a different perspective than that of a painter but just as valid.

By Joseph V. Mascelli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Five C's of Cinematography as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the aid of photographs and diagrams, this text concisely presents concepts and techniques of motion picture camerawork and the allied areas of film-making with which they interact with and impact. Included are discussions on: cinematic time and space; compositional rules; and types of editing.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in painting, art, and Syria?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about painting, art, and Syria.

Painting Explore 57 books about painting
Art Explore 888 books about art
Syria Explore 51 books about Syria