Books About Art

This assortment of study guides focuses on the arts, from cinema to cuisine. Read on to explore Aristotle’s Poetics, which analyzes the nature and uses of poetry; An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski, a manual for actors based on the author’s work and teachings at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia; and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which chronicles the art of fine dining.

Publication year 2018Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Immigration / Refugee, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Parenting, Arts / Culture

A Dream Called Home is a memoir published in 2018 by the award-winning Mexican American author, Reyna Grande. The book is the sequel to her bestselling 2012 memoir, The Distance Between Us, which addresses Reyna’s experiences crossing the US-Mexico border as a child. The title alludes to the American dream while also gesturing to varied concepts of home. This summary refers to the 2018 English-language edition published by Atria Books.Plot SummaryReyna divides her memoir into... Read A Dream Called Home Summary

Publication year 1966Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: BeautyTags Arts / Culture

Publication year 2021Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Music, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Society: NationTags Arts / Culture, History: U.S., African American Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Gender / Feminism, Music, Race / Racism, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 1940Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Beauty, Life/Time: Aging, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Arts / Culture, Business / Economics, Philosophy, Military / War, Class, Depression / Suicide, Education, Science / Nature, Sports, Technology

Publication year 1595Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Order & Chaos, Natural World: Appearance & RealityTags British Literature, Play: Comedy / Satire, Fantasy, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Arts / Culture, Love / Sexuality, Relationships, Animals

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedic play by William Shakespeare that was likely first written and performed around 1600. The first certifiably recorded performance took place in 1604. Set in the Greek city-state of Athens, the play centers on an impending marriage. Before the wedding, the characters find themselves in a forest where a group of fairies manipulates and tricks them. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and most performed... Read A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary

Publication year 1936Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Arts / Culture

Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), one of the most influential and formative practitioners in the history of western theatre, published An Actor Prepares in 1936. The text is based on his work and teachings at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. As translator Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood notes, Stanislavski dreamed of creating “a manual, a handbook, a working textbook” (v) for actors. Stanislavski’s technique, which incorporates the practices of many theatre artists that came before him, has become... Read An Actor Prepares Summary

Publication year 1711Genre Poem, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Beauty, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Arts / Culture, Age of Enlightenment

Publication year 2007Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: ArtTags Food, Arts / Culture, Science / Nature, Creative Nonfiction

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007) is, on its surface, a memoir detailing a year in the life of one family, told through an account of their food. However, it is also at times a manifesto and frequently veers into academic exploration of themes like sustainability and the current state of farming in the US. Author Barbara Kingsolver sets out to chronicle a year in her family’s food life when they undertake an experiment: to “attempt to... Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Summary

Publication year 1968Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Arts / Culture, Ancient Greece

Publication year 2001Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: FearTags Historical Fiction, Children's Literature, Asian Literature, Realistic Fiction, Arts / Culture, History: Asian, Poverty, American Literature

A Single Shard (2001) is an award-winning, middle-grade historical novel by Korean American author Linda Sue Park. Park has written multiple children’s books, picture books, and volumes of poetry. Some of her better-known titles include A Long Walk to Water (2010), The Thirty-Nine Clues series in nine volumes (2010), and Prairie Lotus (2020). Much of her historical fiction is based on Korean history. A Single Shard is intended for readers in grades 5 to 7... Read A Single Shard Summary

Publication year 1956Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Identity: Sexuality, Society: Globalization, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Literature, Emotions/Behavior: NostalgiaTags Lyric Poem, Love / Sexuality, Arts / Culture, The Beat Generation, LGBTQ

“A Supermarket in California” is a prose poem by the American poet Allen Ginsberg. Written in 1955, it appears alongside Ginsberg’s most well-known work, “Howl,” in his book Howl and Other Poems. Published November 1, 1956 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books as part of their Pocket Poets Series, Howl and Other Poems was subject to an obscenity trial in 1957 due to its use of sexually explicit language. The trial eventually ruled in the... Read A Supermarket in California Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Identity: Language, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Society: EducationTags Realistic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Education, Russian Literature

Publication year 1939Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Fate, Life/Time: The Past, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Irish Literature, Humor, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Satire, Arts / Culture, Class, British Literature

Publication year 1983Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: ClassTags Magical Realism, Classic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Business / Economics, Class, Latin American Literature, Post Modernism

Publication year 2015Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Friendship, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Self Discovery, Natural World: Environment, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Society: Class, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Society: Community, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Sports, Travel Literature, Action / Adventure, Bullying, Arts / Culture, Class, Race / Racism, Relationships, Poverty, Politics / Government, Science / Nature, Social Justice

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is a 2015 memoir by William Finnegan, a writer for The New Yorker and the author of several social journalism books such as A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique and Dateline Soweto: Travels with Black South African Reporters. In Barbarian Days, Finnegan reflects on his upbringing in California and Hawaii, as well as his coming of age in the late 1960s. He relays his experience of the surfing counterculture... Read Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Race / Racism, Arts / Culture, History: U.S., Philosophy, Post-War Era

Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own is a non-fiction book by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a Princeton University professor specializing in race and religion in the US. The title gestures to a passage in James Baldwin’s last novel, Just Above My Head (1979), which stresses the importance of new beginnings in the quest to rebuild the US as a truly multiracial democracy. A New York Times bestseller, Begin Again... Read Begin Again Summary

Publication year 2004Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Inspirational, Action / Adventure, Travel Literature, Animals, Arts / Culture, Philosophy, Relationships, Religion / Spirituality, Science / Nature, Music, Sports

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a 2004 adventure and survival memoir by American mountain climber Aron Ralston. The narrative focuses on Ralston’s near-death experience when his arm became stuck under a boulder in a canyon in Utah, where he remained trapped for five days until he amputated his arm. Dealing with profound existential themes, the book garnered critical acclaim and became a New York Times bestseller. A 2010 film adaptation titled 127... Read Between a Rock and a Hard Place Summary

Publication year 1976Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: The Future, Society: GlobalizationTags Anthropology, Arts / Culture, Sociology

Publication year 2022Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fame, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Arts / Culture

Publication year 2014Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: FriendshipTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Action / Adventure, Arts / Culture, Relationships

Book Scavenger (2015) is the debut novel by children’s author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. Upon publication, it immediately became a New York Times bestseller and soon after the book was named an Amazon Book of the Year, Indie Top Ten Pick, and received more than 20 state awards and nominations. Book Scavenger has since been translated into 12 languages. Book Scavenger is the first volume in a Middle Grade Detective series of the same name. Other... Read Book Scavenger Summary

Publication year 2001Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Equality, Society: Politics & Government, Society: NationTags History: World, Latin American Literature, Arts / Culture, Military / War, Politics / Government, History: European, Class, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America, 4th Edition, by John Charles Chasteen was published in 2016. The first edition was printed in 2001. Chasteen works as an author, translator, and professor of Latin American history and culture. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some of his other notable works are Americanos: The Struggle for Latin American Independence, National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of... Read Born in Blood and Fire Summary

Publication year 2016Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Joy, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: Midlife, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Relationships: Family, Relationships: Friendship, Self Discovery, Society: Community, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Fame, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Music, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Music, Arts / Culture, Mental Illness, Social Justice

Publication year 1988Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Historical Fiction, Religion / Spirituality, Animals, Arts / Culture, Disability, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman

Boy of the Painted Cave is a 1996 middle-grade Historical Fiction novel by Justin Denzel set 18,000 years ago in prehistoric France. The novel is told in limited third person point of view and follows Tao, a 14-year-old boy with a disability, who longs to be a cave painter for his clan. Tao has difficulty walking with his right foot, and he compensates for this by using a spear as a crutch. The crutch allows... Read Boy of the Painted Cave Summary

Publication year 1990Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Values/Ideas: Fate, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Relationships: FamilyTags Lyric Poem, Arts / Culture, Climate Change

Publication year 1995Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Values/Ideas: Art, Life/Time: Mortality & DeathTags Realistic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Grief / Death, Psychology

Publication year 1999Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Arts / Culture, Education, American Literature

Publication year 1945Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Community, Natural World: Place, Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Natural World: Environment, Relationships: FriendshipTags Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Anthropology, Animals, Class, Education, Philosophy, Poverty, Relationships, Science / Nature

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck was originally published in 1945. A Nobel Prize-winning writer, Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, California, which is near Monterey—the location of Cannery Row. Aside from a few years in Palo Alto, New York, and Los Angeles, Steinbeck spent most of his adult life living in Monterey County, and he drew on his personal experiences to write Cannery Row.Considered literary fiction or classic literature, Cannery Row is realistic and was written... Read Cannery Row Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Music, Society: CommunityTags Arts / Culture, Race / Racism, History: U.S., Social Justice, Poverty, Music

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (Young Adult Edition) is an abridged version of the original 2005 non-fiction historical account of the origin and evolution of hip-hop culture written by Jeff Chang and David “Davey D” Cook. Jeff Chang is an American journalist, music critic, and historian who, in 1993, co-founded the hip-hop label Solesides, which aided in the launching of artists like DJ Shadow and Blackalicious. Jeff Chang earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the... Read Can't Stop Won't Stop (Young Adult Edition) Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionThemes Society: Education, Identity: Race, Self Discovery, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Equality, Relationships: FriendshipTags Realistic Fiction, Arts / Culture, Class, Diversity, Education, Race / Racism, African American Literature

Publication year 2004Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Natural World: Food, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Society: EconomicsTags Humor, Arts / Culture, Philosophy, Animals, Food

Publication year 2011Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Self Discovery, Society: War, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Literature, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Values/Ideas: Trust & Doubt, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Science & TechnologyTags Science-Fiction / Dystopian Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Action / Adventure, Arts / Culture, Love / Sexuality, Science / Nature, Social Justice

Publication year 1869Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Philosophy, Politics / Government, Arts / Culture, Class, Victorian Period

Publication year 422Genre Play, FictionThemes Identity: Masculinity, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Values/Ideas: Win & Lose, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Natural World: Place, Emotions/Behavior: RevengeTags Mythology, Ancient Greece, Classical Period, Play: Comedy / Satire, Drama / Tragedy, Arts / Culture, Religion / Spirituality

Publication year 1897Genre Play, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: Art, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: War, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Classic Fiction, Play: Drama, Play: Comedy / Satire, Romance, Auto/Biographical Fiction, French Literature, Arts / Culture, Love / Sexuality, Grief / Death, Finance / Money / Wealth

Cyrano de Bergerac: An Heroic Comedy in Five Acts by Edmond Rostand was originally published in 1898. Rostand was a popular poet and playwright in France during his lifetime. Cyrano de Bergerac is a five-act verse drama—a tragic romance, set in France in the mid-1600s. It was far more popular than all of Rostand’s other works and has been performed and adapted countless times since its initial successful run.Cyrano de Bergerac explores themes of Unrequited... Read Cyrano de Bergerac Summary

Publication year 1980Genre Poem, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Diversity, Arts / Culture

Publication year 2002Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Language, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Values/Ideas: LiteratureTags Lyric Poem, Humor, Romance, Arts / Culture, Class, American Literature, African American Literature

Harryette Mullen’s “Dim Lady” may remind some readers of 17th century English playwright and poet William Shakespeare’s well-known “Sonnet 130,” in which the speaker of the poem makes a mockery of his beloved’s physical appearance. During Shakespeare’s time, fashion encouraged poets to write flowery poetry that extolled the virtues and the beauty of their beloved. However, the speaker of this sonnet toys with poetic conventions of the time, describing the physical attributes of the speaker’s... Read Dim Lady Summary

Publication year 2023Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Fame, Life/Time: The Past, Identity: Mental Health, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Self discoveryTags Arts / Culture, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Relationships

Publication year 2015Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Self Discovery, Identity: Femininity, Values/Ideas: Beauty, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags Depression / Suicide, Arts / Culture, Relationships, Love / Sexuality

Publication year 2001Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Identity: Language, Identity: RaceTags Humor, Race / Racism, Arts / Culture, African American Literature

Publication year 1914Genre Poem, FictionTags Lyric Poem, Sociology, Arts / Culture, American Literature, Realism, Food

Publication year 2022Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Regret, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Life/Time: MidlifeTags Arts / Culture, Humor, Addiction / Substance Abuse

Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Art, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Life/Time: The PastTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Arts / Culture, Poverty

Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue, (Penguin Books, 2000) was an internationally known author of art-related historical fiction who, after a long and notable literary career, died in 2017. A New York Times bestseller, the novel was originally published in 1999 by McMurray and Beck, but subsequent editions were published by Penguin Books. The novel’s popularity gave rise to a 2003 Hallmark Hall of Fame production based on the novel. The painting in... Read Girl In Hyacinth Blue Summary

Publication year 2000Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: ArtTags Historical Fiction, Arts / Culture

In Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, the subject of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting is brought to life. The “girl with the pearl earring” is Griet, the Vermeers’ housemaid, hired in particular to clean Vermeer’s studio without disturbing its order. For this task, Vermeer needs someone who is exceedingly careful and invested in his artistic endeavors, beyond the promise of (meager) payment. Griet is fascinated by Vermeer’s way of seeing the world, his... Read Girl With a Pearl Earring Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Sexuality, Values/Ideas: ArtTags Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Gender / Feminism, Arts / Culture

Publication year 2020Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: Fame, Identity: MasculinityTags Arts / Culture, Philosophy

Publication year 1975Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Identity: Mental Health, Emotions/Behavior: Guilt, Relationships: FamilyTags Lyric Poem, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Mental Illness, Gender / Feminism, Arts / Culture, Mythology

Louise Glück is among the most lauded poets in the American canon. Glück’s writing is often surgically precise in terms of formal craft, and reveals a deep emotional complexity. She addresses sadness, mourning, trauma, and individual suffering metaphorically through the natural world, mythology, autobiographical events, or universal truths. She is known for alluding to cultural myths and personas in her work, some of which appear in “Gretel in Darkness” through the perspective of young Gretel... Read Gretel in Darkness Summary

Publication year 2011Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: MusicTags Music, Arts / Culture

Published in 2011, Half-Blood Blues is the second book by Esi Edugyan, a black Canadian author. The novel won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2012 and was also shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. As historical fiction, the story examines the lives of a diverse group of jazz musicians during World War II as they balance personal jealousies with the need to help each other amid mounting... Read Half-Blood Blues Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Femininity, Life/Time: Mortality & Death, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Historical Fiction, History: European, Gender / Feminism, Health / Medicine, Arts / Culture, British Literature, Elizabethan Era

Publication year 1926Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Values/Ideas: Literature, Self Discovery, Society: EducationTags Arts / Culture, Modernism