My Name Is Red
This story of miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire is as gripping as it is innovative. Told in short chapters from varying points of view (and “varying” is kind of an understatement, since the perspectives include those of a corpse and an illustration of a horse), the novel incorporates meditations on artistic technique into a tale of intrigue and ideological conflict.
Much of Amy Bloom’s writing is infused with music, and this book is no exception. In addition to a character who’s a jazz singer, the book also features one who moves to Hollywood to become an actress. The subject of the novel is love, between partners and among family members, and the chapter titles—all the titles of songs—provide a perfect soundtrack.
An Artist of the Floating World
I read this book as a teenager and it still sticks with me today. The story of a Japanese painter during and after World War II is a political and social as well as a personal one, but what still haunts me is the sense of melancholy that permeates every scene.
How to be both
I can’t stop talking about this book. In addition to being one of the best stories about love and death I’ve ever read, it’s also a wonderful story about art: about the mechanics of painting and photography, and about the joy and solace that creating something can provide.
A Little Life
This novel has gotten tons of justified praise for many reasons, but one of its most fascinating aspects is its treatment of its characters’ artistic careers. The novel follows Willem as he becomes a film star and J.B. as he becomes a successful artist, and it charts the ways in which their successes both do and do not change them.
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
Writing about other art forms is a challenge, as I learned when I tried to do it in my novel The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. You can’t fully capture the experience of watching a movie or seeing a painting, so you have to do the next best thing: tell a story that’s just as beautiful, in its own way, as a painter’s masterpiece or a groundbreaking film. These seven books do this and more. They tell fascinating stories while saying something new about the act of creating art.
Author Photo: © Jenny Zhang