Summer Reading List 2016

Summertime is upon us and book recommendations are pouring in. For the fifth installment of the Don’t Take Pictures reading list, I have compiled a Summer reading list for all of you arts readers looking for something to take on vacation or fill time between semesters. 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 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.

Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values
Robert Adams
Publisher: Aperture, 1981
Pages: 112

This collection of eight essays by celebrated landscape photographer Robert Adams examines beauty’s role in the medium. The essays explore questions such as what beauty is, how art can be made new, and if intangible ideas can be photographed.  Adams’ opinions and the conclusions that he has drawn are based on his own experiences and observations.

Purchase from Aperture


The Ongoing Moment
Geoff Dyer
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2007
Pages: 304

A self-proclaimed non-photographer, the author discusses photographic style by foregoing traditional chapters, moving instead from one notable photographer to another. Dyer weaves between Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Paul Strand and others, focusing on their shared subject matter (a gas station, an empty hotel room, a blind beggar) to highlight that it’s not what a photographer sees, but how they see it that defines their style. Anyone interested in visual style should add this title to his or her bookshelf.

Purchase from Random House


The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Publisher: Aperture, 2005
Pages: 112

The collected writings of one of photography’s masters are culled from Cartier-Bresson’s journals and letters, rather than conceived of as critical essays. Like his photographs that say so much in one frame, this short book packs a punch. It is full of gems about Cartier-Bresson’s own style, his thoughts on his peers, and the changing landscape of the photojournalism profession (in his time). The writing is clear and accessible, making this a great read for photographers and non-photographers alike.

Purchase from Aperture


Light Matters: Writings on Photography
Vicki Goldberg
Publisher: Aperture, 2005
Pages: 248

One of the leading voices in photography criticism, Vicki Goldberg brings together 25 years of her published writings in this volume. In addition to essays on individual artists, she also writes about issues unique to the photographic medium such as the impact of imagery in our society through pop icons, imagery about death, journalistic photographs, and more. The writing is clear, entertaining, and a great read for anyone interested in how photography affects our worldview.

Purchase from Aperture


Ways of Seeing
John Berger
Publisher: Viking Press, 1972
Pages: 176

Considered one of the most influential books on art, Ways of Seeing is a must for any artist’s bookshelf. Based on the BBC television series, the text often cited by artists and critics. The book contains seven essays, three of which are strictly pictorial, and all discuss how art is seen, valued, and used as a learning tool. Though published over 40 years ago, the ideas about how an artwork changes based on the identity of its creator, its intended audience, and its display, are all still relevant today.

Purchase from Waterstones


The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa
Michael Kimmelman
Publisher: The Penguin Press, 2005
Pages: 256

In Kimmelman’s writings about the relationship between art and life, this book goes far beyond analysis of any particular artists or genres to make a larger point about how art in our daily lives shapes our worldview. The author discusses masters such as Matisse and pop cultural icons such as Bob Ross with the same level of respect and interest. The writing is clear and easy to follow, incorporating biographical stories of artists both renowned and obscure, as well as people who make art a part of their lives in unusual ways like the light bulb collector in Baltimore. This book is great for art lovers, but is also highly recommended for those who might not yet know how their lives can be changed by paying attention to the art that surrounds them.

Purchase from Random House


For more recommended reading, see reading lists from previous years.

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