100 books like The Story of Art

By E.H. Gombrich,

Here are 100 books that The Story of Art fans have personally recommended if you like The Story of Art. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present

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 book is my top recommendation for any art newbie that comes to me asking for book ideas. Where should I start if I want to learn about art history? Start right here! The Annotated Mona Lisa is easy to read, and educational yet entertaining, and it'll help you discover everything from what cave paintings actually mean, to the difference between Expressionism and Abstract Expressionism (hint: it's right there in the name), and even how contemporary artists make work out of miscellaneous objects. Great for preteens on up.

By Carol Strickland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An illustrated tutorial of prehistoric to contemporary world art, from cave paintings to video art installations to digital and Internet media in an easy-to-understand format.

This heavily illustrated crash course in art history is revised and updated from the second edition published in 2007, including a new chapter about recent artists and movements. Featuring succinct page-length essays, instructive sidebars, and more than 300 photographs, The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present takes art education out of the realm of dreary textbooks, demystifies jargon and theory, and makes the history of art movements…


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 Imagine

Jessica Arnold Author Of Nobody Can Take My Happy Away

From my list on imagination and the places it takes you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I often turned to my imagination when I was a child. Nobody Can Take My Happy Away was inspired by the times I was bullied. My peers teased me about my clothes, my teeth, my home, and how I talked. I wanted to hide from everyone, so I had fewer opportunities to make friends. Because I lived in my own head, I found acceptance in the world of make-believe. I read books about strange worlds with characters that thrived in their surroundings. Eventually, it didn’t matter if someone teased me at school. Reading these books helped me be myself. I found strength in being the odd one out.

Jessica's book list on imagination and the places it takes you

Jessica Arnold Why did Jessica love this book?

This interactive book inspired me to look at ordinary things in a new way. The pictures are great, they take you to new places using everyday things and people as a stepping stone. My favorite part of the book is the dial that allows you to switch faces. Common objects take on a whole new life in this book. I remember having a lot of fun looking at it.

This book felt more like playtime than reading, and that’s what I loved about it when I was a child. It made me decide to be an author and illustrator creating imaginative books. The style and theme of this book are my ideal inspiration for future projects. I want to write stories that exist for the sake of making happy memories.

By Norman Messenger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Inspiring, intriguing, endlessly entertaining -- Norman Messenger's interactive book allows us to step out of our everyday lives, shed our preconceptions, and experience a little magic.

IMAGINE . . . a ladder without steps, a clock without hands, a racket without strings, a kiss without a mouth. Imagine a world where the hills have faces and wherever you went, you'd have someone to talk to. Imagine flipping a series of flaps to form fantastical creatures or turning a wheel to fit the top of one face on the bottom of another. Imagine that Norman Messenger's quirky, humorous suggestions, ingenious visual…


Book cover of The Art Stealers

Gail Levin Author Of Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography

From my list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Distinguished Professor of art history at CUNY and biographer of artists. I grew up in Atlanta, attended college in Boston, and have worked in New York since my twenties. With a new Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers, I began as curator of the Hopper Collection at the Whitney Museum, assigned to produce a definitive catalogue of all Edward Hopper’s authentic art. His papers were missing except for his record books that recorded every time a work left for sale, loan, or gift. I traced each work as it left Hopper’s possession and discovered a massive number of undocumented artworks stolen from the estate, which the Whitney still wants to cover up.

Gail's book list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate

Gail Levin Why did Gail love this book?

Esterow, then employed by Larry Fleischman, assessed hundreds of Edward Hoppers that an unknown minister offered to sell.

The book’s dust jacket advertises “a lively history of certain fabulous art thefts—and the strange breed of thieves who perpetrated them.” Esterow’s book inspired one reviewer to comment that few of his criminals “are very ingenious.”

Sanborn, who must have seemed to Esterow like a character that belonged in his narrative, told me that Esterow offered him a consignment deal for what he was shown, which later turned out to be just a small part of Sanborn’s loot.

Had he known Sanborn’s story, Esterow might have added his scheme of befriending the aging sister of a famous artist, whose early works were jammed into the attic of the family home. 

By Milton Esterow,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Rembrandt

Alan Pierce Author Of An Artist's Odyssey: Chasing Ghosts, Masters & The Business of Art

From my list on Maestros of the art world and prisms of thought.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first started art when I was nine years old, but my art journey really started after seeing the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s work at age 14. This experience changed my life and from there, I continued on with fourteen years of formal art education. The book details my experience and journey as a student, instructor, and professional artist over a thirty-year time period across three continents. I wrote An Artist’s Odyssey to help young artists or artists transitioning into art as a profession to help them avoid the pitfalls of the art world and supplement the necessary business acumen required to make a sustainable career in the art world.

Alan's book list on Maestros of the art world and prisms of thought

Alan Pierce Why did Alan love this book?

Rembrandt is a fascinating journey through Rembrandt’s paintings and also his lesser-known (to the general public) prints. It’s also a chronological roadmap of his works from his early years until his final period.  Watching his progression and the mastery in his latest period was a true learning process of how ‘less’ can be ‘far more.’ In the works displayed in the book, Rembrandt shows his skill at wringing every last bit of functionality out of each color in a very limited palette and also the cornucopia of atmospheric density he played with so masterfully to push and pull the viewers’ eye.  

By Emmanuel Starcky,

Why should I read it?

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


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 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…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in art, art history, and writing?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about art, art history, and writing.

Art Explore 860 books about art
Art History Explore 19 books about art history
Writing Explore 59 books about writing