100 books like The Annotated Mona Lisa

By Carol Strickland,

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

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Book cover of The Story of Art

Jennifer Dasal Author Of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

From my list on art newbies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 

Jennifer's book list on art newbies

Jennifer Dasal Why did Jennifer love this book?

This one is a little bit headier. Gombrich is one of the big names in art history (take any graduate level course in art history methodology, and he’s one of the first names mentioned). But there’s a reason that’s he’s one of the biggies: his information is thorough. For the bookish newbie, this one is a real win.

By E.H. Gombrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Story of Art, one of the most famous and popular books on art ever written, has been a world bestseller for over four decades. Attracted by the simplicity and clarity of his writing, readers of all ages and backgrounds have found in Professor Gombrich a true master, and one who combines knowledge and wisdom with a unique gift for communicating his deep love of the subject.

For the first time in many years the book has been completely redesigned. The illustrations, now in colour throughout, have all been improved and reoriginated, and include six fold-outs. The text has been…


Book cover of The Short Story of Art: A Pocket Guide to Key Movements, Works, Themes, & Techniques (Art History Introduction, a Guide to Art)

Jennifer Dasal Author Of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

From my list on art newbies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 

Jennifer's book list on art newbies

Jennifer Dasal Why did Jennifer love this book?

I love this book! Like the idea of The Annotated Mona Lisa but don’t want quite so much detail? This one is great— let’s take 50 works of art throughout art history and tell you exactly why they are important. Easy peasy, and filled with humor and joy, too. 

By Susie Hodge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Short Story of Art is a new and innovative introduction to the subject of art. Simply constructed, the book explores 50 key works, from the wall paintings of Lascaux to contemporary installations, and then links these to sections on art movements, themes and techniques.

The design of the book allows the student or art enthusiast to easily navigate their way around key periods, artists and styles. Accessible and concise, it simplifies and explains the most important and influential concepts in art, and shows how they are connected.

The book explains how, why and when art changed, who introduced certain…


Book cover of Isms: Understanding Art

Jennifer Dasal Author Of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

From my list on art newbies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 

Jennifer's book list on art newbies

Jennifer Dasal Why did Jennifer love this book?

For an art or art history newbie, all those “isms” can be really overwhelming: what is Cubism? What is Impressionism? What does Post-Impressionism mean, other than it came along after Impressionism? This is a readable book that will help casual viewers understand art without getting bogged down in the academic details. It’s art history and art appreciation mixed together, without pain or boredom!

By Stephen Little,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an easy to use guide to a wide range of art 'isms'. From the isms of the Renaissance to the isms of now, it gives a practical introduction to all the significant isms that have shaped art history. For each ism, there is a definition, an introduction to the topic, lists of key artists, key words, and key works as well as suggestions of other isms that the reader might be interested in. This book should be a must for everyone who is interested in art - whether they be Sunday afternoon visitors to galleries, art students or…


Book cover of Why is Art Full of Naked People? and Other Vital Questions about Art, by Susie Hodge

Jennifer Dasal Author Of ArtCurious: Stories of the Unexpected, Slightly Odd, and Strangely Wonderful in Art History

From my list on art newbies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an art historian, author, and the former curator of modern and contemporary art at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, North Carolina—so art is my thing! I’m the host of the independent podcast ArtCurious, which I started in 2016 and which was named one of the best podcasts by O, The Oprah Magazine and PC Magazine, among other outlets. I’m also the author of a book called ArtCurious, which was lauded in Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, and Booklist. I’ve got advanced degrees in art history and love to share all my enthusiasm for art whenever I can (also: travel!). 

Jennifer's book list on art newbies

Jennifer Dasal Why did Jennifer love this book?

It is a great question, right? For your curious child (or anyone that especially likes a giggle), this is the perfect “art history, explained” reader. I’m a big fan of this one. The book is structured around twenty-two questions, and some are straightforward, like the title question, while others ("Why is everything so flat in Egyptian art?" or "Are stick men art?") might make grown-ups think differently, too. Whether you're a longtime art lover or just setting foot into a museum for the first time, I guarantee that this book will teach you something new.

By Susie Hodge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why is Art Full of Naked People? and Other Vital Questions about Art, by Susie Hodge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Artists ask questions when they make art - and viewers ask questions when they look at art. This gently provocative book provides an engaging way for young people to start asking and answering questions for themselves. Why is art full of naked people? is structured around 22 questions, each one tackled over two spreads. The opening spread explores the question and answer, inviting the reader to study a full-bleed image of an important artwork. The second spread shows a selection of work on the theme from across history, showing how art can run with an idea to hugely different ends.…


Book cover of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

Anjan Chatterjee Author Of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

From my list on the science of art and aesthetics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by beauty and art. As a child growing up in India, I sketched frequently. Later, I became obsessed with photography. In 1999, I moved from my first academic job to join the newly forming Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. The move was an opportunity to rethink my research program. In addition to studying spatial cognition, attention, and language, I decided to investigate the biological basis of aesthetic experiences. At the time there was virtually no scholarship in the neuroscience of aesthetics. It has been an exciting journey to watch this field grow. And, it has been exhilarating to start the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, the first research center of its kind in the US.

Anjan's book list on the science of art and aesthetics

Anjan Chatterjee Why did Anjan love this book?

If you read one book on the psychology of art, make it this one. Winner gives us a book that celebrates the importance of art even as she remains grounded in experimental data and avoids hyperbole. She asks deceptively simple questions. What is art? Why do we make art? Does art make us better people? The clarity of her logic and the elegance of her prose as she answers these and other incisive questions make this book a delight to read.

By Ellen Winner, Ellen Winner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There is no end of talk and of wondering about 'art' and 'the arts.' This book examines a number of questions about the arts (broadly defined to include all of the arts). Some of these questions come from philosophy. Examples include:

* What makes something art?
* Can anything be art?
* Do we experience "real" emotions from the arts?
* Why do we seek out and even cherish sorrow and fear from art when we go out of our way to avoid these very emotions in real life?
* How do we decide what is good art? Do aesthetic…


Book cover of The Lost Spells

Day Schildkret Author Of Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration, and Change

From my list on nature, art, and ritual.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to discover the healing power of art, nature, and ritual while I was grieving the loss of my father a decade ago. I would go to the park and make impermanent and symmetrical art from found twigs, flowers, pine cones, berries, and leaves as a way to ground, heal my broken heart, and make sense of a chaotic time. Since then, I‘ve made over a thousand nature altars, written a book about it (Morning Altars), and have taught tens of thousands of people around the world to make meaning in their lives through a creative collaboration with the natural world. It still amazes me that something so simple and impermanent can bring such wonder and resilience.

Day's book list on nature, art, and ritual

Day Schildkret Why did Day love this book?

A wise man once said to me, “if you can say it, you can see it." This magical book of art, poetry, and nature is a response to the removal of nature words such as “acorn,” “wren,” and “dandelion,” from a children’s dictionary. His gorgeous writing encourages us to wonder at the forgotten and to behold the ordinary by uttering nature words as a conjuring thing. During a time of environmental loss, grief, and forgetting, McFarlane lets us fall in love again with the greater-than-human world through language and therefore, to renew our capacity to marvel at the living landscape and our own inner landscape. 

By Robert Macfarlane, Jackie Morris (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lost Spells as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Beautiful books make unforgettable gifts. This pocket-sized treasure is the perfect gift for fans of nature, language and rich artwork, adult and child alike!

Kindred in spirit to The Lost Words but fresh in its form, The Lost Spells introduces a beautiful new set of natural spell-poems and artwork by beloved creative duo Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

Each "spell" conjures an animal, bird, tree or flower -- from Barn Owl to Red Fox, Grey Seal to Silver Birch, Jay to Jackdaw -- with which we share our lives and landscapes. Moving, joyful and funny, The Lost Spells above all…


Book cover of The Green Sketching Handbook: Relax, Unwind and Reconnect with Nature

Rachael Taylor Author Of Power Up Your Creativity: Ignite Your Creative Spark - Develop a Productive Practice - Set Goals and Achieve Your Dreams

From my list on increase your creative productivity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning art director, creative mentor, and print and pattern designer with nearly two decades of experience working successfully in the creative industries. As a young person, I loved drama, dance, and art, and was constantly bursting with creative passion. As I grew older, I faced doubt from the people around me about pursuing a creative career. I stubbornly pursued it anyway and ignored the naysayers who told me to “stop dreaming” or to “get a real job.” I am now described as a “powerhouse” in the design world and someone who fearlessly strives forward in her creative career and helps thousands around the world to believe in their own creative power.

Rachael's book list on increase your creative productivity

Rachael Taylor Why did Rachael love this book?

I truly adore this book. It was very easy to read and kept my attention (as I usually get distracted so easily). I felt a sense of calm on every page, and Ali's words really resonated with me.

My favourite section was chapter 12, which focused on children as I look forward to some green sketching time with my young son every school holiday.

The book is a great size to carry around and read on the go, and it's beautifully illustrated. It brought me a lot of comfort and encouraged me to slow down in life with a gentle reminder to soak up all the beauty that's around us so we can turn that into a productive practice. A truly special book.

By Ali Foxon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A warm and inspiring invitation to put down our phones, pick up a pencil and start really looking at the beauty all around us.' - Kathy Clugston, presenter of Gardeners' Question Time

Learn to let go of your worries and lose yourself in nature with this practical guide to sketching for pleasure, not perfection.

Most of us know that creativity and time outdoors are good for our wellbeing, yet so many of us struggle to find the time or motivation to step away from our screens. But there's a solution! Combining quick and easy exercises with the latest research on…


Book cover of Letters on Cezanne

Richard Weston Author Of 100 Ideas that Changed Architecture

From my list on that formed my understanding of architecture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by architecture and landscape architecture since discovering the work of Le Corbusier at the age of sixteen. Most of my life has been spent teaching and writing about it - fifteen books and numerous articles - with occasional forays into designing and building. I took early retirement as a Professor of  Architecture in 2013, the year after enjoying ‘Fifteen Minutes of Fame’ on a BBC TV series featuring the development of my ‘mineral scarves’ for Liberty of London. This led to a creative app and website for children called Molly’s World (to be launched in 2024) and on my seventieth birthday in 2023 I launched an architectural and garden design studio.

Richard's book list on that formed my understanding of architecture

Richard Weston Why did Richard love this book?

This short book is not about architecture, but about the supremely ‘architectural’ painter, Paul Cézanne, who almost literally ‘built’ his paintings brushstroke by brushstroke.

The author, Rilke, was a great poet and the book consists of a series of letters he wrote home to his wife after almost daily visits to the great memorial exhibition of Cézanne’s work held in Paris 1907, the year after his death. At first he struggled to understand Cézanne’s work, but by the end he offers one of the most profound meditations on aesthetic values I know.

His discovery of Cézanne was, Rilke declared, the most important influence on his poetry and changed his life. These letters changed mine, and I cannot recommend them too highly. 

By Rainer Maria Rilke, Joel Agee (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rilke's prayerful responses to the french master's beseeching art

For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.

Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cezanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful letters to his wife, Clara Westhoff, expressing his dismay before the paintings and his ensuing revelations about art and life.

Rilke was knowledgeable about art and had even published monographs, including a famous study of Rodin that inspired his New Poems. But Cezanne's impact on him could not be…


Book cover of What is God Like?

Victoria Robb Powers Author Of My Love, God Is Everywhere

From my list on Christian reads for kids that are inclusive and safe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an ordained minister with over 10 years of experience serving as a pastor in both the hospital and church settings. I’m also a mom of three children, ages 2, 5, and 7. I routinely get asked for resources to help raise children in the Christian faith. As both a pastor and a mother, I am a strong advocate for teaching children a theology they won’t have to heal from. All the books I recommend are progressive, inclusive, and diverse. I’ve done extensive research when it comes to faith-based literature, and I’m passionate about finding the best books to recommend to families.

Victoria's book list on Christian reads for kids that are inclusive and safe

Victoria Robb Powers Why did Victoria love this book?

This is the perfect book for a baby shower gift.

If you’re a parent who wants to raise their children in the faith, this is a primary resource to have on hand. Kids are always wondering what God is like. This book is a useful tool in showing children just how good God is. It explores all kinds of diverse metaphors and instills the important truth that God loves us all.

By Rachel Held Evans, Matthew Paul Turner, Ying Hui Tan (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What is God Like? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The late, beloved Rachel Held Evans answers many children's first question about God in this gorgeous picture book, fully realized by her friend Matthew Paul Turner, the bestselling author of When God Made You.

Children who are introduced to God, through attending church or having loved ones who speak about God, often have a lot of questions, including this ever-popular one: What is God like? The late Rachel Held Evans loved the Bible and loved showing God’s love through the words and pictures found in that ancient text. Through these pictures from the Bible,…


Book cover of You Are an Artist: Assignments to Spark Creation

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?

Sarah Urist Green's You Are an Artist is a beacon of inspiration filled with engaging and thought-provoking assignments that push the boundaries of conventional art-making.

Each challenge in this book compels you to explore uncharted territories, urging you to experiment with novel ideas and mediums. Far more than just prompts, Urist Green guides you on a journey into the heart of contemporary art, inspiring a renaissance of thought and technique in every artist willing to embrace its teachings.

The book instantly transported me back to art school, with assignments that truly spawn productive growth. I found myself eagerly anticipating each new page, propelled Green’s warm, encouraging, yet daringly innovative approach. This book is a must-have for anyone seeking to break free from creative blocks and embark on a journey of artistic discovery.

By Sarah Urist Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Are an Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“There are more than 50 creative prompts for the artist (or artist at heart) to explore. Take the title of this book as affirmation, and get started.” —Fast Company

More than 50 assignments, ideas, and prompts to expand your world and help you make outstanding new things to put into it

Curator Sarah Urist Green left her office in the basement of an art museum to travel and visit a diverse range of artists, asking them to share prompts that relate to their own ways of working. The result is You Are an Artist, a journey of creation through which…


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