Books to Have and Hold

Books are so exciting these days, both in content and as objects to touch and explore. It seems like book design gets more thoughtful every season. Following are a few standouts, for one reason or another!

Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview
Henri Matisse with Pierre Courthion
Matisse wanted to call this Bavardages or chit-chat. Swiss art critic Pierre Courthion spoke with Matisse as he recovered from surgery over the course of months. This is the never before published interview – more an extended conversation – with the great master.  It is marvelous. Informal and personal, reading it transports you to a shared table with Matisse and a bottle of wine at a cafe. One can dream.chattingwithhenrimatisse

The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge
Manuel Lima
Tree diagrams – branched structures for organizing knowledge (think family tree) – have been used for more than eight centuries. It was the cover of this book that initially got my attention but once I cracked it open… wow! I wanted to see and know more. The variety and breadth of subject, from the medieval tree of virtue to the contemporary Blog Tree will engross and even inspire.

Book from the Ground: from point to point
Xu Bing
Is one picture worth 1,000 words? Both an art form and a written language, contemporary artist Xu Bing’s tale is told entirely in pictograms (symbols and icons). Seven years in the making, the “novel” follows 24 hours in the life of a white collar worker in the city. It is an oddly compelling work whose beauty, in addition to its visual appeal, lies in the recognition of simple human needs and actions that we all share. This fills the artist’s stated “ideal of a single, universally understood language” with no translation needed.bookfromgroundup

Bruce Nauman: The True Artist
Peter Plagens
The book on Nauman – it’s all here – stories of his life, photos, scholarship, and most significantly, the work. And the work is astonishing in its range, including sculpture, performance, sound, video, and installation art. Author Plagens is a lifelong friend of the artist and the access and insight that provides shines through. Beautiful as an object in itself, this book has a raw neon stitched binding and folded cover.  Collectible: get one while you can!

Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper
Edited by Bart Schneider
This is a visual gem of a book. Compact and strikingly well-illustrated, it consists solely (solely!) of gorgeous images with the occasional quote from the artist dropped in. Three periods of Diebenkorn’s career are covered through 88 works, most of which are previously unpublished: the early experiments, the Ocean Park years, and the final years in California. Luminous in all senses of the word.

Maija Isola: art, fabric, marimekko: The story of a legendary designer of Marimekko
Edited by Kaoru Takahashi
Maija Isola was the creator of more than 500 print designs for the famed and enduring textile company Marimekko, including the instantly recognizable Unikko rose. This book is a small treasure that includes pages from the designer’s sketchbooks, and page after delightful page of exuberant color and cheering and inspirational patterns. Definitely one for the reference shelf.


Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake
Daniel E. Sutherland
James McNeill Whistler likely led one of the more controversial lives of any American artist.  He seemed to deliberately cultivate it.  Author Sutherland uses Whistler’s own words to dispel myths and clarify character in a very readable account of the artist and the times. This brilliant man of contradictions was, above all, passionate about his art. Includes many illustrations.


We carry all of these books in the BMA Pop-Up Shop. You can also order them online at, or via the links above.

Happy reading!

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