10 books like Eye of the Beholder

By Laura J Snyder,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Eye of the Beholder. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Rembrandt's Eyes

By Simon Schama,

Book cover of Rembrandt's Eyes

His earlier and best-known book, The Embarrassment of Riches, may offer a more comprehensive synopsis of the culture of the Dutch Republic’s Golden Age, including everything from the fashions, drinking and dice games that paradoxically thrived amid the strictures of Calvinism to the interpretations placed on passing natural events such as comets in the sky or the appearance of a whale on the beach. But Schama here gives us a loving and humane portrait of its greatest artist, doing in words what Rembrandt did in paint for his subjects, presenting his humanity with truth and dignity enlivened by inimitable splashes of colour and brilliant strokes of the pen. Using the paintings themselves as his window, Schama allows us not only to see back in time to this astonishing period, but to view it as those who lived through it must have seen it.

Rembrandt's Eyes

By Simon Schama,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rembrandt's Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This dazzling, unconventional biography shows us why, more than three centuries after his death, Rembrandt continues to exert such a hold on our imagination. Deeply familiar to us through his enigmatic self-portraits, few facts are known about the Leiden miller's son who tasted brief fame before facing financial ruin (he was even forced to sell his beloved wife Saskia's grave). The true biography of Rembrandt, as Simon Schama demonstrates, is to be discovered in his pictures. Interweaving of seventeenth-century Holland, Schama allows us to see Rembrandt in a completely fresh and original way.


The Great Level

By Stella Tillyard,

Book cover of The Great Level

Fiction allows for the portrayal of a kind of absorption in the processes and materials of a historical period that is unusual in nonfiction. It can give a powerful sense of how time actually passed for people. Vermeer’s chaotic domestic routine as a painter was splendidly imagined by Tracy Chevalier in Girl with a Pearl Earring, for example. But the technical innovators of the Dutch Golden Age – the telescopists, the astronomers, the surveyors and engineers – are yet to be celebrated in this way. Sadly, nobody has written the story of Simon Stevin, who built a sand-yacht that could outrun a galloping horse as it whipped along the Dutch strand, or of Cornelis Drebbel, who demonstrated a submarine for King James I that mysteriously managed to stay underwater with its crew for several hours in the River Thames.

However, Stella Tillyard has performed this service on behalf of…

The Great Level

By Stella Tillyard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A 'magical, haunting' (Philippa Gregory) novel of a tragic love affair in a threatened world

In 1649, Jan Brunt, a Dutchman, arrives in England to work on draining and developing the Great Level, an expanse of marsh in the heart of the fen country. It is here he meets Eliza, whose love overturns his ordered vision and whose act of resistance forces him to see the world differently.

Jan flees to the New World, where the spirit of avarice is raging and his skills as an engineer are prized. Then one spring morning a boy delivers a note that prompts…


Tulipmania

By Anne Goldgar,

Book cover of Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

Perhaps no one object was more demonstrative of the Dutch thirst for beauty, novelty and showing-off-but-not-showing-off riches than the tulip. The famous mania for these exotic bulbs, bred to produce ever more exotic flowers and to command ever higher prices, supposedly produced the world’s first economic bubble, which burst spectacularly in February 1637.

The truth is less spectacular (few people were involved in the trade and even fewer were ruined) but, in Goldgar’s skilful telling, much richer and more nuanced than the myth. The episode tells us about the growth of maritime trade and the emergence of the modern financial industry (including the important concept of risk) as well as the cultural interests of Dutch people at this exciting time in their history when the accumulation and subtle display of wealth vied in importance with the quest for aesthetic novelty and genuine curiosity about the natural world. One fashion-conscious doctor…

Tulipmania

By Anne Goldgar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 1630s, the Netherlands was gripped by tulipmania: a speculative fever unprecedented in scale and, as popular history would have it, folly. We all know the outline of the story - how otherwise sensible merchants, nobles, and artisans spent all they had (and much that they didn't) on tulip bulbs. We have heard how these bulbs changed hands hundreds of times in a single day, and how some bulbs, sold and resold for thousands of guilders, never even existed. Tulipmania is seen as an example of the gullibility of crowds and the dangers of financial speculation.But it wasn't like…


Think Least of Death

By Steven Nadler,

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

Baruch Spinoza was the philosophical flower of the Dutch Golden Age. Bertrand Russell called him the "noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers", and I am certainly not going to disagree. Like many of the innovators of the Golden Age, his ideas still seem fresh. Expelled from his Jewish community in Amsterdam for his ‘heresies’, we now find his conception of God as nature highly congenial. We probably share his dislike of ritual and perhaps aspire to his renunciation of materialism. His advice neither to fear nor to hope when it concerns things we can do nothing about is as good now as it was when it appeared in his most famous work, Ethics, in 1677.

Spinoza’s philosophy is hard to approach in the original – his arguments are rigorously constructed in the style of ancient Greek mathematics proofs. But Steven Nadler, as well as producing a towering biography…

Think Least of Death

By Steven Nadler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Pulitzer Prize-finalist Steven Nadler, an engaging guide to what Spinoza can teach us about life's big questions

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam's Portuguese-Jewish community for "abominable heresies" and "monstrous deeds," the young Baruch Spinoza abandoned his family's import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He quickly became notorious across Europe for his views on God, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his uncompromising defense of free thought. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza's views has long obscured that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of humanity's most urgent questions: How…


Johannes Vermeer

By Stephan Koja,

Book cover of Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection

The exhibition dedicated to Johannes Vermeer at the Old Master Picture Gallery in Dresden last year was one of the best I have ever seen. Inspired by a recent discovery – a crucial detail in one of the Gallery’s own works had been painted over – the exhibition set out to explore the artist’s work in-depth focusing on this one image. The restoration of the painting and the revelation of the hidden detail led to a re-evaluation of Vermeer’s art. Each room of the exhibition, and chapter of the book, introduces a different aspect of the painting so that, when you finally get to see it and read about it, you have a thorough understanding of its meaning and development, and even of the society in which it was produced.

Johannes Vermeer

By Stephan Koja,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous works of seventeenth-century Dutch art. Preserved at the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, the painting has been restored, in an elaborate process lasting from 2017 to 2021. The removal of a large section of overpainting dating from a later period has profoundly altered the work's appearance and revealed the original composition. To showcase the discovery, the Dresden Gemaldegalerie is now presenting the Girl Reading a Letter along with other masterpieces by Vermeer and a selection of exceptional Dutch genre paintings that reveal…


Vermeer's Hat

By Timothy Brook,

Book cover of Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World

Brook uses artifacts portrayed in six paintings by the Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer to show how, several centuries before the World Wide Web, the local and the global were intimately connected. He surprises his readers by showing that people and goods and ideas moved around the 17th-century world in ways that – rather like us – their ancestors would have considered impossible. Perhaps because Brook is a Canadian historian of China who is familiar with Europe, he provides a truly global history and almost every page contains a “gee whiz” fact. I also love the idea that “Every picture tells a story.”

Vermeer's Hat

By Timothy Brook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vermeer's Hat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the epicentre of Delft in the Netherlands Brook takes the paintings of Johannes Vermeer and uses details of them as a series of entry points to the widest circles of world trade and cultural exchange in the seventeenth century. An officer's beaver hat in 'Officer and the Laughing Girl' opens up the story of Champlain's dealing with the native peoples of Canada and the beaver trade. A china dish on a table in another painting uncovers the story of the Chinese porcelain trade. Moving outwards from Vermeer's studio Brook traces the web of trade that was spreading across the…


The Girl with a Pearl Earring

By Tracy Chevalier,

Book cover of The Girl with a Pearl Earring

This is a book I’ve read more than once. I sympathized with Griet, the main character and enjoyed reading about her world, set in 1600s Holland. When her father goes blind and is unable to support the family, Griet’s mother forces her to work as a maid for a wealthy painter. No longer allowed to live at home, Griet moves in with the painter’s family. He is smitten with Griet despite his pregnant wife’s disapproval. Griet struggles to fulfill her work duties while everyone else resents her presence. I loved the ending of this story.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Girl with a Pearl Earring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling novel by the author of A Single Thread and At the Edge of the Orchard

Translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film, starring Scarlett Johanson and Colin Firth

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . .…


Chasing Vermeer

By Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Book cover of Chasing Vermeer

This book is a modern classic and no wonder – delightful characters, a twisty-turny mystery, and best of all: art. The way Balliett introduces kids to the world of art through puzzles, codes, wordplay, is clever and thrilling and had me completely entranced. The world of art theft is both thrilling and chilling, and this book takes us both places.

Chasing Vermeer

By Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Chasing Vermeer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This bewitching first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure and delivered as a work of art. When a book of inexplicable occurences bring Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen- seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the centre of an international art scandal. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and…


A Child's Book of Art

By Lucy Micklethwait,

Book cover of A Child's Book of Art: Great Pictures - First Words

This book hits a kind of non-narrative sweet spot: It doesn’t tell a specific story, but every page-spread is a feast of beauty and interest and there are just enough words sprinkled here and there to encourage parents to supply their own commentary. This particular book happened to be a huge favorite in my family, but any collection that introduces great paintings and different styles of art will do the trick. I love making art part of a baby’s world from the get-go: It awakens the aesthetic senses and gives a child a sense of cultural ownership. Later, seeing a Vermeer or a Picasso, we can hope that child will feel a sparkle of recognition.

A Child's Book of Art

By Lucy Micklethwait,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Child's Book of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An introduction to art appreciation exposes young readers to more than one hundred works of art from a wide range of periods, cultures, and artists, and with subjects such as seasons, weather, and animals.


The Matchstick Castle

By Keir Graff,

Book cover of The Matchstick Castle

This madcap book, about a boy and girl who discover a crazy mansion in the forest that looks like it was built by a drunken madman, made me laugh out loud. As they join forces with the house’s unforgettably weird inhabitants to try to save the house from the wrecking ball of a “crazed bureaucrat,” it’s impossible not to be drawn in. It’s one of those quirky adventure stories where every twist and turn comes from seemingly nowhere, while also making perfect sense. Plus: wild boars! Graff has made a career out of creative stories populated with memorably eccentric characters, and this one is my favorite. 

The Matchstick Castle

By Keir Graff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A wild and whimsical adventure story, perfect for fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Brian can think of a few places he'd rather spend his summer than with his aunt and uncle in Boring, Illinois. Jail, for example. Or an earplug factory. Anything would be better than doing summer school on a computer while his scientist dad is stationed at the South Pole.
 
Boring lives up to its name until Brian and his cousin Nora have a fight, get lost, and discover a huge, wooden house in the forest. With balconies, turrets, and windows seemingly stuck on at random,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Dutch Golden Age, the Netherlands, and World War 2?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Dutch Golden Age, the Netherlands, and World War 2.

The Dutch Golden Age Explore 7 books about the Dutch Golden Age
The Netherlands Explore 58 books about the Netherlands
World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2