100 books like Seven Days in the Art World

By Sarah Thornton,

Here are 100 books that Seven Days in the Art World fans have personally recommended if you like Seven Days in the Art World. 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 Ways of Seeing

Tyler Fisher Author Of The Artist's Drawing Book: Learn How to Draw, Sketch, Shade, and More with Easy Lessons and Practice Pages

From my list on unleashing your creative potential.

Why am I passionate about this?

For me, art is a journey of relentless questioning, exploring, and introspection. As an artist, author, and educator, I have relied on each book in this collection to further my creative journey. The titles that I've selected offer unique perspectives on the transformative power of art and have had the biggest effect on my students, my peers, and my own artistic growth. I believe that art is a language that is and should be for everyone, providing a conduit for individual expression, problem-solving, and innovation. Each of these titles has offered pivotal "aha" moments while igniting my passion, and I hope they allow you to unlock your creative potential.

Tyler's book list on unleashing your creative potential

Tyler Fisher Why did Tyler love this book?

This book was introduced on the first day of art school. Then, it was reintroduced and repeated by each professor for the duration of my education. As such, it's fair to say that it's an enduring force within academic circles. 

The book touches on major points essential for any informed artist and the need for modern artists to subvert our viewers' hidden biases. It eloquently teaches artists to dive beneath the surface of a work to understand the unseen, the context, and the subtext. Ways of Seeing skillfully inspires a new lens through which to view the world and urges its readers to peel back the layers of meaning from even the most minimal artworks.

For me and so many other artists, this book was an awakening and is one that I turn back to often and am doomed to cite for eternity. It's a transformative journey that challenges and…

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Ways of Seeing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.""But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but word can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled."John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" is one of the most stimulating and the most influential books on art in any language. First published in 1972, it was based on the BBC television series about…


Book cover of The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

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?

The staggering thing about contemporary art is the money involved. Why would anyone pay $12 million for a dead shark preserved in formaldehyde?

This question drives Don Thompson’s book, as he explores the contemporary art market from the point of view of a professional economist. It’s a relatively unbiased work, free of ridicule or outrage, and is perhaps the better for that. Thompson shows us how the market works, and the role of each player – the buyers and collectors and investors, the rock star artists, the museums and galleries and auction houses – but also explores the psychology at work.

Why did hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen buy Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living for $12 million?

By Don Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The $12 Million Stuffed Shark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why would a smart New York investment banker pay $12 million for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? By what alchemy does Jackson Pollock's drip painting No. 5, 1948 sell for $140 million?

Intriguing and entertaining, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark is a Freakonomics approach to the economics and psychology of the contemporary art world. Why were record prices achieved at auction for works by 131 contemporary artists in 2006 alone, with astonishing new heights reached in 2007? Don Thompson explores the money, lust, and self-aggrandizement of the art world in an attempt to determine what makes a particular…


Book cover of Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That: From Slashed Canvas to Unmade Bed, Modern Art Explained

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?

Before you judge contemporary art, it’s only fair that you try to understand it.

As such, Susie Hodges’ book does a valuable service, collecting together one hundred of the most important, influential, and controversial artworks from the last century or so. This ranges from Picasso to Damien Hirst, from Andy Warhol’s silkscreen prints of tins of tomato soup to Tracy Emin’s unmade bed.

Each entry gives some background to the work, some critical analysis, and attempts to justify why, although your five-year-old might indeed leave their bed unmade, they could not have done so in a way that explores the poignancy of the human condition (or something like that…).

A partisan book, defending the importance of modern art, but an informative introduction.

By Susie Hodge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Come on, you know you've thought it-while viewing a "masterpiece" of abstract art, you mutter, "A kid could do that." Here Susie Hodge, author of How to Survive Modern Art, explains why the best examples of modern art are actually the result of sophisticated thought and serious talent. From Marcel Duchamp's notorious Fountain and the scribbles of Cy Twombly to Mark Rothko's multiforms and Carl Andre's uncarved blocks, Hodge addresses critical outrage with a revealing insight into the technical skill, layering of ideas, and sheer inspiration behind each work. In cleverly organized chapters such as "Objects/ Toys," "Provocations/Tantrums," and "People/Monsters,"…


Book cover of Con Art: Why You Should Sell Your Damien Hirsts While You Can

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?

The shortest book on the list – I wish it were longer! – is the hardest hitting.

Julian Spalding, art critic, and former gallery and museum curator, is well qualified to critique contemporary art trends. But the “con” of the title also stands for “conceptual” (requiring only ideas and little skill or craft), and the “con” or scam that he believes much conceptual art to be.

Spalding has no problem with “modern” or progressive art that challenges the status quo – Picasso, Magritte, or David Hockney – but only the intellectual bankruptcy that the conceptual movement has ushered in.

His forthright take is controversial, but its feisty, informed, and well-argued critique suggests that the little boy pointing out the emperor’s lack of clothes may just have a point.

By Julian Spalding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A concise dissection of the myths that created Con Art - above all the myth that art has to shock to be new. The multi-million dollar reputations of Duchamp, Warhol, Beuys. Hirst and Koons and many others are exploded. Their art is worthless as art because it isn't art.


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 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 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 Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker

Jonathan Grotenstein Author Of Ship It Holla Ballas! How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

From my list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the kid of tournament bridge and Scrabble players, I’ve been hooked on games my whole life. None more so than poker, which has helped me make a living both at the tables and as a writer. I’m currently working on a TV adaptation of Ship It Holla Ballas!  

Jonathan's book list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math

Jonathan Grotenstein Why did Jonathan love this book?

For fans of true crime, there’s plenty to recommend in this artfully crafted investigation into the murder of casino heir Ted Binion. But the book takes a gonzo turn when its author – a writing teacher from Chicago – uses his advance to enter the World Series of Poker, the tournament started by the Binion family. The deeper he digs into the murder, the deeper he runs in the tournament, creating a once-in-a-lifetime mashup memoir that’s almost too good to be true.

By James McManus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Positively Fifth Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A steamy chronicle of life in Las Vegas investigates the murder of poker player Ted Binion, revealing a secret world of kinky sex, black magic, and science lurking at the heart of gambling's world series.


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