20 fun beach books for arty creative types

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If you run your own business, it can be challenging to switch off on holiday. But if you’ve got a fabulous book you can truly get lost in, then you stand a lot better chance of giving your mind the rest it deserves.

Check out Creative Boom’s guide to intellectually nutritious but easy-going reads, perfect for the beach, pool, park or back garden. Happy summer, folks!


1. The Supermodel and the Brillo Box: Back Stories and Peculiar Economics from the World of Contemporary Art

The “Freakonomics” of the art world. As Lehman Brothers fell, ushering in a global economic crisis, the art world boomed. Don Thompson uses his economists’ curiosity to dig out insights and compelling anecdotes from dealers and auction houses from all over the world. Check out The Supermodel and the Brillo Box.

2. The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Modern Art

Don Thompson investigates: Why would a smart New York investment banker pay twelve million dollars for the decaying, stuffed carcass of a shark? How does Jackson Pollock's drip painting No.5 1948 sell for $140 million? If you’ve ever wondered, now’s your chance to find out with The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art

3. The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London’s Golden Age

Covent Garden was the place to be in the 1700s. The nation's most significant artists, actors, poets, novelists, and dramatists all lived there, in the world's first creative 'Bohemia': boozy, arty and sexually charged. Vic Gatrell’s scholarly, highly original, gorgeously illustrated book gives us the full skinny on the works, private lives and dramas of all the key players. Add The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age to your reading list.

4. In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910

In the cafes and cabarets of Montmartre during the first decade of the century, the cross-fertilisation of painting, writing, music and dance created a revolution in art. Sue Roe’s excellent book lets us in on the social milieu and the importance of collaboration and rivalry in the creation of art. Make In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910 a priority read.

5. Seven Days in the Art World

Contemporary art is mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description and, for some, a kind of alternative religion. Sarah Thornton takes us behind the scenes with Seven Days in the Art World, from art school to auction house, showing us how it works: it’s real fly-on-the-wall stuff, based on dozens of interviews with the movers and shakers of the contemporary art world. Highly entertaining.

6. A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War

Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Richard Nevinson and Dora Carrington were five of the most exciting, influential and innovative British artists of the twentieth century. A Crisis of Brilliance discusses their very different personal and aesthetic reactions to WW1. A wonderful account of the top artistic talent at a momentous time in human history.

7. Breakfast at Sotherby's

Philip Hook is a director at Sotheby's, and his book – Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A-Z of the Art World – is a wry, dry and completely beguiling compilation of quirky reflections and offbeat lists.

8. An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Travelling Artists, Illustrators and Designers

This gorgeous travelogue captures the world through the eyes of 40 talented artists, illustrators and designers. They showcase familiar sights through a fresh lens - helping you feel like an intrepid explorer in undiscovered territory, all from the comfort of your sun lounger. And most likely inspire you to have a little sketch yourself, if you're feeling inclined. Check out An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration from the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers.

9. Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That

Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained is a thorough analysis of modern art, with the sideways worldview of a stand-up comedian, which sums up Will Gompertz…He is a modern art historian who has done stand-up shows on his favourite topic. Funny + insightful = a great read.

10. What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye

With Bill Bryson's style of energy and comedy, yet still accurate and compressive, romp through the history modern art (also by Will Gompertz) with What Are You Looking At?: 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye.


11. Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion

Raw, gritty account of the glamorous – and at times, distinctly unglamorous – world of some of the most influential people in the fashion industry with Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the 90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion.

12. Dior by Dior

Christian Dior expresses himself with great elegance and passion, delving into the details of life in couture - highly intimate account from the heart and soul of the man who built one of the world’s biggest fashion houses. Add Dior by Dior to your reading list.

13. Coco Chanel - The Legend and the Life

Coco Chanel conjured up the little black dress, bobbed hair, trousers for women, best-selling perfumes, and the most successful fashion brand of all time - but she also invented herself, creating many versions of her own life story for public consumption. Here Justin Picardie picks through the mendacity to find the real Coco with Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life.


14. Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England

Exploring the real England of Jane Austen's lifetime, through samples of letters, diaries, travel journals, ballads, recipes, court notices, newspaper cuttings and other records. Roy and Lesley Adkins wow us with surprising tidbits of English social history. Unanimously five stars on Amazon. Check out Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England: How our ancestors lived two centuries ago.

15. Shakespeare on Toast

Never has the bard been so accessible thanks to Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard. An unusual insight into the thoughts of the man himself, and why you shouldn’t read the plays - they can only be watched. Told in five acts, just like most of his plays, Ben Crystal debunks any misgivings you might have about Shakespeare and shows his works to be relevant to this day.

16. Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words

If you fancy being a little creative on your sun lounger, how about Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words which puts you in touch with your own 'inner poet' and inspires you to write genuine, quality poetry? Full of non-threatening creative exercises, all delivered with Susan Woolridge’s gentle, casual writing style that opens you up to a poetic way of life. If you simply cannot stop ideas flowing, this might be the best way for you to relax on holiday. A creative change is as good as a rest, after all.


17. Black Vinyl White Powder

Black Vinyl White Powder charts the amazing fifty-year history of British music business in unparalleled scale and detail. An authoritative, diligently researched and unpretentious analysis of the British pop scene by a sparking raconteur: Simon Napier Bell, the ex-manager of Wham!

18. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

The Slit’s Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music and had a massive influence on fashion, feminism and artists such as Madonna and Lady Gaga. With Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. she shows us around '70s London, which sounds fun but also a scary place to be, describing her life as a struggling female artist in a male-dominated world, with unrelenting sparkle and expert comic timing.

19. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club

Gangsters, guns, drugs, violence, acid house - get the hilarious inside track on the Hac from Peter Hook, bass player of Joy Division and New Order, part-owner of the legendary Manchester nightclub the Hacienda (whereby his admission, he was pretty damn useless). The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club is highly recommended.

20. Live at the Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life in the Music Business

In 1982, aged twenty-three, Simon Parkes paid £1 for a virtually derelict building in Brixton, just after the infamous riots. Over the next fifteen years, he turned it into Britain's most iconic music venue. Live At The Brixton Academy: A riotous life in the music business – a highly entertaining memoir, full of surprise twists and turns.

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