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Kenneth Bartlett's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Kenneth Bartlett recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Kenneth Bartlett's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Autobiography Of Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini was a celebrated Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith - a passionate craftsman who was admired and resented by the most powerful political and artistic personalities in sixteenth-century Florence, Rome and Paris. He was also a murderer and a braggart, a shameless adventurer who at different times experienced both papal persecution and imprisonment, and the adulation of the royal court. Inn-keepers and prostitutes, kings and cardinals, artists and soldiers rub shoulders in the pages of his notorious autobiography: a vivid portrait of the manners and morals of both the rulers of... more
Recommended by Kenneth Bartlett, and 1 others.

Kenneth BartlettHe invented the idea of the artist…as the genius not restricted by law, morality, common practice, or anything. (Source)

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The Book of the Courtier

In The Book of the Courtier (1528), Baldesar Castiglione, a diplomat and Papal Nuncio to Rome, sets out to define the essential virtues for those at Court. In a lively series of imaginary conversations between the real-life courtiers to the Duke of Urbino, his speakers discuss qualities of noble behaviour - chiefly discretion, decorum, nonchalance and gracefulness - as well as wider questions such as the duties of a good government and the true nature of love. Castiglione's narrative power and psychological perception make this guide both an entertaining comedy of manners and a revealing... more
Recommended by Kenneth Bartlett, and 1 others.

Kenneth BartlettThis is really a humanist neoplatonic study of the perfectibility of men and women. (Source)

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Maxims and Reflections


Translated by Mario Domandi, Introduction by Nicolai Rubinstein less
Recommended by Kenneth Bartlett, and 1 others.

Kenneth BartlettHe and Machiavelli were friends. For a while, they lived across the road from one another. (Source)

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The Lives of the Artists

Packed with facts, attributions, and entertaining anecdotes about his contemporaries, Giorgio Vasari's collection of biographical accounts also presents a highly influential theory of the development of Renaissance art.

Beginning with Cimabue and Giotto, who represent the infancy of art, Vasari considers the period of youthful vigour, shaped by Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and Masaccio, before discussing the mature period of perfection, dominated by the titanic figures of Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo.

This specially commissioned translation contains thirty-six of...

Recommended by Blake Gopnik, Kenneth Bartlett, and 2 others.

Blake GopnikWith Vasari, we begin thinking that artistic biography might matter. As much as we may want to resist the notion that biography is central to understanding art, it seems as though it is just inevitable – the life of the artist is an inevitable element in considering the art itself, as Vasari realised early on. (Source)

Kenneth BartlettHe invented art history as we know it…..Much of what we know, especially about the personal lives of the artists, comes from Vasari because there are no other sources. He got it from gossip and hearsay. That is how he did much of his research: by asking people who knew them or by asking somebody whose father had worked with them. (Source)

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The Prince [with Biographical Introduction]

Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince" is intended to be a treatise on ruling and is considered by many to be a classic of political science. In the book Machiavelli offers many bits of practical advice on how to rule and even though the book was written in the early 16th century its ideas are still very relevant today. Where "The Prince" differs from other political literature before it is in its separation of the lofty idealism of morality and ethics from the practical demands of governing. It is this very aspect of Machiavelli's work that has made his name synonymous with an almost immoral... more

Eric RipertA fascinating study and still wholly relevant. (Source)

Neil deGrasse TysonWhich books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] The Prince (Machiavelli) [to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)

Ryan HolidayOf course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who... (Source)

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