The number one spot in my top ten most influential books (on me) of all times has been occupied since 1977 by The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe.
I think that this book should be required reading for all art school freshmen across the nation, as it will prepare and armor them against all the bull that the art world will be about the heave at them. If you have not read it, please do.
Below is the text of a review of the book that I wrote for Amazon.com:
"Can I start by saying that this book "saved my art life"?
Let me explain. In 1977 I started art school as a not so impressionable 21 year-old with a few years as a US Navy sailor under my belt. But in the world of art, there's a lot of moulding and impressions being made by a very galvanized world. And although I was a few years older than most in my class... I was probably as ready as any to swallow the whole line and sinker that the "modern art world" floats out there.
Then I read this book - it was given to me by Jacob Lawrence, a great painter and a great teacher --- although I didn't get along with him too well at the time. I read it (almost by accident and against my will --- it was a get-a-way "love weekend" with my then-girlfriend - it went sour). And this book OPENED my EYES!!! It was as if all of a sudden a "fog" had been listed about all the manure and fog that covers the whole art world.
I used it as a weapon.
I used it to defend how I wanted to paint and feel and write. And it allowed me to survive art school.