The best books about photographers

5 authors have picked their favorite books about photographers and why they recommend each book.

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Darwinia

By Robert Charles Wilson,

Book cover of Darwinia

Darwinia was the first novel I read by Robert Charles Wilson, who I believe is the best modern-day science fiction writer. Darwinia was a novel I had to read twice to really grasp how brilliantly Wilson had woven everything together. This is one of those novels where the ending can sneak up on you and blow you away and you weren’t even remotely prepared, which is preferred over any ending that I can predict.

Darwinia

By Robert Charles Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In an alternative history of the twentieth century, Europe is replaced by a land of nightmarish jungle and monsters that contains the secret of human destiny.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by science and space since I was a child and naturally gravitated toward science fiction. In many respects, it was a form of escapism, as I didn’t enjoy school. I always preferred escaping into another world or being taken on a journey to another world. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that most great science fiction is a commentary on our own world and the issues we face daily. Science fiction, more than any other genre, does a better job of exploring and dissecting aspects of our world, which in turn helps us better understand our world and our relationship with it.


I wrote...

The Darkdrift

By Don Kinney,

Book cover of The Darkdrift

What is my book about?

Targeted LA cop Samuel Winter escapes the unforgiving Silanna cartel and flees to more familiar territory, New York City, where new enemies and friends—desperately bound to ancient text hidden in an otherworldly object—await his arrival and thrust him into a struggle to prevent a tragedy that may or may not occur, that may simply be shrouding a far greater catastrophe: the inescapable pull of the Darkdrift.

Dorothea Lange

By Linda Gordon,

Book cover of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

In the 1930s, Dorothea Lang photographed poor and migrant families across the United States. She documented the devastating impact of the Great Depression, contributing to raising national awareness about the consequences of poverty. In this outstanding and engaging biography, Linda Gordon tells the story of her life and work and how her photographs were part of a larger political movement to transform and expand social protection to US citizens.

Dorothea Lange

By Linda Gordon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We all know Dorothea Lange's iconic photos-the Migrant Mother holding her child, the shoeless children of the Dust Bowl-but now renowned American historian Linda Gordon brings them to three-dimensional life in this groundbreaking exploration of Lange's transformation into a documentarist. Using Lange's life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, Gordon masterfully re-creates bohemian San Francisco, the Depression, and the Japanese-American internment camps. Accompanied by more than one hundred images-many of them previously unseen and some formerly suppressed-Gordon has written a sparkling, fast-moving story that testifies to her status as one of the most gifted historians of our…

Who am I?

I’m a historian of Latin America and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles. I write about Chile’s labor and social history in the twentieth century. As a historian, I am especially interested in understanding how working people relate with public institutions and authorities, what they expect from the state, and how they have organized and expanded social and economic rights. While my research centers in Chile and Latin America, I also look to place regional debates in a transnational framework and see how ideas and people have moved across borders. I like books that bring working people’s diverse voices and experiences. 


I wrote...

Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

By Ángela Vergara,

Book cover of Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

What is my book about?

In Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile, Ángela Vergara narrates the story of how industrial and mine workers, peasants and day laborers, as well as blue-collar and white-collar employees earned a living through periods of economic, political, and social instability in twentieth-century Chile. The Great Depression transformed how Chileans viewed work and welfare rights and how they related to public institutions. Influenced by global and regional debates, the state put modern agencies in place to count and assist the poor and expand their social and economic rights.

Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile contributes to understanding the profound inequality that permeates Chilean history through a detailed analysis of the relationship between welfare professionals and the unemployed, the interpretation of labor laws, and employers’ everyday attitudes.

Lies We Bury

By Elle Marr,

Book cover of Lies We Bury

Elle Marr is known for her fast-paced thrillers, but what set this one apart for me was the flashback timeline, which is narrated by the main character Marissa when she was a child. As a reader, you know what’s going on—she’s trapped with her mother, along with other women and children, by the man who abducted them. But reading it from the childlike perspective adds a chilling, heart-breaking element of terror to this captivating story.

Lies We Bury

By Elle Marr,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’ve always been captivated by dark stories—from my teen years watching my favorite creepy show, The X-Files, to now as an adult writing my own thrilling stories. What really draws me to these stories of darkness are the flickers of light they inevitably contain—the love between characters; the growth when characters find their strength after enduring difficult times; and ultimately, the hope they can find even when all seems lost. To me, finding your way through the darkness and into the light—and getting creeped out along the way—makes for the best kind of story, and it’s the kind I strive to write as an author.


I wrote...

Iris in the Dark

By Elissa Grossell Dickey,

Book cover of Iris in the Dark

What is my book about?

Iris in the Dark is the story of an overprotective single mother who must face her worst fear—the past. When Iris is entrusted to house-sit at a lodge on the South Dakota prairie, she thinks she’s prepared for anything. But late one night, she hears a chilling cry for help coming from a walkie-talkie buried in a box of toys. As the calls get more desperate, personal, and menacing, Iris realizes the person on the other end isn’t reaching out for help. They’re reaching out to terrorize her. Now the only way for Iris to move forward in life is to confront the past she’s been running from…a threat that has now followed her into the dark.

Wonderful Tonight

By Pattie Boyd, Penny Junor,

Book cover of Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me

Boyd experienced an iconic era of rock n roll first hand by being a 1960s model who  married George Harrison after meeting on the set of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The stories of her marriage to Harrison and the A-list rock stars she socialized with, surely would make her the best dinner party guest ever. But if that’s not enough, the second part of the book chronicles her tumultuous marriage to Eric Clapton and ultimately ends with her learning to stand on her own. A truly moving story of strength.

Wonderful Tonight

By Pattie Boyd, Penny Junor,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

When I was a kid, my biggest escape was my father’s record collection. Growing up in 1990s NJ, music was a huge part of my experience. Springsteen was from a few miles south, Bon Jovi was from the town next to mine, and Whitney Houston was from the same state but a different county. Music told stories. Inspired my the music of my youth, I now make my living as a storyteller— I tell stories onstage, write books about storytelling and teach others how to tell stories effectively. I have no musical gifts except for the mass consumption of any book with juicy tales about the world of music. Here are a few of my favorites.


I wrote...

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need

By Margot Leitman,

Book cover of Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need

What is my book about?

Do you ever wish you could tell a story that leaves others spellbound? Comedian, Upright Citizens Brigade storytelling program founder, and Moth champion Margot Leitman will show you how in this practical guide to storytelling.

Using a fun, irreverent, and infographic approach, Long Story Short breaks a story into concrete components. From content and structure to emotional impact and delivery, Leitman guides you through the entire storytelling process, providing personal anecdotes, relatable examples, and practical exercises along the way. Using a fun, irreverent, and infographic approach, Long Story Short breaks a story into concrete components. From content and structure to emotional impact and delivery, Leitman guides you through the entire storytelling process, providing personal anecdotes, relatable examples, and practical exercises along the way.

Snowflake Bentley

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Mary Azarian (illustrator),

Book cover of Snowflake Bentley

My memories of childhood are of white winters and deep snowfalls. Like anyone in a perfect snowstorm, I have often looked at the flakes on the shoulders and sleeves of my coat and wished I could preserve that perfect crystal. I also wondered if the saying was true—that no two snowflakes are alike—and how anyone could possibly know.

I had no idea as a child that a Vermont farmer, Wilson Bentley, studied and photographed snowflakes for years, leading to discoveries about these six-sided, fleeting jewels. In Snowflake Bentley (another Caldecott recipient), Jacqueline Martin introduces us to a time “In the days when farmers worked with ox and sled,” and a boy “who loved snow more than anything else in the world.” A fascinating, educational,  and true story to explore.

Snowflake Bentley

By Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Mary Azarian (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Snowflake Bentley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley's enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist's vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature.…

Who am I?

The world opened to me in a safe space when I learned to read as a child, and by 6th grade I regularly hauled home stacks of books from the library and, inspired by Jo March, hoped to be an author. I put aside my dream of writing and pursued other career goals until my marriage to Mark Buehner. It was his career as an illustrator that opened a path for me to write, and together we have created many picture books, including the Snowmen at Night series. I’ve learned that stories are told with pictures as well as words, and beautiful picture books can be savored at any age.


I wrote...

Snowmen at Night

By Caralyn M. Buehner, Mark Buehner (illustrator),

Book cover of Snowmen at Night

What is my book about?

One wintry day a child builds a snowman, only to notice the next day that the snowman’s grin is a little crooked, and his arms are drooping down. This dishevelment makes him wonder... what do snowmen do at night? Perhaps they slip away to the park for a night of merrymaking and winter fun. The joyful, rollicking snowmen in this bestselling book not only bring smiles and laughter to the reader, but Mark Buehner has hidden a cat, rabbit, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Santa face in every illustration. 

Dorothea Lange

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Sarah Green (illustrator),

Book cover of Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Dorothea Lange struggled with disease and disability and eventually found her path, becoming one of America’s greatest photographers through her ability to capture the human experience notably through photographs of people in the Great Depression. This book not only helps readers learn about Lange, but it aids them in understanding this difficult time in United States’ history. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, portraying a wide range of emotions that express the essence of Lange and her work. 

Dorothea Lange

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Sarah Green (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I have been involved in the arts all my life, working as a writer, in film, and as a musician. I have degrees in music and creative writing and have studied visual arts and art history extensively as well. Besides being an author, I teach writing and humanities at the college level. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do!


I wrote...

Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler

By Elizabeth Brown, Aimée Sicuro (illustrator),

Book cover of Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler

What is my book about?

They said only men could paint powerful pictures, but Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) splashed her way through the modern art world. Channeling deep emotion, Helen poured paint onto her canvas and danced with the colors to make art, unlike anything anyone had ever seen. She used unique tools like mops and squeegees to push the paint around, to dazzling effects. Frankenthaler became an originator of the influential “Color Field” style of abstract expressionist painting with her “soak stain” technique, and her artwork continues to electrify new generations of artists today.

Dancing Through Fields of Color discusses Frankenthaler’s early life, how she used colors to express emotion, and how she overcame the male-dominated art world of the 1950s.

Dorothea's Eyes

By Barb Rosenstock, Gerard Dubois (illustrator),

Book cover of Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth

The cover shows a woman peering into her camera. She holds the camera carefully, gently and with purpose. Inside, the attractive illustrations show Dorothea Lange who, as a child, was sick leaving her feeling invisible. But the world wasn’t invisible to her. She surprised everyone when she announced one day that she was going to be a photographer. Was it unladylike? What did that even mean? It didn’t matter to Dorothea, who refused to look away from the suffering of people. She used her photos to show that each person is special. Without Dorothea, the images she captured would remain invisible, when they all deserved to be visible. Actual photographs and timeline at the end of this book make it even more fascinating.

Dorothea's Eyes

By Barb Rosenstock, Gerard Dubois (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An excellent beginner's resource for biography, U.S. history, and women's studies." -Kirkus Reviews

Here is the powerful and inspiring biography of Dorothea Lange, activist, social reformer, and one of the founders of documentary photography.

After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear.

But her desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family's disapproval, Lange pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously…

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning children’s author who lives in Australia. I love reading and writing picture books, and although I mostly write fiction, I also love writing biographies. I am drawn to stories about women who have achieved something inspirational and unexpected and who may have not received wide recognition at the time or that any recognition has faded from public knowledge. I find it exciting to work with a team, that is the illustrator and the publisher, to create books that will find their way to children and allow them to imagine and feel another person’s life, and to see that everyday people do amazing things.


I wrote...

Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

By Kaye Baillie, Tanja Stephani (illustrator),

Book cover of Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

What is my book about?

When Olive Dennis was young, girls were expected to be sewing, cooking, and cleaning. But Olive was busy imagining, designing, and building everything from a wooden dollhouse to a model streetcar with working parts. When she grew up, Olive continued to defy expectations, earning a civil engineering degree, and becoming the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's first female engineer. Her genius for inventing improvements based on her keen observations of passengers' needs and problems led her to the assignment of a lifetime: designing a luxury train that would change rail travel forever.

Georgia

By Dawn Tripp,

Book cover of Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe

I’m fascinated by historical fiction that sticks to the “facts” of a person’s life but imagines and richly describes that person’s inner world—in this case Georgia O’Keefe’s. The novel focuses on the young painter’s love affair with Alfred Stieglitz, an established photographer and art dealer. Before the art world knows Georgia O’Keefe as a ground-breaking artist in her own right, she is introduced as the female nude in Stieglitz’s photographs. Does her art gain notice in part because of this scandalous introduction, or does it merely eroticize her and her work? And while she learns much from Stieglitz, what does this relationship cost her? This book is masterfully “painted” with O’Keefe-like brush strokes that assemble a tantalizing picture and still leave much to the imagination.

Georgia

By Dawn Tripp,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I was never much of a history student. Facts and figures rarely stick in my brain until I have a character—their feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams—to pair them with, so I rely a lot on historical fiction to understand different places and times. I’m also a believer that our culture too often serves up the impression that marginalized people have forever hopelessly struggled, held back by those in power. But there are so many true stories that reveal the opposite, in this case, women fighting for their dreams and winning! I aim to bring these stories to light in a way that keeps the pages turning. 


I wrote...

Leaving Coy's Hill

By Katherine Sherbrooke,

Book cover of Leaving Coy's Hill

What is my book about?

Leaving Coy’s Hill is inspired by Lucy Stone, an abolitionist and the first woman to speak out on women’s rights in the US. While she was perhaps the most famous woman in the country in the mid-1800s, she was rather purposely erased from history by her own friend, Susan B. Anthony. In writing this novel I wanted to breathe new life into a woman driven to create change in a deeply divided nation and determined to stand on the right side of history despite painful personal costs. NY Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt says, “What could be more timely than Sherbrooke’s gorgeously fictionalized and page-turning account of Lucy Stone?... A stunning look at timeless issues…all told through the lens of one extraordinary heroine.”

Lewis Carroll

By Helmut Gernsheim,

Book cover of Lewis Carroll: Photographer

Mention the name ‘Lewis Carroll’ and most people will immediately think of the two Alice books. Very few would equate the name to Charles Dodgson, the photographer. This, however, is the aspect of the multi-talented Oxford don which Gernsheim, a professional photographer himself, appraised in his 1949 first edition for the very first time, concluding that Dodgson was ‘the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century. Many of the black and white plates substantiate this claim, but equally, Dodgson’s mastery of this new invention enabled him to meet and photograph (sometimes uniquely) numerous famous writers and artists, as well as many Oxford contemporaries. As an aside, Edward Wakeling’s 2015 Catalogue Raisonné is a comprehensive listing of every one of Dodgson’s hundreds of known photographs.

Lewis Carroll

By Helmut Gernsheim,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I am an Oxford local historian, and the only Oxford guide endorsed by the Lewis Carroll Society. I have helped shape Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day since the first one in 2007, and have participated in French, Dutch, Canadian, Brazilian and British TV and radio documentaries, most notably for BBC 2 and BBC Radio 4. My interest is mainly the many Oxford realities which are hidden away within the apparent fantasy of the ‘Alice’ books, an angle which has enabled me to lecture on this internationally famous topic as far away as Assam in India. Subsequently, my appreciation of Carroll’s versatility as a mathematician, photographer, inventor, diarist, and letter writer has grown steadily over the years.


I wrote...

Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford

By Mark Davies,

Book cover of Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford

What is my book about?

An appraisal of a world-famous Oxford story from a new angle: the fundamental influence of the River Thames in the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Lewis Carroll (the Christ Church don Charles Dodgson) entertained Alice Liddell and her sisters (the daughters of the Dean) with impromptu stories on rowing trips over seven summers, and it was on the river that the story of Alice had its birth.

Alice in Waterland sets the Oxford scene by combining excerpts from Carroll’s diaries and both Alice books with contemporary images, memoirs, and fiction on a literary journey of discovery along some ten miles of the picturesque river of which ‘the merry crew’ were all so fond. The book also sheds new light, and corrects some long-standing misconceptions, on the real places, people, and events which stimulated Carroll’s extraordinary imagination. "This is a splendid book." Philip Pullman

Epitaph for a Spy

By Eric Ambler,

Book cover of Epitaph for a Spy

I read Eric Amber when I was young, and again when I was invited to take part in Andrew Marr’s BBC4 documentary Sleuths, Spies and Sorcerers.

Ambler’s books have no heroes or jingoism. He revolutionized spy fiction by injecting realism. He portrays the chaos of Europe in the 1930s, with people trying to survive without papers. In Epitaph for a Spy, Josef Vadassy, a Hungarian refugee, has become stateless after the Treaty of Trianon. In France, he is arrested for spying because of a mix-up with camera film. He is told to find the real spy or be deported, which could mean death. He is left with no choice but to become a spy.

Ambler said that he wanted to write “credible and literate spy fiction.” He amply succeeded in this.

Epitaph for a Spy

By Eric Ambler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Epitaph for a Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Josef Vadassy, a Hungarian refugee and language teacher living in France, is enjoying his first break for years in a small hotel on the Riviera. But when he takes his holiday photographs to be developed at a local chemists, he suddenly finds himself mistaken for a Gestapo agent and a charge of espionage is levelled at him. To prove himself innocent to the French police, he must discover which one of his fellow guests at his pension is the real spy. As he desperately tries to uncover the true culprit's identity, Vadassy must risk his job, his safety and everything…

Who am I?

Looking at photographs after my father died, when still living in Spain, I reflected on what life had been like for young men of the WWII generation. This sparked the start of my Peter Cotton series. Living abroad for so long, having more than one language and culture, gives people dual perspective, a shifting identity, which is something that fascinates me—and makes Cotton ideal prey for recruiting as an intelligence agent. I also wanted to explore the complex factors in the shifting allegiances after WW2, when your allies were often your worst enemy. All these are themes that recur in the books chosen here.


I wrote...

The Maze of Cadiz

By Aly Monroe,

Book cover of The Maze of Cadiz

What is my book about?

The Maze of Cadiz is the first of the Peter Cotton series, which shows the path of a young economist - intelligence agent after World War II during the decline of Britain as a colonial power. I was interested in ‘real’ experience, the grubby realities, and how Cotton becomes what he will be. I hope Peter Cotton’s voice represents a humble reality, without artificially imposed heroism, and shows him as a creature of his time. There are very few people left who lived through this period—it is only just within living memory—but those who are still alive, and can still express themselves, have become more and more honest about the messy, incompetent, and often casually cruel way in which things happened.

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