The best books on aesthetics 📚

Browse the best books on aesthetics as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience

Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience

By G. Gabrielle Starr

Why this book?

This book is an excellent example of interdisciplinarity. Gabrielle Starr is a humanist—a literary scholar, by training—who probes neuroscience methods and how brain sciences can contribute to our understanding of aesthetics. She addresses literature, poetry, music, and visual art with ideas informed by experimental neuroaesthetics work.

From the list:

The best books on the science of art and aesthetics

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Book cover of Understanding the Beauty Appreciation Trait: Empirical Research on Seeking Beauty in All Things

Understanding the Beauty Appreciation Trait: Empirical Research on Seeking Beauty in All Things

By Rhett Diessner

Why this book?

Most scientific books on aesthetics focus on universal and generalizable principles. Rhett Diessner also does so in reviewing the psychological and neuroscience of the human experience of beauty. What sets this book apart from many others is that he also considers individual differences and how personality traits affect our aesthetic sensibilities. If you wonder why people vary in their appreciation of beauty, this is a book worth reading.

From the list:

The best books on the science of art and aesthetics

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Book cover of In Praise of Shadows

In Praise of Shadows

By Jun'ichiro Tanizaki

Why this book?

An exploration by this famous novelist contrasts the Japanese and the west’s approach to what it means to dwell and inhabit. Light, texture, and culture are explored from an aesthetic point of view and as a design choice through various explorations of sensory experience be that of food, traditional Japanese toilets, or the impact of electric light. An evocative and practical essay for anyone interested in the way we inhabit our environments. This book was a powerful reminder that cultural differences and the history behind them need to be understood and welcomed for the contrast and the alternative view they…

From the list:

The best books exploring interior design and our understanding of it, as designers and occupants

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Book cover of Words & Wisdom

Words & Wisdom

By William Morris

Why this book?

It’s a compact 100+ pages with 80 images, showcasing Morris’s passionately held view that beautiful, functional design should be accessible to all. All expressed through quotations from his own words and those of his friends, colleagues, and biographers.  

Fits in a pocket and is a perfect introduction for those who do not yet know of Morris’s ideas and influence. Also a handy source of quotations on the aesthetics of design.

From the list:

The best books about William Morris and his family

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Book cover of The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design

The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design

By Richard Wilde, Judith Wilde

Why this book?

If any book can explain why there’s always more than one way to solve a visual problem, this is it. The book shares a compendium of 13 experimental projects, each designed to teach conceptual thinking and problem solving to art and design students.

From the list:

The best books on visual branding

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Book cover of The Book of Tea

The Book of Tea

By Kakuzo Okakura

Why this book?

Okakura links Taoist and Zen philosophy to the tangible world by way of the aesthetics of tea, which are actually the aesthetics of life itself.  The title of this slim volume is disarmingly understated, then. It is the most approachable book on aesthetics I know.

From the list:

The best books on Japanese aesthetics

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