100 books like The Devil's Cloth

By Michel Pastoureau, Jody Gladding,

Here are 100 books that The Devil's Cloth fans have personally recommended if you like The Devil's Cloth. 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 The Secret Lives of Color

Sandra Rendgen Author Of History of Information Graphics

From my list on inspirational books from the world of infographics.

Who am I?

I am a writer and editor with a background in art history, based in Berlin. My work has always been shaped by two complementary needs. First, I always felt a thirst for understanding and knowledge. Second, I was always on the hunt for brilliant design and beautiful visuals. Infographics were thus a natural terrain for me. Since 2012, I have published four comprehensive books in the field. This includes both surveys of contemporary work as well as studies in the history of the field.

Sandra's book list on inspirational books from the world of infographics

Sandra Rendgen Why did Sandra love this book?

I fell in love with this book the moment I picked up a copy in a book store. While it is not exactly about infographics, it tackles an aspect that is crucial to creating successful and arresting visualizations: color. This topic has a wide scientific dimension (think perception, think chemistry), but the notion of color is also intertwined with intense aesthetic experiences. Kassia St. Clair combines both with a trove of historical stories about scientists, artists, and other aficionados on the hunt for intricate shades such as Mummy or Chrome Yellow. A highly inspiring read, a beautiful book, and an excellent gift.

By Kassia St. Clair,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Secret Lives of Color as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of USA Today's "100 Books to Read While Stuck at Home During the Coronavirus Crisis"

A dazzling gift, the unforgettable, unknown history of colors and the vivid stories behind them in a beautiful multi-colored volume.

"Beautifully written . . . Full of anecdotes and fascinating research, this elegant compendium has all the answers." -NPR, Best Books of 2017

The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes, and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso's blue period to…

Book cover of Counting: How We Use Numbers to Decide What Matters

Carolyn Purnell Author Of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

From my list on everyday things we take for granted.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who’s spent far too much time thinking about how the color magenta contributed to climate change and why eighteenth-century humanitarians were obsessed with tobacco enemas. My favorite historical topics—like sensation, color, and truth—don’t initially seem historical, but that’s exactly why they need to be explored. I’ve learned that the things that seem like second nature are where our deepest cultural assumptions and unconscious biases hide. In addition to writing nonfiction, I’ve been lucky enough to grow up on a ranch, live in Paris, work as an interior design writer, teach high school and college, and help stray dogs get adopted.

Carolyn's book list on everyday things we take for granted

Carolyn Purnell Why did Carolyn love this book?

I had never really given much thought to counting until I read this book, but in the very first chapter, Stone made me rethink everything I thought I knew about “one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.” She shows that every time we count, we’re making cultural assumptions. For example, what counts as a fish? And what makes the color of the fish more relevant than other features? Counting reveals that while these choices may seem intuitive, basic, and meaningless, they have very real impacts on people’s lives. Especially when we use numbers to measure things like merit, poverty, race, and productivity, those fundamental assumptions matter more than we care to admit.  

By Deborah Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Early in her extraordinary career, Deborah Stone wrote Policy Paradox, a landmark work on politics. Now, in Counting, she revolutionises how we approach numbers and shows how counting shapes the way we see the world. Most of us think of counting as a skill so basic that we see numbers as objective, indisputable facts. Not so, says Stone. In this playful-yet-probing work, Stone reveals the inescapable link between quantifying and classifying, and explains how counting determines almost every facet of our lives-from how we are evaluated at work to how our political opinions are polled to whether we get into…

Book cover of The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour

Richard Scholar Author Of Émigrés: French Words That Turned English

From my list on just how much English owes French.

Who am I?

I have long been struck, as a learner of French at school and later a university professor of French, by how much English borrows from French language and culture. Imagine English without naïveté and caprice. You might say it would lose its raison d’être My first book was the history of a single French phrase, the je-ne-sais-quoi, which names a ‘certain something’ in people or things that we struggle to explain. Working on that phrase alerted me to the role that French words, and foreign words more generally, play in English. The books on this list helped me to explore this topic—and more besides—as I was writing Émigrés.

Richard's book list on just how much English owes French

Richard Scholar Why did Richard love this book?

This is cultural history with a difference and of a difference. It teaches you a lot about the reputation for fashionable culture that France enjoyed for centuries all over the world and continues to enjoy to this day. How much of all that is already packed into the book’s subtitle! The rest of the book is just as accessible and lively and unwilling ever to take itself too seriously. 

By Joan DeJean,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Essence of Style as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What makes fashionistas willing to pay a small fortune for a particular designer accessory? Why does a special occasion only become really special when a champagne cork pops? Why are diamonds the status symbol gemstone, instantly signifying wealth, power, and even emotional commitment? Writing with great elan, one of the foremost authorities on seventeenth-century French culture provides the answer to these and other fascinating questions in her account of how, at one glittering moment in history, the French under Louis XIV set the standards of sophistication, style, and glamour that still rule our lives today. Joan DeJean takes us back…

Book cover of Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants

Erica Hannickel Author Of Empire of Vines: Wine Culture in America

From my list on the history of booze.

Who am I?

I’m a professor at Northland College (WI) and an American environmental historian with specialties in wine, food, and horticulture. I mostly write on alcohol, garden history, botany, and orchids. The history of alcohol is wild, fraught, and charged with power—I’ll never tire of learning about it.

Erica's book list on the history of booze

Erica Hannickel Why did Erica love this book?

A sensual cultural history mixed with economic history, specifically the rise of capitalism, Schivelbusch launches an interesting argument—that one particular substance, or taste, has often defined the zeitgeist of whole nations for definitive periods. This book is wide-ranging and general in its treatment of alcohol, as well as several other drinks and spices. There are excellent imaginative connections made, and the book invites thinkers to think deeply and broadly about the meaning of intoxicants in history and in their own lives.

By Wolfgang Schivelbusch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the extravagant use of pepper in the Middle Ages to the Protestant bourgeoisie's love of coffee to the reason why fashionable Europeans stopped sniffing tobacco and starting smoking it, Schivelbusch looks at how the appetite for pleasure transformed the social structure of the Old World. Illustrations.

Book cover of The Ebony Tower

Rosalind Brackenbury Author Of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

From my list on set in France with themes to match.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by these themes – love, France, mystery, women’s lives, war, and peace. My parents took me to France when I was 12 and I’ve spent years there in between and go back whenever I can. I started reading in French when sent to be an au pair in Switzerland when I was 17. My own novel, The Lost Love Letters Of Henri Fournier was absorbing to write as it contains all of the above. I found an unpublished novel of Fournier’s in a village in rural France a few years ago and decided I had to write about him and his lover, Pauline, who was a famous French actress. 

Rosalind's book list on set in France with themes to match

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did Rosalind love this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ebony Tower, comprising a novella, three stories, and a translation of a medieval French tale, echoes themes from John Fowles's internationally celebrated novels as it probes the fitful relations between love and hate, pleasure and pain, fantasy and reality.

Book cover of Pablo Picasso: His Life and Times

Gijs van Hensbergen Author Of Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon

From my list on essential Spain.

Who am I?

A lifetime of an obsession with Spain since a childhood spent on Miro’s farm in Montroig del Camp and just a short walk away from where Gaudi was born I have cooked, researched, battled, and fallen in love with this extraordinary country. Almost 40 years ago I bought a farmhouse in Arevalillo de Cega in the central mountains in Spain from where I have crisscrossed the country in the footsteps of Goya, the culinary genius Ferran Adria and in search of information for my biography on Gaudi – the God of Catalan architecture. Spain is an open book with a million pages, endlessly fascinating, contrary, unique, and 100% absorbing. I fell in deep.

Gijs' book list on essential Spain

Gijs van Hensbergen Why did Gijs love this book?

The world of Picasso's biography is a deeply contentious and well ploughed field. I should know as I worked for 5 years on the yet-to-be-published Volume 4 of John Richardson’s epic sex fest.  Hiding in the glare of the Picasso craze is Pierre Cabanne’s revelatory masterpiece. Cabanne knew him, knew his circle, and was not frightened to enter Picasso’s Spanish world in exile. This is the first step to a genuine understanding of Picasso’s genius.

By Pierre Cabanne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Vintage book

Book cover of The Weeping Woman: A Novel

Lynn Bushell Author Of Painted Ladies

From my list on artists and their muses.

Who am I?

As an art historian and painter, I was inevitably drawn to the theme of artists and their muses when I started writing historical fiction. Female, passive, disempowered, and doomed sums up the fate of most muses. History is littered with their corpses - Rossetti’s model Lizzie Siddal committed suicide, Rodin’s model Camille Claudel went mad, Edie Sedgwick, made famous by Warhol, died of an overdose. The title ‘muse’ might offer immortality, but their lives were often hell on earth.  My books set out to understand what drove these women, some of whom were artists in their own right, to make such huge sacrifices. 

Lynn's book list on artists and their muses

Lynn Bushell Why did Lynn love this book?

We all know that Picasso wasn't very nice to his muses – nothing unusual there. He was arrogant and with a massive sense of entitlement. Dora Maar had good reason to weep. She was an artist herself – a successful painter & photographer, gaining commissions historically awarded to men and creating a radical new image of the modern woman  that's until she met Picasso. When she started to cause trouble he had her put away. It's extraordinary how many muses ended up in asylums. Unlike Rodin's muse she did get out, however. In Valdes' novel the story doesn't exactly end happily but in reality she did go on working, as a photographer, up till her death at eighty-nine. Good for you, Dora.

By Zoe Valdes, David Frye (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the prestigious Azorin Prize for Fiction, the best-selling novel about love, sacrifice, and Picasso's mistress, Dora Maar.

A writer resembling Zoe Valdes a Cuban exile living in Paris with her husband and young daughter is preparing a novel on the life of Dora Maar, one of the most promising artists in the Surrealist movement until she met Pablo Picasso. The middle-aged Picasso was already the god of the art world's avant-garde. Dora became his lover, muse, and ultimately, his victim. She became The Weeping Woman captured in his famous portrait, the mistress he betrayed with other mistress-muses, and…

Book cover of Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

Fred Chao Author Of Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero

From my list on pop culture’s influence on the artistic process.

Who am I?

I'm the writer and artist of the Johnny Hiro graphic novels. In those books, I use pop culture reference humor, but never simply as a joke. A reference can act as a hint to a world beyond the story the writer tells. I often dig slightly into an emotional resonance behind that reference—perhaps the (fictional) story of why it exists, or perhaps it even becomes an integral plot point. Popular media and culture often have a direct influence on our creative arts projects. And just sometimes, that art becomes an integral part of the popular culture itself.

Fred's book list on pop culture’s influence on the artistic process

Fred Chao Why did Fred love this book?

I read this play before I saw it, and it was great as a read. Steve Martin is obviously known as a comedic actor. But if you like the few movies he’s written, think Roxanne and LA Story, then you might want to give this one a try. It’s the fictional meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein circa 1904. Picasso has started gaining fame for his breaking of artistic boundaries, and Einstein is a year away from releasing his theory of relativity. The two men have a chance meeting in a bar and drunkenly philosophize about art, science, society, meaning, and sex. And because it’s Steve Martin, don’t be surprised if Elvis comes along.

By Steve Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An imagined meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein in 1904 examines the impact of science and art on a rapidly changing society.

Book cover of Je Suis Le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso

James Hobbs Author Of Sketch Your World: Drawing techniques for great results on the go

From my list on to inspire you to draw.

Who am I?

I started drawing in my twenties when I was lucky to meet and be inspired by tutors who passed on their passion for it. I have drawn and kept sketchbooks ever since: they trace the everyday things, my travels and important life events, but they are also places for thoughts and experiments, notes, and phone numbers. I don’t dare leave home without a sketchbook and pen in case I miss some unmissable thing. I went to art college, trained as a journalist, worked at a variety of art publications, have written three books about drawing, and exhibit and sell my drawings and prints. 

James' book list on to inspire you to draw

James Hobbs Why did James love this book?

I can’t help being inspired by an artist for whom drawing was such a natural, intuitive, lifelong act. Picasso is known to have kept 175 sketchbooks during his lifetime, some linked to his best-known works, such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This book (“I Am the Sketchbook”) not only catalogues all 175, but it reproduces six of them in full, revealing a process of trial and discovery. The looseness, the simplicity, the richness, and the joy of enquiring lines and marks in these pages are, to me, an irresistible stimulant to draw. (There’s the occasional dud too, as any sketchbook should have.)

By Arnold Glimcher (editor), Marc Glimcher (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Je Suis Le Cahier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sketchbooks of Picasso is the only collection available of the private sketchbooks of Pablo Picasso, which he began in Barcelona in 1894. For more than seventy years, as the young painter blossomed and matured into the greatest artist of the twentieth century, he kept a record of his ideas and thoughts, so that by 1964 there were 175 sketchbooks, a unique and startling picture of the mind of a genius at work. Accompanying the major sections are essays by six of the greatest American art historians: E.A. Carmean, Sam Hunter, Rosalind Krauss, Theodore Reff, Robert Rosenblum, and Gert Schiff.…

Book cover of Vampires of the Scarlet Order

Rae Lori Author Of A Kiss of Ashen Twilight

From my list on contemporary paranormal fantasy that span time.

Who am I?

I’ve been a huge fan of vampires, werewolves, elves, fairies, and all sorts of supernatural-themed creatures since I can remember. In addition, I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy movies and novels, which inspired me to pen my first short story at ten years old and send it in for publication. Since then, I’ve enjoyed creating art and writing stories that feature fantastical characters and creatures in extraordinary worlds having adventures. Though I have had two book series and numerous short stories published, I have many more stories and novels in the vault that I can’t wait to share with my readers.

Rae's book list on contemporary paranormal fantasy that span time

Rae Lori Why did Rae love this book?

David Lee Summers’s wonderfully engaging vampire epic is another great story that spans the ages and features a community of vampire characters. Each character gets their own diary-like POV to tell the story, and as we continue throughout the book, we get to see how each character is related. We got the Ottoman Wars here, the Middle Ages, the French Revolution, and early America, to name a few, plus we see how the characters tie into these notable historical events. The lore feels fresh here with some twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. I couldn’t put this one down!

By David Lee Summers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vampires of the Scarlet Order as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new generation of vampires embarks on a quest to save humanity.

Opening a forgotten crypt during a military exercise, Dr. Jane Heckman is made a vampire and begins a journey to unlock the secret origins of her new kindred.

Elsewhere, solitary vampire Marcella DuBois emerges from the shadows and uncovers a government plot to create vampire-like super soldiers.

Daniel McKee, a vampire working as an astronomer, moves to a new town where he's adopted by a family, only to have government agents strip those he loves away from him.

All three vampires discover the government is dabbling in technologies…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pablo Picasso, the Middle Ages, and the French Revolution?

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