13 Must-Read Arts And Humanities Books

13 Must-Read Arts And Humanities Books

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Ever wondered what the must-read Arts and Humanities books are? Here is our take.

We consider opinions, reviews, and university recommendations to suggest the best books for students and enthusiasts.

This list helps researchers who are tucked in their daily grind to develop their next breakthrough ideas.

For a layperson, this helps you become a modern-day Renaissance polymath.

Let’s check out the list! 

Overview of the Best Arts And Humanities Books

Part I: Best Humanities Books

  1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Get the book)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Get the book )
  3. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained by John Bowker (Get the book)
  4. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Get the book)
  5. Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal (Get the book)
  6. False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World by Alan Beattie (Get the book)

Part II: Best Arts Books

  1. Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton (Get the book)
  2. The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics by Jean Aitchison (Get the book)
  3. Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn (Get the book)
  4. Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland (Get the book)
  5. Shakespeare: Illustrated and Updated Edition, by Bill Bryson (Get the book)
  6. Art That Changed the World: Transformative Art Movements and the Paintings That Inspired Them by DK (Get the book)
  7. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (Get the book)

Part I: Best Humanities Books

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Communist Manifesto is listed on Du beat and has a 4.3-star rating on Amazon.

Summary-What this book is about 

Karl Marx and Engels wrote this political manuscript in 1848 as a manifesto for the Communist Party.

Karl and Engels outline the Communist’s purposes. The book contains Marxist theories on politics and society- “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

The book features the authors’ ideas on how socialism will overtake capitalism.

Key Takeaways

  • The book calls for an end to private ownership of properties.
  • Capitalism enriches a select group of individuals, while socialism benefits society as a whole.
  • Capitalism alienates workers and capitalists from humanity.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

To Kill a Mockingbird is recommended by Du beat and has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 on Amazon.

The classic text became a bestseller when it was published in 1960.

This book also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Summary-What this book is about

This compassionate text highlights human behavior, including innocence, experience, kindness, cruelty, love, hatred, pathos, and humor.

Key Takeaways

  • Use intelligent ways to respond to assessors.
  • Protect innocent people. “It’s a beautiful reminder that hurting the innocent is the worst crime of all.”-quote from the book.
  • Be courageous-don’t stop trying until you achieve your goals.

World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained by John Bowker

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The YALSA website recommends world Religion.

This book is for you if you are looking for information on the world’s regions.

Summary-What this book is about

John Bowker, a scholar, and priest explore religions, from the ancient faiths to the modern ones. The book takes readers from the Norse and the Celt to Christianity with stoppages at Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Hinduism.

World Religions discusses the practices of all religions, including rituals, myths, and their future.

This book is a perfect guide to those beginning to venture into faith.

Key Takeaways

  • All religions have unique practices and beliefs.
  • Ancient religions had a massive role in shaping modern religions.

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Social Contract is a recommended reading for students by Du beat.

Summary-What this book is about

This revolutionary book starts with Rousseau’s famous quote, “Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a philosopher, composer, and writer in the 18th century.

Besides the French Revolution, His philosophy prompted the development of political, educational, and sociological thought.

He proceeds to argue that a purely social contract can benefit people by giving them liberty. 

Key Takeaways

  • People are born with freedom, but society grabs from them immediately they join.
  • Supreme political power belongs to the citizens.
  • Monarchy is the most potent form of government, while aristocracy is more stable than the other governments.

Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal 

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

Let Me Play is recommended by the YALSA website and has a 4.4-star rating on Amazon.

Summary-What this book is about

Decades ago, girls were banned from playing soccer, basketball, and softball, among other games. They were also prohibited from pursuing certain careers, including medicine and law.

Finally, a ray of hope descended on the American girls- in the name of ” Title IX.” 

This book explores how Title IX developed into the savior it became when it ensured equality among all genders.

The book has charts that show the achievement of women’s movements in athletics. The number of female participation tremendously increased between 1970 and 2001.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure equality of all genders in all areas.
  • Be courageous-fight for your rights without fear.
  • Be persistent in your quest for freedom and equality.

False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World by Alan Beattie

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

This book is a recommended reading by the Du beat website.

False Economy was highly rated by The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bono, Business Week, and When Markets Collide. The book has a 4.4-star customer rating on Amazon.

Summary-What this book is about

In this book, Alan Beattie explains how human stories, public choices, economic choices, and history determine if a country remains poor or rich.

He discusses how today’s choices will affect the global economy in the future.

This text remains lucid even though Alan explores the complex topics of economics and microeconomics. 

Key Takeaways

  • Choices determine every nation’s economy. Prosperous economies make smart decisions.
  • Climate-meteorological & political- and trade routes influence crop growing.
  • Our past successes motivate us to work for a better future.

Part II: Best Arts Books

Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

Literature Theory is a recommended reading by Top Universities.

Summary-What this book is about

This concise volume gives readers an intriguing survey of debates and theories that have contributed to the field of academic criticism. 

This piece of writing is an easy read, making it the perfect book for anyone interested in contemporary literature and theoretical analysis.

The author is an English literature professor at the University of Manchester. 

Key Takeaways

  • The world is a better place without distinctions such as race, gender, and class.
  • Literature enlightens people and transforms society. 

The Articulate Mammal: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics by Jean Aitchison

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Articulate Mammal is recommended by the Top Universities and boasts a 5-star rating on Amazon.

You don’t need prior knowledge of Psycholinguistics to understand this book. 

Summary-What this book is about

The Articulate Mammal has excellent coverage of the Chomskyan theory. The book is an engaging curtain-raiser to linguistics.

This book is one of the most popular linguistics books. Thanks to Jean’s ability to break down complex terms.

Key Takeaways

  • Animals share a few traits of the human language.
  • Language follows uniform patterns.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

With a 4.4-star rating, this book has had a good reception on Amazon. 

Think is recommended by the Top Universities Website.

First published in 1999, Think is an introductory text to philosophy.

Summary-What this book is about

Simon Blackburn introduces epistemology, free will, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion.

This book underscores the self, skepticism, and arguments about the presence of God.

Blackburn also defends philosophy by discussing its value.

Key Takeaways

  • Thinking smart determines your success. ” How you think about what you are doing affects how you do it, or whether you do it at all.”-quote from the book.
  • Be passionate about anything we do. “The time we take out, whether it is to do mathematics or music or to read Plato or Jane Austen, is time to be cherished.”-quote from the book.

Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Art Theory is a recommended reading list by the Top Universities website.

Art Theory is highly rated by Sue Hubbard (The Independent) and Arthur Danto (author of After the End of Art). The TNT Magazine and the Guardian also reviewed the book.

Summary-What this book is about 

The book serves as an introductory guide to art theory. Cynthia Freeland, a professor at the University of Houston, explains art and its relationship with society.

In Art Theory, Cynthia Freeland demonstrates great philosophical intelligence in answering tricky questions in the art world. 

Independent on Sunday described this book as “a pacy and readable introduction to art history”.

Key Takeaways

  • This book is a word-for-word copy of “But Is It Art” by the same author. But, Oxford the publisher incorporated the same text in its “A Very Short Introduction” series.
  • The author approached the discussion of art concepts by zooming into an artist or art piece and then expanding into relevant art theories and theorists.
  • Offers a good intro to the art world but has not gone deep into the topics of art theory, i.e., what is art; what is beauty; how have art conventions changed over time, etc.

Shakespeare: Illustrated and Updated Edition, by Bill Bryson

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

YALSA recommends Shakespeare.

Was William Shakespeare the real author of the books under his name? This age-old question came to be known as the Shakespeare authorship question. 

Bill Bryson had something to say about it in this book.

Summary-What this book is about

This entertaining biography explores Elizabethan England, pointing out the oddities associated with Shakespearean scholarship.

Shakespeare contains myths, conspiracy theories, but the book also covers the life and work of one of the greatest poets, William Shakespeare. 

Key Takeaways

  • Chandos Portrait, a depiction of William Shakespeare, is National Portrait Gallery’s first collection.
  • Bill argues that Anne Hathaway may have existed. “The marriage license itself is lost, but a separate document, the marriage bond, survives. On it, Anne Hathaway is correctly identified. Shakespeare’s name is rendered as “Shagspeare”—the first of many arrestingly variable renderings.”-quote from the book.”

Art That Changed the World: Transformative Art Movements and the Paintings That Inspired Them by DK

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Art That Changed the World is listed on the YALSA website as a recommended reading for arts and humanities students.

The Amazon bestseller has a rating of 4.8.  

Summary-What this book is about 

This intriguing art encyclopedia explores the development of art from cave paintings to modern masterpieces through pop art.

Art That Changed the World discusses the major movements in the history of art, noting the key artists and their paintings. 

A page with a well-analyzed masterpiece marks the end of the book’s each section. A curator highlights a painting’s composition, style, subject matter, and values.

You’ll meet interesting accounts of the world’s greatest painters, including Michelangelo Merisi, Monet, and Picasso, among others.

Key Takeaways

  • Several art movements shaped the art world.
  • There arose great painters during each stage in paintings and art history.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Must-read Arts And Humanities Books

Intro-Why you should read it

The Art of War is recommended by Du beat and has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon.

Summary-What this book is about

Known as Master Sun, Sun Tzu explains the arts of warfare in 13 chapters-each has a different skill. The publication served as the lead book in the Seven Military Classics.

Master Sun also addresses each skill in terms of tactics and military strategy.

This book is the most powerful strategy book in warfare in East Asia. 

The book has inspired military thinking, legal strategy, business tactics, and lifestyles in the Far Eastern region.

Key Takeaways

  • Opportunities arise in the heart of chaos.
  • To be victorious, you need to win the war before going to the battlefield.
  • Winning a battle without fighting is the best victory.
  • No nation benefits from prolonged warfare.

Conclusion

So there you have it: our list of the best Arts and Humanities books, based on opinions, reviews, and university recommendations. 

We put together the best books on topics ranging from liberal arts, culture, ancient civilization, geography, western religions, and modern American arts to prepare every student interested in the subject area.

Whether you’re a student or enthusiast looking for your next read, this list will help you get started. Researchers who are tucked in their daily grind can also develop their next breakthrough ideas from these books. And for a layperson, this helps you become a modern-day Renaissance polymath.

So go ahead and check out these books for yourself!


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Author
Joannah W.
Joannah has been a science publisher with close to 20 years of experience. She wants to help students and researchers stay ahead of the trends and developments in the science community by making science more accessible to everyone.

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