Good Minds Suggest: Tom Rachman's Favorite Books Set in the Art World

Posted by Goodreads on February 26, 2018
Tom Rachman

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Tom Rachman, a former journalist who worked for The Associated Press as a foreign-desk editor and a correspondent in Rome, is the author of the international bestseller The Imperfectionists and The Rise & Fall of Great Powers.

In his latest novel, The Italian Teacher, the son of a great painter strives to create his own legacy. Conceived while his father, Bear, cavorted around Rome in the 1950s, Pinch learns that Bear's genius trumps all. After Bear abandons his family, Pinch works to make himself worthy of his father's attention—first trying to be a painter himself, then resolving to write his father's biography, and eventually settling, disillusioned, into a job as an Italian teacher in London. But when his father dies, Pinch hatches a scheme to secure his father's legacy—and make his own mark on the world.

In light of The Italian Teacher, Goodreads asked Rachman to recommend five more books set in the art world.

"I'm fascinated by painters, sculptors, composers," says Rachman. "How do they create? And why have so many caused such damage in their personal lives? Is there a connection between greatness and awfulness—or is this just a cheap excuse plied by artists? Here are a few of my favorite glimpses into the swirling world of paint…"

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"This 1831 novella tells of Frenhofer, a painter who might be a genius or might be mad. He spends years laboring at a single portrait, and when he finally reveals his work, it's—well, I won't give that away. Suffice to say that this fiction inspired many painters, including Cezanne and Picasso."


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"What seems like a narrow idea—posing for a painter, then writing about what it was like—turns out to be one of the most scintillating books ever written about art. It helps that Lucian Freud was so peculiar."


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"This snappy journalistic tour exposes the inner workings of the industry, showing how it processes a few aspiring creators from the mawkish art college to the glittering market. Not always a pretty sight."


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"Inspired by the chaotic bio of Gauguin, this novel follows a stockbroker who abandons everything to pursue the life of an artist, wounding many in his pursuit of the bohemian dream."


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"This early novel by Ishiguro (the most recent recipient of the Nobel for literature) is about an aging Japanese artist looking uneasily back over his life. Formerly an important man, he is now shunned and must reckon with a moral legacy that cannot be painted over."


Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Barb (new)

Barb I am a fan of Ishiguro and Japanese Art so look forward to reading this.


message 2: by Deb (new)

Deb Houser This was the book that made me a fan of Ishiguro and I have enjoyed reading his others, in particular, Remains of the Day which had me laughing and crying. Some of his books are definitely better than others but when its a good one, its a beauty!!


message 3: by Emily (new)

Emily I think The Mask Carver's Son by Alyson Richman should also be on this list. I thought it was a very interesting read about a young Japanese man breaking family traditions and trying to become a successful artist during a time when art trends were changing yet again.


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