Winter Reading List 2016

For the sixth installment of Don’t Take Pictures' recommended reading, I have compiled a Winter reading list for all of you arts readers looking for something to read by the fire or to add to your holiday wish list. I have chosen to limit this list to printed books and not include online content or periodicals. I have read each book on this list (often more than once), and selected titles that I have found helpful in my own art and business practices. This list is not intended to be a review of each book, nor is it focused on new releases, as there are so many great books that remain relevant today.


Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World
Phillip Hook
Publisher: The Overlook Press, 2014
Pages: 368

This witty book discusses the value of art, trends, superstitions, artist’s histories, and other fascinating facts and observations on why people buy artworks at auction. Hook takes his 35 years of experience at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, private dealing, and a stint on Antiques Roadshow and categorizes it into this art dictionary. An entertaining read that is highly educational.

Purchase from The Overlook Press


The Photographer’s Eye
John Szarkowski
Publisher: The Museumof Modern Art, New York, 2007 (reprint)
Pages: 156

This classic text is a great introduction to photography. Authored by the former Director of MoMA’s photography department, this book is based on a landmark photography exhibition at MoMA. Beautifully illustrated with 172 photographs, the accompanying text provides an eloquent overview of the history of photography through the 1960s.

Purchase from the Museum of Modern Art


Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry
Roger Watson & Helen Rappaport
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2015
Pages: 320

Watson and Rappaport’s book is an intimate look at the two men credited with photography’s invention: Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot. Told through parallel timelines, the book includes chapters on how each scientist developed their respective photographic processes, the critical reception, and how photography changed the world as we know it.

Purchase from Macmillan


Photography and the Art of Chance
Robin Kelsey
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2015
Pages: 416

A scholarly analysis of photography as an art form, this book examines the role that chance, fluke, and accident play in photography. Kelsey features photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Steiglitz, and John Baldessari to discuss whether the mechanical nature of the medium undermines its artistry, or whether it is strengthened by its representation of the unpredictability in our world.

Purchase from Harvard University


On Photography
Walter Benjamin
Publisher: Reaktion Books, 2015
Pages: 160

A new English translation of Walter Benjamin’s 1931 landmark essay “A Short History of Photography” is accomplished by his other writings on the medium and its pioneers like David Octavius Hil and Nicéphore Niépce. Benjamin discusses the many forms of photography including the scientific and commercial applications of the medium. The language can be dense at times, but editor and translator Esther Leslie prefaces each essay to provide context.

Purchase from Reaktion Books


Art Thinking: How to Carve Out Creative Space in a World of Schedules
Amy Whitaker
Publisher: HarperBusiness, 2016
Pages: 384

In 2016, successful artists are expected to have a talent for business. Holding an MBA and MFA, Whitaker writes from a unique viewpoint. She demonstrates that the approaches to art business are not mutually exclusive. This book encourages creative thinking as applied to business development and management, as well as practical thinking that artists need to help their careers thrive.

Purchase from HarperCollins


For more recommended reading, see past recommended reading posts.

Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures