Whether your passion is creating art or studying it, you can get a lot out of books that explore different forms of drawing, painting, photography, and more. If any of these topics interest you, check out the 10 fantastic options listed below. Most of them are filled with gorgeous, high-quality renderings of amazing works of art and all of them will satisfy your creative curiosity.

The 10 Best Art Books

Title Author(s) Description
1. Dalí: Les Dîners de Gala Salvador Dalí An interesting mix of food and surrealism
2. Separate Cinema John Kisch & Tony Nourmand The first 100 years of black poster art
3. 100 Illustrators Steven Heller & Julius Wiedemann A collection of works drawn by successful illustrators around the world
4. Art That Changed the World DK Publishing The history of the major art styles, in chronological order
5. Tracey Emin: My Photo Album Tracey Emin Photographs that tell the story of the life of a British artist
6. The Art of Pin-up Dian Hanson A behind-the-scenes look at a popular American art form
7. The Collins Big Book of Art David G. Wilkins Art history from cave art to pop art
8. How to See David Salle A preeminent painter's thoughts on contemporary art
9. The Electric Pencil James Edward Deeds Jr. Sketches drawn by a patient in a mental institution
10. The Modern Art Cookbook Mary Ann Caws Real recipes based on famous paintings of food

Major Art Movements

  • Stone Age (30,000 BCE - 2500 BCE)
  • Egyptian (3100 BCE - 30 BCE)
  • Middle Ages (500 - 1400)
  • Renaissance (1400 - 1550)
  • Baroque (1600 - 1750)
  • Romanticism (1780 - 1850)
  • Realism (1840 - 1900)
  • Impressionism (1865 - 1885)
  • Cubism (1905 - 1920)
  • Surrealism (1917 - 1950)
  • Abstract Expressionism (1940s & 50s)
  • Pop Art (1960s)

How to Understand Art

More Information

From a massive selection of titles exploring the world of art in all forms, we rounded up some of the best artistic reads. Whether you are an expert or a curious fan, these books will quench your thirst for information about creative works, bringing you deep into the minds of the artists and authors.

At the #1 spot is "Dali: Les Diners de Gala." Tagged by Salvador Dali as "uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste," the book highlights surreal recipes, with short stories and illustrations in between them. With wild surrealism spread over the art of cooking, it is packed with color-saturated photo collages of Dali and his wife Gala's lavish dinner parties. It offers a feast for the hungry eyes.

Following at #2 is "Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art." Travelling through a century of artwork, this is a tour-de-force in celebration of the first century of black film poster designs. It traces the development of African-American movies, presented in sequenced chronology. The posters in this book impart a message that goes beyond ethnicity.

At #3 is "100 Illustrators." This gigantic 2-book slipcase set features the biggest players in the highly competitive field of illustration. It showcases one hundred of the most successful and prominent artists around the globe for the reader to discover or re-discover. It offers an inspiring record of the dynamism and diversity of the graphic realm.

At the #4 spot, "Art That Changed the World" is organized chronologically to impart a visual timeline of art movements from prehistoric to contemporary phases of abstract and figurative work. It includes a narrative of the historical context covering the evolution of each major creative genre. This book illustrates how one movement influences the next, featuring the famous paintings that ignited new artistic masterpieces.

At #5 is "Tracey Emin: My Photo Album." This piece resembles a picture book, with handwritten notes and captions from the author. It also features Emin's personal photographs collected throughout her life. The photos reveal her childhood and her journey to becoming an influential and controversial artist. Readers will be entertained by the 238 images contained in this compelling work of art.

Next at #6 is "The Art of Pin-up." An extra-large and lavish compilation of pin-ups, it features nearly 100 artists. Each chapter showcases the work of one of the top 10 painters, profiling their lives and techniques in depth. This book boasts excellent reproduction quality in every pastel, painting, and preparatory sketch, with vintage prints and original model photos documenting the creative process.

At #7 is "The Collins Big Book of Art: From Cave Art to Pop Art." With over 1200 creative works spectacularly illustrated in a timeline format, this piece provides an accessible entry into the artistic world. It offers the reader a wealth of informative essays on key historical events and major movements, revealing the technical breakthroughs that changed how artists of the time worked.

Next, at #8 is "How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art." The internationally celebrated painter, David Salle, writes this book about art "in the language that artists use when they talk among themselves." Rather than presenting a manifesto, he talks about the complexities of engaging with contemporary artistic creations via 33 short essays, theories, and profiles of his friends and peers. The pages provide sharp insights, while revealing the author's own inclinations.

At #9 is "The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3." This tells a remarkable story of the triumph of art, showing a man's unwavering artistic vision while facing inhospitable conditions. It is a compilation of 283 drawings of trains, cars, animals, and people with haunting circular eyes. Author James Edward Deeds Jr. was a patient who found escape inside a hospital with pencil and paper.

Wrapping it up at #10 is "The Modern Art Cookbook." The eleven chapters of this book explore different courses and gastronomical categories, from appetizers to desserts and beverages. Each category is treated as a distinct genre. The rich stash of anecdotes and recipes are picked from various artists' repertoires, pairing great literature with food meditations. This is a good read for food enthusiasts who are also artistically inclined.

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