Join our community, stay updated on our artists and their artworks & discover our latest news. Subscribe

August 09, 2022

7 Books Every Artist or Art Enthusiast Should Read

Article by Annikka Olsen

3 min. read

Young Woman reading
Gustave Courbet, A Young Woman Reading, circa 1866-1868. Chester Dale Collection.

Books offer the incredible opportunity to see from different perspectives, learn about the world around us, and garner new inspiration and insight. For artists and creatives in particular, reading has come to be recognized as a valuable and functional facet of the creative process. Art books—including monographs, art theory, art historical, or how-to—hold particular weight insofar as they are often written by artists themselves or focus on ideas or vantages most relevant to those working in the field. Whether a long-time reader or someone looking for a starting point, below is a curated collection of arts-related books that are worth the read for artists and art enthusiasts alike.


Photo: Intellect Books.

1. Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists. Edited by Sharon Louden. Published by Intellect Books.

The reality versus perception of life as a working artist is often quite disparate. The collection of essays contained in this book provide a nuanced and authentic look at what being a working artist is really like from the perspective of various artists from different parts of the world, walks of life, and career stages—from emerging to established. Balancing the pragmatic necessity of making a living with sustaining enough creativity and energy for making art can be tricky. Overall, this anthology illustrates the myriad ways that artists live and work from an unaffected, candid point of view not usually seen.

Book cover
Photo: W. W. Norton & Company.

2. Letters to a Young Poet. By Rainer Maria Rilke; translated by M. D. Herter Norton. Published by W. W. Norton & Company.

This collection of writing is commonly found on must-read lists for artists, writers, and, generally, anyone working or considering working within a creative space. Rainer Maria Rilke became one of the world’s most preeminent poets at the turn of the 20th century, and at the height of his fame he wrote a series of letters to an imaginary, young prospective poet who is seeking his advice. In these letters, Rilke discusses how to stay artistically sensitive in a harsh and unforgiving world; discusses choice of pursuing the arts over other more sensible careers; and offers ways to develop a strong inner life to support creativity.

Book cover
Photo: Perigee.

3. Art As Experience (1934). By John Dewey. Published by Perigee.

A thoroughly engrossing, albeit sometimes densely written, philosophical examination of art, lived experience, and the societies that we live in. Art As Experience is based off a series of lectures given at Harvard University in 1934, but despite nearing its centennial the discussions still ring true today. Dewey interrogates how the art industry and capitalism have affected the way society views art, and makes a strong case that art is not exclusive to the world of galleries, museums, and the ultra-wealthy, but instead something that can be found in everyday life by everyday people.

Book cover
Photo: Penguin Books.

4. Playing to the Gallery (2014). By Grayson Perry. Published by Penguin Books.

Adding some levity to this list is Grayson Perry’s Playing to the Gallery. A Turner Prize and Erasmus Prize winning artist—known for his pottery, tapestries, and cross-dressing as his alter ego Claire—Perry presents art and the art world from a personal, and often humorous, vantage that shows the reader that anyone can engage with art. Replete with colorful cartoon illustrations, this book is a quick read but laden with valuable insight and perspective.

Book cover
Photo: Workman Publishing Company.

5. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (2012). By Austin Kleon. Published by Workman Publishing Company.

Another publication that, rightfully, often appears on must-read lists for artists, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist is an accessible and valuable guide for either starting or strengthening the presence of creativity in one’s own life and work. Originality and uniqueness are prized within the arts, and of course a hallmark of any one artist’s work, but Kleon suggests that accepting and embracing influence and sources of outside inspiration is the key to unlocking your true potential. Accompanied by some sage advice (including “stay out of debt”), this book is a compelling read for both artists as well as anyone looking to lead a more consciously creative life.

Book cover
Photo: Penguin Books.

6. The Secret Lives of Colors (2016). By Kassia St. Clair. Published by Penguin Books.

No list of books for artists would be complete without a book on color. Whereas Josef Albers seminal Interaction of Color from 1963 is assigned in art schools worldwide, there has been a return to color beyond theory over the past decade or so. The Secret Lives of Colors is an intriguing example of this; author Kassia St Clair looks at seventy-five hues and discusses their history, applications, and, ultimately, their influence on cultures worldwide. In this tome, color is not exclusively a tool or element of something else, but instead center stage.

Book cover
Photo: David Zwirner Books.

7. Donald Judd Writings (2016). Edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray. Published by David Zwirner Books.

Though Donald Judd is recognized as a world-renowned artist, he worked primarily as an arts reviewer for hire early in his career, and he continued to write long after his work as an artist took off. His published writings largely shaped the trajectory of art criticism in the 1960s, and its influence can be still felt today. Collections of his writing have been published before, but this 2016 anthology is the most expansive to date, allowing for readers to not only trace the development of this acclaimed artists personal writing, but also the development of contemporary art as he saw it in real time. A must read for anyone interested in Judd himself, Minimalism, art criticism, or, more generally, art from the 20th century.

Discover more


Language is Leaving Me
Language is Leaving Me
Pedro RuxaPainting$3,000


Katayoun Vaziri

Katayoun Vaziri

Mexico City, Mexico & New York, NY

Read more

All Articles


Dr. Kenneth Montague: on Art Collecting &...

newcube spoke with Dr. Kenneth Montague about the under-representation of Black subjects in modern and contemporary art. Discover more about the Wedge Collection and the Wedge Curatorial Projects, and its legacy in the art world.

By newcube

Our StoryContact UsFAQ
© 2024 newcube - All rights reserved
made with love byCaracal Agency