Since I started blogging just over two years ago, I have come to understand a lot about my reading taste and what I love in novels. It has become quite apparent that I am drawn to books that involve art in some way whether that is painting, music, dance, etc. There is something about a character with a creative passion that is so much fun to read. I thought it might be fun to share a list of books within this niche in case it is something that you love as well!
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Both of the main characters in I’ll Give You the Sun have a creative outlet that is important to them. Noah is a talented artist, while Jude discovers a love for sculpting. There is so much about this novel that I absolutely adore, but the characters’ passion for art was truly a highlight. It is also important to the story and to the character development!
Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
I never truly appreciated the harp until I read Ellie and the Harpmaker. The two main characters meet because each has an appreciate for the harp- one makes them while the other has always wanted to play. Music is essential to this story and the love of the harp helps bring the characters together while also allowing them to grow individually.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Everyone told me how amazing Starfish, but I still was not expecting it to be as incredible as it ended up being. It completely blew me away! There is so much that I loved about this story, but the power of art in Kiko’s life really stood out to me. It is a reminder of how important it is to have an emotional outlet. I also really loved her mentor!
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I mean… is it a surprise to see Daisy Jones and the Six on this list? It is a book that absolutely everyone was talking about when it first came out and it deserved all of the hype. This is a book that looks at both the bright and the dark sides of the music industry. The scenes where the characters are writing lyrics were some of my favourites! Do yourself a favour and listen to the audiobook of this one- you will be so disappointed that Daisy Jones and the Six are not a real band!
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High is a bit of a different choice for this list as the art form in this story is cooking. I definitely think cooking can be art, especially when someone has a passion for it. The way that food and cooking is described in this novel is almost magical. I have always loved cooking but this book inspired me to take it more seriously! Also, With the Fire on High is my favourite YA novel so I think everyone should read it.
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Painted Girls is the only book on this list that I read before I started blogging. I often say that it is a book that is totally underrated and one that I need to talk about more often. It is set in Paris in the late 1800s and follows the lives of two sisters after the death of their father. One of the sisters pursues dance and eventually becomes a sitter for a portrait artist. The Painted Girls is a compelling look at society at the time.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Tin Man is one of my favourite novels ever- it is just so beautiful! Poetry and writing is important to the story but the main reason that it appears on this list is because of one painting in particular- Sunfloswers by Vincent van Gogh. As you can probably tell by the gorgeous cover, this painting is vital to the story, but I won’t tell you why- it would be a spoiler!
The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
The Beauty that Remains is such an underrated YA novel! It is a book that looks at the different ways that people deal with grief while also emphasizing the power of music. What I loved about this book is that it has characters who create music as well as characters who simply appreciate it. You do not have to create art in order to have a passion for it!
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Tiny Pretty Things is not as serious as many of the other books on this list, but it was wildly entertaining and just plain fun. I LOVED the movie Center Stage when I was a teenager and this book reminds me so much of that movie. I know that the dance world is very competitive, and that might not always bring out the best in people. I really do want to read the next book in duology but I am saving it for when I need something dramatic and page-turning.
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
Ah I just love this book! It has mixed reviews on Goodreads but it is definitely a favourite of mine. I will say that it is slow at times, and while I loved that, I can understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone. The story follows a musical quartet over many years and we see how their relationships with themselves and one another changes over the course of time.
Lets talk about books with art in the comments! I would love any of recommendations because I am always on the lookout for books like this!
28 thoughts on “Novels Featuring Art and Artist Characters”
I also love books about art! So much! Some of my faves are The Italian Teacher, Self-Portrait with Boy, How to be Both, and Harmless Like You. And I totally agree on Tin Man and Daisy Jones!
I have The Italian Teacher sitting on my shelves. I am hoping to get to it this month. So glad that you enjoyed it! Going have to to look in to the others. Thanks so much!
Oh yay I’m so happy to hear that! I think you’ll love it!
When I first clicked on this, I thought it was going to be about graphic novels but I was pleasantly surprised to see what you did here. Art is such an important part of our lives and I like how you illustrated that through your choices. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson and Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan do a great job of weaving the art into the lives of the characters.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. I have heard amazing things about Renee Watson’s novels. I will need to make them a priority. Thank you!
She’s one of my favorite authors 🙂 you should definitely check her out. I think This Side of Home was her first book
I find the concept of books that dead with art and art making very interesting mainly because literature is art itself and having art discuss art is a sort of inception 😂
Ellie and the Harpmaker seems very intriguing, the harp has always given me strong fairytale-y vibes, so seeing it be the center of a book really appeals to me!!
That is such a great point. It is an inception!
You’re so right about the harp having a fairytale feel. You do get some of the same feelings in Ellie and the Harpermaker as you do when reading a fairytale.
I <3 loooove <3 the title photo! Sooo elegant and simple! Okay, i really needed to tell you this, now I'm going to read the post :))
Back, read it <3 I haven't read any of these althout the first one is on my TBR list too! Lovely post!
Ah thank you so much! Sometimes I think I should change the graphics that I use but I’m attached to them now so don’t think I will! It’s helpful to know that you like them.
This is such a beautiful post idea! I really need to read With The Fire On High and Starfish soon.
Thank you! Both are excellent!
Fun post topic Kristin! 👍😍
You know, I never thought about this – the art aspect of novels and characters. I’m so glad that you gave some recommendations to check out. I plan on adding all of these to my TBR and hopefully I can get through them soon.
That makes me so happy. Hope you find some new favourites!
I adore art-focused stories, too, though I’m shaking my head at the fact that I’ve only read *one* of the books on this list! I adored Bowman’s Summer Bird Blue (which also features art!) and I really need to try Starfish!
I hadn’t realized that Summer Bird Blue also features art. Akemi Dawn Bowman is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors!
Normally I love artistically inclined characters in books and get really excited if a character does something I actually know about. That can also be a downfall for me if it isn’t presented accurately as I tend to get really picky on the technical aspects if they are wrong. I don’t dance, but my daughter does and when I read a book where a character was into ballet and the did something as wrong as misspelling “pointe” repeatedly, it was annoying. That isn’t something that happens often, but things like that do stand out like a sore thumb.
I can definitely understand that. If you are writing about something in which people are passionate you better do your research first!
Such a good post! Finding art in a piece of art such as a book sounds complicated, but I love what you’ve done here! Definitely going to have to add some of these to my TBR, they sound really good. Always refreshing to get some new recommendations! Have a great day x
Thank you so much! So glad that you found some books that you are interested in!
You’re very welcome! Yes, very happy ❤️
Such a great list!! I love how you chose all different types of artists. My favourite from this is daisy jones and the six 😀
Thank you! It is such a freaking great book!