42 books like The Secret Lives of Color

By Kassia St. Clair,

Here are 42 books that The Secret Lives of Color fans have personally recommended if you like The Secret Lives of Color. 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 Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

Peggy Dean Author Of Mindful Sketching: How to Develop a Drawing Practice and Embrace the Art of Imperfection

From my list on creative books for the wildly imperfect artist.

Why am I passionate about this?

My journey into art began as a serendipitous discovery that unfolded through curiosity. As a “can’t-be-tamed” creative, I understand the tug-of-war artists feel – craving to learn skills and create “quality” pieces, while also thumbing the snooze-fest of sticking to one thing. Been there, done that, got the paint-splattered t-shirt. This has ignited a passion for encouraging others to find their own creative voice, as I've navigated the same path while building a multifaceted career in watercolor, gouache, line drawing, urban sketching, brush lettering, and calligraphy…need I go on? The thing is, I will because there is still so much to be explored.

Peggy's book list on creative books for the wildly imperfect artist

Peggy Dean Why did Peggy love this book?

I can't recommend this book highly enough, and here's why: it completely shattered my misconceptions about originality in the creative process. Kleon's candid and approachable narrative made me realize that all art is, in some form, a reinterpretation or recombination of what already exists.

This book came into my life at a pivotal moment, just when I was grappling with the dreaded "impostor syndrome" and the paralyzing belief that everything I created needed to be unprecedented. Kleon's perspective is liberating. He argues that embracing influences and integrating them into your work is not only acceptable but essential for creativity. 

By Austin Kleon,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Steal Like an Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When asked to talk to students at Broome Community College in upstate New York in the spring of 2011, Austin Kleon wrote a simple list often things he wished he'd heard when he was their age: 'Steal like an artist; Don't wait until you know who you are to start making things; Write the book you want to read; Use your hands; Side projects are important; Do good work and put it where people can see it; Geography is no longer our master; Be nice (the world is a small town.); Be boring (it's the only way to get work…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

The French historian Michel Pastoureau is the master of finding topics you never knew could have a history. His research spans from the history of blue to the history of the bear, and everything he writes makes you see the world with new eyes. One of my favorites is this slim volume about the history of stripes. Pastoureau explains why stripes were associated with the devil in the Middle Ages, why sailors and swimmers took to stripes, and why cultural preferences have shifted from horizontal stripes to vertical stripes and back again. He convincingly shows that the history of the stripe is really a history of the impulse to contain social groups and people.

By Jody Gladding, Michel Pastoureau,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

To stripe a surface serves to distinguish it, to point it out, to oppose it or associate it with another surface, and thus to classify it, to keep an eye on it, to verify it, even to censor it.
Throughout the ages, the stripe has made its mark in mysterious ways. From prisoners' uniforms to tailored suits, a street sign to a set of sheets, Pablo Picasso to Saint Joseph, stripes have always made a bold statement. But the boundary that separates the good stripe from the bad is often blurred. Why, for instance, were stripes associated with the devil…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 National Geographic Infographics

Sandra Rendgen Author Of History of Information Graphics

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

In my work, I try to combine my love for brilliant visuals and my fascination for complex scientific topics. You can easily guess why the National Geographic Magazine has always been one of my favourites. Its first issue appeared in 1888, and from an early stage, NatGeo’s editors have made extensive use of excellent infographics and photography alongside their stories. For this book, National Geographic has teamed up with Taschen to assemble a marvellous collection of the best infographics ever published in the magazine. Attention: This is highly inspiring and – quite literally – a heavyweight.

By Julius Wiedemann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Back in the days when the information age was a distant dream and the world a more mysterious place, National Geographic began its mission to reveal the wonders of history, popular science, and culture to eager audiences around the globe. Since that 1888 launch, the world has changed; empires have risen and crumbled and a galaxy of information is today only a click away. But National Geographic endures; its calm, authoritative voice is as respected as ever amid the surfeit of data in our daily lives.

In this new anthology, TASCHEN and National Geographic gather the magazine's best infographics of…


Book cover of Map: Exploring the World

Sandra Rendgen Author Of History of Information Graphics

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

Maps are the most ancient type of infographic we know, and that comes as no surprise. Spatial navigation is one of the most important evolutionary skills that both animals and humans have developed. Recording this knowledge in maps requires both a thorough scientific understanding and considerable artistic skills. This beautiful coffee table book is a mind-blowing and timeless trip through the field of cartography. It charts the development from pre-historic maps carved in stone all the way to recent brain scans from the Human Connectome Project. Give me this book and I’ll be lost browsing through its visual treasures for several days.

By Phaidon Press, John Hessler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

300 stunning maps from all periods and from all around the world, exploring and revealing what maps tell us about history and ourselves.

Map: Exploring the World brings together more than 300 fascinating maps from the birth of cartography to cutting-edge digital maps of the twenty-fist century. The book's unique arrangement, with the maps organized in complimentary or contrasting pairs, reveals how the history of our attempts to make flat representations of the world has been full of beauty, ingenuity and innovation.

Selected by an international panel of curators, academics and collectors, the maps reflect the many reasons people make…


Book cover of Dear Data

Roger Highfield Author Of The Dance of Life: Symmetry, Cells and How We Become Human

From my list on what big data is and how it impacts us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the Science Director of the Science Museum Group, based at the Science Museum in London, and visiting professor at the Dunn School, University of Oxford, and Department of Chemistry, University College London. Every time I write a book I swear that it will be my last and yet I'm now working on my ninth, after earlier forays into the physics of Christmas and the love life of Albert Einstein. Working with Peter Coveney of UCL, we're exploring ideas about computation and complexity we tackled in our two earlier books, along with the revolutionary implications of creating digital twins of people from the colossal amount of patient data now flowing from labs worldwide.

Roger's book list on what big data is and how it impacts us

Roger Highfield Why did Roger love this book?

Over a single year, Giorgia Lupi, an Italian living in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, an American in London, exchanged hand-drawn postcards to chart the granular details of their lives using clusters, plots, and graphs. We featured the outpourings of these talented “information designers” in a 2016 Science Museum exhibition on big data and these striking images, in turn, paved the way for their book, Dear Data, which provides a remarkable portrait of these artists. An intimate and human take on big data that invites us all to ponder how to represent our own lives.   

By Giorgia Lupi, Stefanie Posavec,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From an award-winning project comes an inspiring, collaborative book that makes data artistic, personal - and open to all

Each week for a year, Giorgia and Stefanie sent each other a postcard describing what had happened to them during that week around a particular theme. But they didn't write it, they drew it: a week of smiling, a week of apologies, a week of desires.

Presenting their fifty-two cards, along with thoughts and ideas about the data-drawing process, Dear Data hopes to inspire you to draw, slow down and make connections with other people, to see the world through a…


Book cover of W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America

Colin Koopman Author Of How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

From my list on data ethics (and data politics).

Why am I passionate about this?

Colin Koopman researches and teaches about technology ethics at the University of Oregon, where he is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the interdisciplinary certificate program in New Media & Culture.  His research pursuits have spanned from the history of efforts in the early twentieth century to standardize birth certificates to our understanding of ourselves as effects of the code inscribed into our genes.  Koopman is currently at work on a book that will develop our understanding of what it takes to achieve equality and fairness in data systems, tentatively titled Data Equals.

Colin's book list on data ethics (and data politics)

Colin Koopman Why did Colin love this book?

W.E.B. Du Bois is widely acknowledged as the leading activist for racial equality of his generation. But until very recently little had been known of his deep commitment to the pursuit of equality within and through data technology. As Du Bois was preparing notes for his famous 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, he was also preparing an exposition of what we would today call “infographics” (or what the editors of this volume aptly call “data portraits”) for exhibition at the 1900 Paris Exposition world’s fair. This volume handsomely reproduces for the first time a full-color complete set of Du Bois’s charts, graphs, maps, and ingenious spirals. A beautiful book to live with, it also subtly transforms one’s understanding of the history of racial progress and inequality in America.

By The W E B Du Bois Center at the Universi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked W. E. B. Du Bois's Data Portraits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"As visually arresting as it is informative."-The Boston Globe

"Du Bois's bold colors and geometric shapes were decades ahead of modernist graphic design in America."-Fast Company's Co.Design

W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits is the first complete publication of W.E.B. Du Bois's groundbreaking charts, graphs, and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Famed sociologist, writer, and Black rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois fundamentally changed the representation of Black Americans with his exhibition of data visualizations at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Beautiful in design and powerful in content, these data portraits make visible a wide spectrum of African American culture, from…


Book cover of The Creative Act: A Way of Being

Mandy Ingber Author Of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover

From my list on activity books for mind body spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Los Angeles and attended a progressive experiential learning school. The libraries were my classroom, the parks my playgrounds, and our twice-weekly field trips developed my journalistic skills. The week began with a contract agreement between myself and my teacher. My education made me a self-starter. My home was emotionally volatile. I became curious about healing: aligning my heart, mind, body, and spirit. My path unfolded to me. I became an actress on Broadway as my parents divorced and my school fell apart. My training in my mobile school delivered me into the real world. I was hungry to feel whole. Thus began my journey. 

Mandy's book list on activity books for mind body spirit

Mandy Ingber Why did Mandy love this book?

Rick Rubin is the prototype for my perfect man. Since I have a huge crush on his brain and voice (I could listen to him have a conversation all day), it is no surprise that I love his book outlining the creative process. It feels like it was channeled.

I use it as a daily reader, selecting a page for the day to contemplate during my morning meditation. I love the bite-sized wisdom, which feels like I could have thought of or written it myself—universal truth nuggets. 

By Rick Rubin,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Creative Act as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller.

From the legendary music producer, a master at helping people connect with the wellsprings of their creativity, comes a beautifully crafted book many years in the making that offers that same deep wisdom to all of us.

"A gorgeous and inspiring work of art on creation, creativity, the work of the artist. It will gladden the hearts of writers and artists everywhere, and get them working again with a new sense of meaning and direction. A stunning accomplishment.” —Anne Lamott

“I set out to write a book about what to do to make a…


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