Reading paperback books demands the same way of engagement as looking at works of art: slow, steady, and patient. There’s no shortcut to getting satisfying answers from books or paintings. Sometimes you need to give them space and let them unfold at their own pace.
The writer herself often feels like her brain has been addicted over many years to the fast pace of online articles, lifestyle websites (ya know which ones I’m talking about), and the biggest vice of all, Netflix. A detox from these entails engaging all your senses - with something less abstract and ghostly, something more material, immediate, more present.
Books not only offer a glimpse into the private life of artworks but more importantly are a form of art on their own. The smell of paper and ink, and the thrill of flipping pages tell you that the material of books is as important as the canvas of paint of paintings. Try to pay attention to the unique smell signature of a book, or the subtle effect fonts have on you - when you do, you are already an art critic.
The Luxurious One:
If you’re looking for catalogues with high-quality spreads, D.A.P Art Books (https://www.artbook.com/) is your answer. A mainstay on any gallerist’s coffee table, this publisher carries all the major art books (the heavy, hardcover ones with nice, smooth, coated pages, you know?) published by museums. The only problem? The price and the overwhelming amount of books listed on there. Who can resist?
The Independent One:
The granddaddy of New York’s independent art book scene is no doubt Printed Matter (https://www.printedmatter.org/). Fittingly located in Chelsea across from contemporary art galleries, it has as an expansive online collection as it is offline. If you are interested in activism - whether it be climate change, socialism, LGBTQ issues - there is no lack of local and international zines representing unabashed voices. Also check out their cool merch if you have time (and money).
Fellow audiophiles, check out Blank Forms (https://blankforms.org/ | They have a discog profile too: https://www.discogs.com/seller/blankforms/profile) They’re offering 30% off all books for the next two weeks. What’s exciting about them is that they sell books and records together. Many of their artists are multidisciplinary, meaning they write, make visual art, and produce music - like Maryanne Amacher, an installation and sound artist. Explore how fluid genres of art can be.
Primary Information (http://www.primaryinformation.org/) is a nonprofit organization that takes books as a parallel form of art. You can find rare musings from big names like David Wojnarowicz or Michael Asher, or support their fundraising initiative by buying experimental poetry collections.
And lastly, here’s an insider secret. If you know what you’re looking for anyways, you can save big bucks AND the environment at Better World Books (https://www.betterworldbooks.com/). They sell used books from libraries all around the country, so there are a lot of academic books or deep cuts, not just popular reads. Plus, it means you’ll get that little note on the first page where libraries stamp the names of people who’ve previously checked it out - what a sentimental little detail.