The best books on visual perception

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to visual perception, and here are their favorite visual perception books.
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What type of visual perception book?


Jumbo Book of Amazing Mazes

By Hayyoun Publishing,

Book cover of Jumbo Book of Amazing Mazes: Amazing Maze Activity Book Up Over 100 Mazes + Unicorn Themed Mazes

Scott Bedford Author Of Mega-Maze Adventure!: A Journey Through the World's Longest Maze in a Book

From the list on maze books for children.

Who am I?

I am an author, illustrator, and award-winning creative director. I have loved to draw and make things since a young age, mostly wacky contraptions (inspired by my love of the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Races cartoons). I’m also passionate about mazes, having spent many family holidays drawing mazes on a small whiteboard for my two boys to complete.

Scott's book list on maze books for children

Discover why each book is one of Scott's favorite books.

Why did Scott love this book?

While Jumbo Book of Amazing Mazes lacks the high-end production values of my other recommendations, it does offer a whopping 175 colourful illustrated mazes, enough (probably) to last the whole summer holidays! The mazes are varied, with many of them incorporating other puzzle techniques, so you’ll find code-word mazes, quiz mazes, number-logic mazes, and riddle mazes in the mix, this is something I like a lot, and one of the reasons it made my list. This book is great value for money and better than many, if not most, of the similarly priced alternatives (many of which only include black and white mazes, something to be aware of).

By Hayyoun Publishing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jumbo Book of Amazing Mazes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This jumbo book is packed with more than 175 colorful mazes of various puzzle types and features the fun and humorous Highlights! illustrations that kids know and love. Each maze is carefully designed to engage and entertain children while honing their concentration skills and attention to detail. In addition to irresistible traditional mazes, kids will enjoy untangling string mazes, solving code-word mazes, quiz mazes, number-logic mazes, riddle mazes, and more!

Book cover of The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul

Christof Koch Author Of The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread But Can't Be Computed

From the list on consciousness from a neuroscientist.

Who am I?

I am a neuroscientist best known for my studies and writings exploring the brain basis of consciousness. Trained as a physicist, I was for 27 years a professor of biology and engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena before moving to the Allen Institute in Seattle, where I became the Chief Scientist and then the President in 2015. I published my first paper on the neural correlates of consciousness with the molecular biologist Francis Crick more than thirty years ago.

Christof's book list on consciousness from a neuroscientist

Discover why each book is one of Christof's favorite books.

Why did Christof love this book?

This book, by the co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA, helped kick off the modern research enterprise that seeks to track and identify the neuronal correlates of consciousness, that is the footprints of consciousness in the brain. Crick argues that for tactical reasons, scientists should focus on more accessible aspects of consciousness, such as visual awareness, and provides an easy-to-follow introduction into the mammalian brain.

By Francis Crick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Applying the methodology of science to the search for the soul, the winner of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA explores the fundamental questions of human consciousness, challenging science, philosophy, and religion. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.


By David Marr,

Book cover of Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information

Mark S. Nixon Author Of Feature Extraction and Image Processing for Computer Vision

From the list on computer vision from a veteran professor.

Who am I?

It’s been fantastic to work in computer vision, especially when it is used to build biometric systems. I and my 80 odd PhD students have pioneered systems that recognise people by the way they walk, by their ears, and many other new things too. To build the systems, we needed computer vision techniques and architectures, both of which work with complex real-world imagery. That’s what computer vision gives you: a capability to ‘see’ using a computer. I think we can still go a lot further: to give blind people sight, to enable better invasive surgery, to autonomise more of our industrial society, and to give us capabilities we never knew we’d have.

Mark's book list on computer vision from a veteran professor

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

David Marr shaped the field of computer vision in its early days. His seminal book laid the structure for interpreting images and one which is still largely followed. He popularised notions of the primal sketch and his work on edge detection led to one of the most sophisticated approaches. His work and influence continue to endure despite his early death: we missed and miss him a lot.

By David Marr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Available again, an influential book that offers a framework for understanding visual perception and considers fundamental questions about the brain and its functions.

David Marr's posthumously published Vision (1982) influenced a generation of brain and cognitive scientists, inspiring many to enter the field. In Vision, Marr describes a general framework for understanding visual perception and touches on broader questions about how the brain and its functions can be studied and understood. Researchers from a range of brain and cognitive sciences have long valued Marr's creativity, intellectual power, and ability to integrate insights and data from neuroscience, psychology, and computation. This…

Book cover of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Carole Massey Author Of Drawing for the Absolute Beginner

From the list on how to draw.

Who am I?

I have always loved to draw ever since my Dad used to sit drawing with me at the kitchen table when I was little. At Art School we had to spend the first six weeks doing a daily life drawing class before being allowed to pick up a paintbrush! I then studied graphic design setting up my own business, at a time when, without computers, drawing was essential for presenting layout and design. Nowadays, I’m constantly instilling in my students the importance of drawing and sketching. Having been a professional artist all my working life, drawing has been a fundamental element in every way, and all the way.

Carole's book list on how to draw

Discover why each book is one of Carole's favorite books.

Why did Carole love this book?

If you think you can’t draw, then read this book! It’s a bible for anyone wanting to draw, and is by all accounts “the world's most widely used drawing instruction book.” If you want to start drawing or have been unable to get much beyond a “childlike level,” the exercises in this book will help you gain those skills you have always sought.

I often use the “Upside down Drawing” exercise with my portrait classes; my students are usually astounded at how quickly and accurately they can produce a likeness! This is a fascinating book and whether you are an experienced artist or just starting, it will give you inspiring confidence and deepen your artistic perception.

By Betty Edwards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'You will quickly amaze and delight yourself. Hands down the best and most life-enhancing thing I've done in lockdown' India Knight, Sunday Times

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the world's most widely used drawing instruction book. Whether you are a professional, a student, or enjoy art as a hobby, Betty Edwards' practical step-by-step guide will give you greater confidence in your ability, deepen your artistic perception and provide a new way to appreciate the way you perceive the world around you.

This groundbreaking guide includes:
- Expert advice on materials…

Visual Thinking

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Book cover of Visual Thinking

Frank Jacobus Author Of Archi Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture

From the list on design sensing.

Who am I?

I'm a designer, a teacher, a father, a husband, and a friend. I love beautiful things and personally want to know why I find certain things more beautiful than others. I love learning about the world and finding connections between everyday experience and art. When I say “art” I really am blending art, design, architecture, landscape architecture, product design, etc. I believe everything is connected in some way. If I were to pigeonhole myself in any way I would call myself a generalist design thinker. I draw, I write, I make little objects, I make big objects – I see very little difference in any of these things.

Frank's book list on design sensing

Discover why each book is one of Frank's favorite books.

Why did Frank love this book?

This book outlines how the visual field operates at a psychological level.

I am an architect and cannot believe that we don’t teach straight from this and other Arnheim books more often. If you want to know what is happening to you, why you get chills up your spine when looking at art, read this book.

Arnheim is a psychologist, not a designer, so he breaks art down from this perspective.

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For thirty-five years Visual Thinking has been the gold standard for art educators, psychologists, and general readers alike. In this seminal work, Arnheim, author of "The Dynamics of Architectural Form", "Film as Art", "Toward a Psychology of Art", and "Art and Visual Perception", asserts that all thinking (not just thinking related to art) is basically perceptual in nature, and that the ancient dichotomy between seeing and thinking, between perceiving and reasoning, is false and misleading. This is an indispensable tool for students and for those interested in the arts.

Book cover of Just a Touch Away

Laina Villeneuve Author Of Birds of a Feather

From the list on neurodiverse women who love women.

Who am I?

I was thrown into the deep end to learn about autism when our first son was diagnosed as autistic. As first-time parents, how were we to know that the struggles we faced went beyond the norm? We also have twins, one of whom is ADHD and the other dyslexic. Thus, not only have I spent a lot of time learning about autism, but I also enjoy turning to fiction to learn how others both struggle and find solutions. I started writing because the bedtime routine with my kiddos was very difficult. Nearly twelve years later, I am still using my writing to overcome the obstacles in my life. 

Laina's book list on neurodiverse women who love women

Discover why each book is one of Laina's favorite books.

Why did Laina love this book?

I was surprised to see this on a list of neurodiverse books because I hadn’t remembered that Hannah, the professional cuddler has aphantasia which means she cannot form pictures in her head.

This story is an opposites attract where the characters have to live together for ninety-two days if they are to inherit a building. Hannah’s warmth is the polar opposite of Winter’s reserved coldness which makes living together difficult. However, the more Winter learns about how Hannah thinks and functions, the more she thaws.

I loved that each character helped the other step beyond her comfort zone. 

By Jae,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just a Touch Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enemies-to-lovers lesbian romance with an ice queen whose frosty facade is melted by the power of touch.

Hannah Martin has an unusual job: she’s a professional cuddler. While she has a big heart for her clients, she hasn’t found someone special to snuggle up to in her personal life.

Winter Sullivan isn’t looking for love. She’s an aloof workaholic who’s built walls of ice around herself. She would rather drive toothpicks under her fingernails than cuddle, and she certainly doesn’t want to share her space with anyone.

When Winter’s estranged father dies, he leaves her one last surprise: she…

Book cover of Visual Quiet Book: Shapes & Color

Xaviera Plooij Author Of The Wonder Weeks: A Stress-Free Guide to Your Baby's Behavior

From the list on children's books to stimulate development.

Who am I?

I am the co-author and CEO of The Wonder Weeks. I advise various global players in the field of babies and I'm a sought-after speaker at fairs and in daily exchange with mothers and fathers. With all this knowledge I know the needs of parents and their children like no other, with my books and apps I stand for power to the parents! 

Xaviera's book list on children's books to stimulate development

Discover why each book is one of Xaviera's favorite books.

Why did Xaviera love this book?

High contrast baby books help babies to stimulate development, in the first months a baby develops sensations and patterns, so it is very helpful and good for the baby to discover colors and feel various materials like soft polyester. The book is strong stitching and absolutely safe for babies.

By Beiens,

Why should I read it?

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

The Mind's Eye

By Oliver Sacks,

Book cover of The Mind's Eye

M. Leona Godin Author Of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

From the list on blindness and the brain.

Who am I?

Thanks to a degenerative retinal eye disease, I’ve lived on pretty much every notch of the sight-blindness continuum. While going blind super slowly I’ve engaged with the science of seeing and not-seeing as an  academic and artist for about 25 years. I like to say that there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted, there are just fewer of us. Besides teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, I’ve lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at universities and institutions around the country. I love sharing stories about the brain on blindness, and hope you find my recommendations as fascinating as I do.

M.'s book list on blindness and the brain

Discover why each book is one of M.'s favorite books.

Why did M. love this book?

For me, thinking about blindness and the brain all started with an essay by Oliver Sacks called “To See and Not See” (An Anthropologist on Mars). In The Mind’s Eye Sacks picks up some of the threads of that earlier essay and goes deep into how seeing is not just a matter of having functioning eyes. From the pianist who could  suddenly no longer read music to blind people (like myself) who still consider themselves very visual, these neurological tales are intellectually intriguing and emotionally compelling. Sacks even includes his own journal of vision loss as one of the case studies. But whether he is the patient or the doctor, his distinct voice and personal connection to his subject matter has had a huge influence on my own writing.

By Oliver Sacks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does the brain perceive and interpret information from the eye? And what happens when the process is disrupted?

In The Mind's Eye, Oliver Sacks tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities: the capacity to recognize faces, the sense of three-dimensional space, the ability to read, the sense of sight. For all of these people, the challenge is to adapt to a radically new way of being in the world - and The Mind's Eye is testament to the myriad…

Book cover of Curvilinear Perspective from Visual Space to the Constructed Image

Jason Cheeseman-Meyer Author Of Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics from the Ground Up

From the list on for people who draw people.

Who am I?

Drawing and painting people has been my passion and my profession for a couple of decades now. Fine art, comic books, animation, illustration – as long as I'm drawing people, I'm happy. I love the challenge of trying to capture (or create) a living, breathing, thinking person on paper. And I love talking about art books with other artists. Which ones are great, which ones miss the mark, which ones have tiny hidden gems in them. This list is a mix of books I love, and books I heartily recommend.

Jason's book list on for people who draw people

Discover why each book is one of Jason's favorite books.

Why did Jason love this book?

This is my list so I wanted to include this book that was so key to me. This is an art book, but it's a very math-y art book with very few illustrations and almost no how-to step-by-step illustrations. It has pages and pages of “to draw a line from 30 degrees above the horizon and 15 degrees to the left of center etc. etc. etc.” text. It's a dense read, but it was the book that solved six-point perspective for me, which was a topic I'd been working feverishly on for a solid year and couldn't quite nail on my own. It really opened up my understanding of perspective, especially curvilinear perspective drawing. I owe this book (and Flocon and Barre) a lot.

By Albert Flocon, André Barre,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Curvilinear Perspective from Visual Space to the Constructed Image as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Text: English, French (translation)

Art and Visual Perception

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Book cover of Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye

Ellen Winner Author Of How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration

From the list on the value of children’s art.

Who am I?

I’ve had a life-long love affair with the arts. I intended to become an artist, but ultimately became a psychologist researching psychological aspects of the arts. My first book, Invented Worlds, examined the key questions and findings in the psychology of the arts. In Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, I wrote about gifted child artists. My Arts & Mind Lab at Boston College investigated artistic development in typical and gifted children, habits of mind conferred by arts education, and how we respond to works of art. The walls of my home are covered with framed paintings by young children, often side by side paintings by professional artists.

Ellen's book list on the value of children’s art

Discover why each book is one of Ellen's favorite books.

Why did Ellen love this book?

This is a classic book by German-born psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, in which he lays out the principles underlying our perception and understanding of works of visual art.  One of the major principles discussed is the human tendency to see the simplest form possible in any visual array. This ‘simplicity principle’ is also used to explain the intelligence and inventiveness of children’s art. In a brilliant chapter called Growth, Arnheim shows us that children are not striving towards realism; rather they are trying to create the simplest possible recognizable structural equivalent for the object they are representing.  The inventiveness with which children reduce complex forms to simple structural equivalents requires far more intelligence than mindless copying.  

By Rudolf Arnheim,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since its publication fifty years ago, this work has established itself as a classic. It casts the visual process in psychological terms and describes the creative way one's eye organizes visual material according to specific psychological premises. In 1974 this book was revised and expanded, and since then it has continued to burnish Rudolf Arnheim's reputation as a groundbreaking theoretician in the fields of art and psychology.

About Looking

By John Berger,

Book cover of About Looking

Sallie Tisdale Author Of The Lie about the Truck: Survivor, Reality TV, and the Endless Gaze

From the list on the existential crisis of looking in a mirror.

Who am I?

As a writer, I’ve always been interested in ambiguity and ambivalence. How does that apply to the self? What does it mean to present myself to others? How do I appear to the world and how close is that to what I see myself to be? Are we ever truly seen—or willing to be seen? In a world where cameras exist everywhere and we are encouraged to record rather than simply be, how do we look in a mirror? Hannah Arendt said that we could tell reality from falsehood because reality endures. But I feel that nothing I experience endures; nothing remains the same, including the reflection. If anything lasts, it may be my own make-believe. Everything I write is, in some way, this question. Who is that?

Sallie's book list on the existential crisis of looking in a mirror

Discover why each book is one of Sallie's favorite books.

Why did Sallie love 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. 

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a novelist, essayist, and cultural historian, John Berger is a writer of dazzling eloquence and arresting insight whose work amounts to a subtle, powerful critique of the canons of our civilization. In About Looking he explores our role as observers to reveal new layers of meaning in what we see. How do the animals we look at in zoos remind us of a relationship between man and beast all but lost in the twentieth century? What is it about looking at war photographs that doubles their already potent violence? How do the nudes of Rodin betray the threats to…

Techniques of the Observer

By Jonathan Crary,

Book cover of Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century

Barry Sandywell Author Of Dictionary of Visual Discourse: A Dialectical Lexicon of Terms

From the list on beginning the study of visual culture.

Who am I?

I'm currently an Honorary Fellow in Social Theory at the University of York, U.K. For more than five decades I've been working to promote more reflexive perspectives in philosophy, sociology, social theory, and sociological research. I've written and edited many books in the field of social theory with particular emphasis upon questions of culture and critical research in the expanding field of visual culture. Recent projects include Interpreting Visual Culture (with Ian Heywood), The Handbook of Visual Culture, and an edited multi-volume textbook to be published by Bloomsbury, The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. The passion to understand the thought and visual culture of both the ancient and modern world continues to inform my work. 

Barry's book list on beginning the study of visual culture

Discover why each book is one of Barry's favorite books.

Why did Barry love this book?

Crary’s work provides a theoretical and empirically informed synthesis of the work of theorists like Berger, Debord, Baudrillard, Barthes, and Sontag. Like these earlier writers, the technological transformations of visual culture are at the heart of the social transformations of the modern world. To understand modernity is thus first to make sense of its visual logics, procedures, and practices. This general argument allowed the author to enter the granular historical details of how seeing and 'observation’ have become essential to the concerns of modern life. What he calls 'techniques of the observer’ are in fact the core sensory apparatus that has helped to shape the institutions and practices of modern life.

What can be visualized is correlated to the technical affordances and historical development of representational practices. This makes technologies of the visual central to social analysis. Some of the most powerful drivers of modern life are thus linked to…

By Jonathan Crary,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jonathan Crary's Techniques of the Observer provides a dramatically new perspective on the visual culture of the nineteenth century, reassessing problems of both visual modernism and social modernity. This analysis of the historical formation of the observer is a compelling account of the prehistory of the society of the spectacle.

In Techniques of the Observer Jonathan Crary provides a dramatically new perspective on the visual culture of the nineteenth century, reassessing problems of both visual modernism and social modernity.

Inverting conventional approaches, Crary considers the problem of visuality not through the study of art works and images, but by analyzing…


By Istvan Banyai,

Book cover of Zoom

Barbara Lehman Author Of The Red Book

From the list on wordless with surreal or magical realism elements.

Who am I?

I love wordless books immoderately, and I also love books that have meta, surreal, or magical realism elements. This list combines these two features! I was personally so happy that The Red Book was described in a review as “a wordless mind trip for tots,” and I think all the books on this list would perfectly fit that description (and much, much more!) too.

Barbara's book list on wordless with surreal or magical realism elements

Discover why each book is one of Barbara's favorite books.

Why did Barbara love this book?

This book never fails to astound me with its visual surprises. I have looked at it at least a hundred times, and each time I cannot stop turning the pages to see what is next, despite already knowing! The art is superbly drawn, and has the perfect amount of rich detail to savor while “zooming” before we come to a satisfying rest at the contemplative ending.

By Istvan Banyai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As seen on the SERIAL podcast, season 2, episode 1 ("Dustwun")!

Open this wordless book and zoom from a farm to a ship to a city street to a desert island. But if you think you know where you are, guess again. For nothing is ever as it seems in Istvan Banyai's sleek, mysterious landscapes of pictures within pictures, which will tease and delight readers of all ages.

"This book has the fascinating appeal of such works of visual trickery as the Waldo and Magic Eye books." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Ingenious."-- The Horn Book

Art and Illusion

By E.H. Gombrich,

Book cover of Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation

Philip Steadman Author Of Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces

From the list on perspective, optics, and realistic illusion in art.

Who am I?

If I was asked to describe the central theme of my life's work in a phrase, it would be 'geometry in the arts'. I'm an architect originally, now a professor in London, and have always loved drawing and the art of perspective. In the 1990s I became fascinated with the idea that Johannes Vermeer used the camera obscura, an obsession that led to my book Vermeer's Camera. I'm now working on Canaletto's Camera. And I have ideas for yet another book, on perspective, to be called Points of View. I've chosen five books on these topics that I've found most thought-provoking and inspiring.

Philip's book list on perspective, optics, and realistic illusion in art

Discover why each book is one of Philip's favorite books.

Why did Philip love this book?

Ernst Gombrich's masterpiece, published in 1960 and still in print, follows the drive in Western Art from Ancient Greece and Egypt to the present day, to achieve the illusion of realistic appearance in pictures. Kenneth Clark, himself a most accomplished art historian and writer, described Art and Illusion as 'One of the most brilliant books on art criticism I have ever read." I too admire the way the book combines great erudition with a clear conversational style and an ability to move beyond the usual confines of art history. Gombrich uses findings from psychology to illuminate his argument, supported with a surprising range of illustrations, not just from the fine arts, but from advertising, photography, caricature, and cartoons. Brilliant indeed.

By E.H. Gombrich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Considered a great classic by all who seek for a meeting ground between science and the humanities, Art and Illusion examines the history and psychology of pictorial representation in light of present-day theories of visual perception information and learning. Searching for a rational explanation of the changing styles of art, Gombrich reexamines many ideas on the imitation of nature and the function of tradition. In testing his arguments he ranges over the history of art, noticing particularly the accomplishments of the ancient Greeks, and the visual discoveries of such masters as Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt, as well as the…