The best anatomy books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about anatomy and why they recommend each book.

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Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael Farthing, Stephen Farthing,

Book cover of Leonardo Da Vinci: Under the Skin

This is a slim volume, which stands out amidst the thousands of books on aspects of Leonardo, for its focus and unusual team of authors. Written by two brothers, one a professor of drawing, the other of medicine, it walks the reader through Leonardo’s anatomical drawings and their far-reaching influence on both science and art. The authors are particularly good at sorting out what Leonardo got from previous students of anatomy, from the Greeks onwards, and what was new that he brought to, or took away from the dissection table, where he claims to have examined over thirty corpses.


Who am I?

I fell in love with art when I was 14 on a trip to Florence with my parents. From that moment on there was hardly an exhibition in London I didn’t go and see. Over the last 20 years, I have made scores of documentaries (Art Safari) and podcasts (Art Bust) about art and written books that explore how the arts and culture intersect with economics, society, and politics. I love to research and tell stories about art: behind the most beautiful objects there often lie the most intriguing of tales, where intellect and imagination collide with ambition, greed, and vanity.


I wrote...

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

By Ben Lewis,

Book cover of The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

What is my book about?

In 2017 the Salvator Mundi was sold at auction for $450m. That dazzling price made it the world’s most expensive painting. But is it a real Leonardo? "Forensically detailed and gripping investigation into the history, discovery and sales of the painting … the Salvator Mundi … sits in 'a pool of theories, surrounded by a tangle of conjecture, suspended from a geometry of clues'." Sunday Times


"It’s a story populated by characters straight out of a thriller: the soft-spoken but ambitious art dealer, the Russian oligarch in the middle of a messy divorce, the shadowy Swiss storage king who sidelines as a dealer, the Saudi prince eager to polish his reputation with a cleansing spritz of high art." Wall Street Journal

The Muscle Book

By Paul Blakey,

Book cover of The Muscle Book

Being exasperated on how muscles function is performed, I recommend The Muscle Book which assisted me in understanding my anatomy. The book helped me understand the moves needed to be performed for my recovery, for each muscle there is straightforward information, including common problems, signs of weakness, and self-massage for first aid. It provides anatomical terminology and clearly outlined reference pages.


Who am I?

Losing something is exceedingly difficult to accept, however, in sharing my story I hope it gives the personal motivation to recover the things that have been taken away. There is light in a tunnel you just must find it, my story I hope gives you that light.


I wrote...

Getting Out: My Story Plus The Exercises And Experience I Learned That Can Help You Get Out From The Wheelchair

By Greg Siofer,

Book cover of Getting Out: My Story Plus The Exercises And Experience I Learned That Can Help You Get Out From The Wheelchair

What is my book about?

Never underestimate your body's ability to heal. If you are having balancing issues, then this book is for you.

Getting Out book comes with valuable exercises that every person learning to walk again needs to have. But regaining your inner confidence to face and overcome challenges is an important part of leading a happier and rewarding life. Author Greg Siofer, knows the struggles, he opens and shares his personal story, experience, and the proven exercises that work.

Anatomy of the Moving Body

By Theodore Dimon Jr., John Qualter (illustrator),

Book cover of Anatomy of the Moving Body: A Basic Course in Bones, Muscles, and Joints

Learning anatomy requires more than pictures and labels. It requires a way “into” the subject—a means of making sense of what is being shown. Anatomy of the Moving Body addresses that need with a simple yet complete study of the body's complex system of bones, muscles, and joints, and how they function. Beautifully illustrated with 3D images, contains lectures that guide you through this challenging interior landscape. Description of each part of the body in brief, manageable sections, with components described singly or in small groups.


Who am I?

Losing something is exceedingly difficult to accept, however, in sharing my story I hope it gives the personal motivation to recover the things that have been taken away. There is light in a tunnel you just must find it, my story I hope gives you that light.


I wrote...

Getting Out: My Story Plus The Exercises And Experience I Learned That Can Help You Get Out From The Wheelchair

By Greg Siofer,

Book cover of Getting Out: My Story Plus The Exercises And Experience I Learned That Can Help You Get Out From The Wheelchair

What is my book about?

Never underestimate your body's ability to heal. If you are having balancing issues, then this book is for you.

Getting Out book comes with valuable exercises that every person learning to walk again needs to have. But regaining your inner confidence to face and overcome challenges is an important part of leading a happier and rewarding life. Author Greg Siofer, knows the struggles, he opens and shares his personal story, experience, and the proven exercises that work.

An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists

By W. Ellenberger, H. Baum, H. Dittrich

Book cover of An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists

This is a useful reference book, dominated by large and carefully drawn plates. The animal kingdom is represented by a small number of familiar domesticated mammals: horse, dog, cow, and goat, together with a lion. Each animal is shown in neutral poses in side, top, and front views, with skeletal and muscular dissections for comparison.


Who am I?

My name is James Gurney and I've been a professional illustrator for National Geographic and Scientific American for over 40 years. Although I went to art school, everything I know about drawing and painting comes from studying art instruction books, and from sketching directly from nature. I'm best known for writing and illustrating the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series, published in 32 countries and 18 languages. I designed 15 dinosaur stamps for USPS and a set of five dinosaur stamps for Australia Post. My originals have been shown in over 35 solo museum exhibitions. My book Color and Light has sold over 200k copies and was Amazon's #1 bestselling book on painting for over a year.


I wrote...

Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

By James Gurney,

Book cover of Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

What is my book about?

Most art instruction books show you how to draw or paint something you can see: a still life, a landscape, or a portrait. But what if you want to make a realistic picture of something that you can only imagine? This book shows you the time-tested methods used by artists since the Renaissance to bring your dreams into reality.

Anatomy of Movement

By Blandine Calais-Germain,

Book cover of Anatomy of Movement: Exercises

Initially published in 1990, this book stands the test of time. Anatomy of Movement Exercises describes the body mechanics inherent in our functional and daily movements. The illustrations and explanations are very clear and the author's understanding of anatomy, physiology, and movement is astonishing. This book is perfect for anybody with a movement practice who wishes to better understand exactly what is going on as they move.

Who am I?

As a lifelong asthmatic I’ve been working with the body for as long as I can remember. Childhood activities included getting lost in the woods, camping, and roller-skating, and grown-up life has included the professions of a modern dancer, choreographer, yoga therapist, and occupational therapist. If you can learn to slow down and find safety in your body, you can always manage to find your way home.


I wrote...

Yoga Bones: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga

By Laura Staton,

Book cover of Yoga Bones: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga

What is my book about?

Yoga Bones - A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Pain and Orthopedic Injuries Through Yoga explains the common conditions causing bodily pain and the easy and fun ways to self-manage through yoga. Beautifully photographed and illustrated, Yoga Bones discusses conditions such as sciatica, lumbar herniations, and hip replacements among many others. By targeting specific areas of the body, Yoga Bones helps to identify problem areas and use yoga as a roadmap for developing self-care. Yoga Bones also offers lifestyle insight such as breathing, anti-inflammatory nutrition, stress-reduction, mindfulness, and the importance of leisure - teaching us to slow down and feel the powerful effects of self-care.

Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology

By Frederic Martini, Judi Nath, Edwin Bartholomew

Book cover of Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology

Your parents always told you to “Sit up straight and don’t slouch when you walk.” Why is this good advice? What are all those bumps along your back and what does it mean if they start to hurt? What is “aerobic exercise” and is it better for you than weight lifting? How do cuts heal, and how does the body fight infections (and pandemics)? What does our brain do while we’re asleep? An anatomy & physiology text can provide the answers to those and thousands of other questions about something we inhabit 24 hours of every day. Here’s one I used in my yoga training. Textbooks tend to be expensive, however, so you may want to look around — there’s even a “For Dummies” book on A&P, which looks pretty good, especially at one-tenth the price of a textbook. 


Who am I?

I never had a real career. Closest I came was the Air Force Reserve for 27 years. Along the way, I built fighter-vs-fighter computer models for the Defense Department, served as an advisor to a Saudi Air Force prince, led a team that designed a replacement for the Air Force’s A-10 tankbuster (which was never built, unfortunately), sold C-130 transport aircraft in Saudi Arabia, taught statistics in business school, became a yoga instructor, and did PR work in Atlanta. Starting in 1975, I collaborated a little with a retired Air Force colonel, John Boyd, creator of the infamous “OODA loop.” I was never a published author in the US, although I am in India, Portugal, and Japan. 


I wrote...

Certain to Win

By Chet Richards,

Book cover of Certain to Win

What is my book about?

War is nothing like business. Countries go to war to compel opponents to do things they’d rather not: Change governments, cede territory, etc. Businesses, on the other hand, try to attract customers to their products and services. In his monumental study of warfare, Patterns of Conflict, Boyd described a strategy that had been remarkably successful: Use an advantage in the tempo of decisions and operations to seize the initiative and exploit it before the opponent could figure out what had happened. He also described a set of cultural attributes that enabled the most successful militaries to do this.

I noticed that a number of companies highlighted by Tom Peters in Thriving on Chaos used similar principles. Many conversations later – including between Peters, Boyd, and me  I had the concept for this book. 

Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist

By Stephen Rogers Peck,

Book cover of Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist

This book laid the foundation of the importance of anatomy for me. I was first introduced to the pages as a college student and over fifty years later I use it as reference for myself and the students I teach. The author, through the use of his thorough, detailed illustrations, charts, photographs and explanations guide us through a maze of complicated body parts. His mastery of the human body allows him to visually present this complex topic into easily understandable material. The information contained within its pages has also been invaluable to me over the years as a constant reference in my quick sketching, illustration, and animation projects.


Who am I?

I've been drawing for over 68 years and carrying a sketchbook for over 60 of those years. I've seen success as an author, I'm an award-winning illustrator of books and magazines and animated many classic Disney features. Am I an expert on sketching humans and animals? ...No. I'm constantly learning in my effort to capture humans and animals in action by following the basic principles of drawing as they apply to quick sketching. My learning is aided by these books as I prepare lesson plans or the encouragement and inspiration found within their pages. I'm married to LaVonne, my high school sweetheart of 50 years, and have three grown children and six grandchildren.


I wrote...

Quick Sketching with Ron Husband

By Ron Husband,

Book cover of Quick Sketching with Ron Husband

What is my book about?

One of the benefits quick sketching has given me is that it has sharpened my ability to analyze actions quickly. I now look at human and animal movement and see their basic shapes, the various shapes it is composed of as a whole and individually. I am able to quickly recognize special relationships between my subject or subjects; how far an arm is away from the body, the distance one foot is from another in a walk, or how one body relates to another in space. Seeing both the negative and positive shapes as equally important has given me control over my quick sketches. I am definitely a better artist today because of what quick sketching has caused me to focus my artistic attention on. 

Human Anatomy for Artists

By Eliot Goldfinger,

Book cover of Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

Eliot Goldfinger’s book is very precise, reliable, and not too lengthy. Its systematic approach reminds me of a medical anatomy book, but it has been adapted for artists. The book is consistent in its depictions of human anatomy, and you will find each anatomical structure depicted from set angles: front, side, top, etc. It’s not always easy to find reliable human anatomy references, but this is one of them.


Who am I?

I’m a traditional sculptor with more than 25 years of experience. Being a dyslectic student in the 2000s, I developed a systematic approach to translating medical anatomy texts into visual information that I could use while sculpting.  All the anatomy books for artists at the time were text-centered. My reference sketches became quite popular among colleagues. It was clear that visual artists perceive information best when it’s visual, and that is how I got the idea for my first book. Now the Anatomy for Sculptors handbooks are bestsellers among visual artists striving to better understand the human form.


I wrote...

Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure

By Uldis Zarins, Sandis Kondrats,

Book cover of Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure

What is my book about?

This anatomy handbook for artists gives you everything you need to create realistic human body forms. Of course, only long hours of practice can hone your skills and let you become a masterful visual artist. Having a live model in your training also makes a big difference, but one is not always available. However, reliable anatomy references can be an excellent substitute – as long as they really are good!

Only about 2-5% of the book is text! Anatomy For Sculptors: Understanding the Human Figure contains visual references for hundreds of body postures and motions. Regardless of what composition you choose for your artwork, you don’t have to guess anymore. This book will show you the exact form of every muscle from any angle.

Figure Drawing

By Andrew Loomis,

Book cover of Figure Drawing: For All It's Worth

This figure drawing guide is a classic, and for good reason. Artist Andrew Loomis wrote this book for those who have graduated from the fundamentals of drawing and are ready to embark on their artistic careers. The focus is on aesthetic as well as practical, and leans toward a more commercial approach rather than fine art, but will be helpful to both disciplines. Loomis includes chapters on anatomy, planes and lighting, drawing from living models, the figure in action, and costume, among others. He discusses idealization and other tricks of the trade to help the reader produce superior work. Explanatory sketches and examples of some of his own best sketches appear on almost every page. Originally published in 1943 this book continues as a solid reference for artists struggling to perfect their own skills.


Who am I?

Born at the base of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, I began exploring and sketching the world—as most children do—at a very early age. I continued to pursue not only my artistic path through traditional schooling, higher education, and endless hours of practice, but also my love of storytelling. Intrigued by Science Fiction and Fantasy, many of my projects reflect elements of the fantastic, but I also appreciate the beauty and elegance in fine art masterpieces. I studied illustration and graphic design at Utah State University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my beautiful wife and four boys, where I continue to write, paint and draw regularly.


I wrote...

Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

By Brian C. Hailes,

Book cover of Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

What is my book about?

Draw It With Me: The Dynamic Female Figure art book explores anatomical, gestural, comic/anime, and fine art/life drawing studies of the human female form in dramatic poses and angles, offering step-by-step examples and process descriptions using these varied artistic approaches. To help inspire and educate the novice and master artist alike.

With over 200 full colorfully illustrated pages by award-winning artist/illustrator and #1 Amazon bestselling author, Brian C. Hailes, this book features supine, standing, seated, leaping, flying, crouching, fighting (and more) dynamic female figure sketches and masterpieces, using varying media and from differing angles / light sources with many photo references of the models included.

Anatomy for Artists

By 3dtotal Publishing (editor),

Book cover of Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide to the Human Form

I’ve always felt that a foundational knowledge of human anatomy is an absolute necessity for anyone serious about becoming a figurative artist. It’s like learning how to dribble if you want to play for the NBA. Although I used a different anatomy book growing up, An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz Schider, I feel that Anatomy for Artists is a more solid choice for today’s up-and-comers. It’s an extensive compendium of high quality, detailed photography, and drawings, showing the human figure in a variety of shapes, sizes, and poses. It consists of stunning photography and comprehensive drawings showing the muscular structure of figures of varying body types. These male and female references will act as an invaluable starting point for artists trying to create art based on the human form.


Who am I?

Born at the base of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, I began exploring and sketching the world—as most children do—at a very early age. I continued to pursue not only my artistic path through traditional schooling, higher education, and endless hours of practice, but also my love of storytelling. Intrigued by Science Fiction and Fantasy, many of my projects reflect elements of the fantastic, but I also appreciate the beauty and elegance in fine art masterpieces. I studied illustration and graphic design at Utah State University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my beautiful wife and four boys, where I continue to write, paint and draw regularly.


I wrote...

Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

By Brian C. Hailes,

Book cover of Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

What is my book about?

Draw It With Me: The Dynamic Female Figure art book explores anatomical, gestural, comic/anime, and fine art/life drawing studies of the human female form in dramatic poses and angles, offering step-by-step examples and process descriptions using these varied artistic approaches. To help inspire and educate the novice and master artist alike.

With over 200 full colorfully illustrated pages by award-winning artist/illustrator and #1 Amazon bestselling author, Brian C. Hailes, this book features supine, standing, seated, leaping, flying, crouching, fighting (and more) dynamic female figure sketches and masterpieces, using varying media and from differing angles / light sources with many photo references of the models included.

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