The best art books 📚

Browse the best books on art 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 The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design

The Process: A New Foundation in Art and Design

By Judith Wilde, Richard 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 Ways of Seeing

Ways of Seeing

By John Berger

Why this book?

Most of us look without seeing (much). We miss the key details. They might be facial expressions, revealing whether somebody is friend or foe or what is really going on in a famous painting. Berger brings in history, politics, socio-economic issues, the whole nine yards to make viewing art not the sterile exercise that some might take it as. Written in an accessible style with lots of visuals, no wonder the BBC ran a series based on this book back in the day.

From the list:

The best books on the heart of leaders when democracy is at risk

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Book cover of About Looking

About Looking

By John Berger

Why this book?

This is a book of essays about the act of looking, especially looking at photographs and paintings and animals and other people. Thus these are essays about history, memory, suffering, beauty, and the self. Berger had a generous spirit; he wrote often about the lives of peasants and spent the last forty years of his life in rural France. Berger gazed upon the world in all its forms with composure and curiosity. 

From the list:

The best books on the existential crisis of looking in a mirror

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Book cover of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

By Ellen Winner

Why this book?

If you read one book on the psychology of art, make it this one. Winner gives us a book that celebrates the importance of art even as she remains grounded in experimental data and avoids hyperbole. She asks deceptively simple questions. What is art? Why do we make art? Does art make us better people? The clarity of her logic and the elegance of her prose as she answers these and other incisive questions make this book a delight to read.

From the list:

The best books on the science of art and aesthetics

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Book cover of The Bitch

The Bitch

By Pilar Quintana, Lisa Dillman

Why this book?

So much of this book is filled with folklore and magic, but the provocative and devastating ending, which raises important questions about motherhood and the fine line between animal and human consciousness, guts the reader as any honest book should. I’ve always been fascinated by the wide range of strong opinions people feel in response to a simple question: Are pets equal to children in the hierarchy of living things? I was fully transported into this surprising exploration of violence and motherhood.

From the list:

The best books on the dark complexities of motherhood for rainy, non-hallmark kinds of days

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Book cover of The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression

The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression

By Gary Faigin

Why this book?

Gary Faigin is the guy I took my first and only perspective class from, back when he was teaching at the New York Academy of Arts. Eventually we became friends, and fortunately for me he never wrote a book on perspective. Instead, Gary channeled his considerable knowledge of anatomy and drawing into the indispensable book on facial expressions. In profusely illustrated chapters, Gary breaks down the daunting complexity of facial expressions into six basics: joy, anger, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise. Like the primary colors, this basic palette yields the full spectrum of extreme to subtle, in-between, and mixed expressions. 

From the list:

The best books to make you a better artist

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