Essential Books on Andy Warhol
There are countless books on Andy Warhol, and it comes with good reason, he was an artist, film director, and producer who played a key role in the visual art movement known as pop art.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s most consequential creatives to the height of his craft, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Andy Warhol.
Warhol by Blake Gopnik
To this day, mention the name “Andy Warhol” to almost anyone and you’ll hear about his famous images of soup cans and Marilyn Monroe. But though Pop Art became synonymous with Warhol’s name and dominated the public’s image of him, his life and work are infinitely more complex and multi-faceted than that.
In Warhol, esteemed art critic Blake Gopnik takes on Andy Warhol in all his depth and dimensions. “The meanings of his art depend on the way he lived and who he was,” as Gopnik writes. “That’s why the details of his biography matter more than for almost any cultural figure,” from his working-class Pittsburgh upbringing as the child of immigrants to his early career in commercial art to his total immersion in the “performance” of being an artist, accompanied by global fame and stardom – and his attempted assassination.
The extent and range of Warhol’s success, and his deliberate attempts to thwart his biographers, means that it hasn’t been easy to put together an accurate or complete image of him. But in this biography, unprecedented in its scope and detail as well as in its access to Warhol’s archives, Gopnik brings to life a figure who continues to fascinate because of his contradictions – he was known as sweet and caring to his loved ones but also a coldhearted manipulator; a deep-thinking avant-gardist but also a true lover of schlock and kitsch; a faithful churchgoer but also an eager sinner, skeptic, and cynic.
Loner at the Ball by Fred Lawrence Guiles
His Pop Art paintings of Campbell’s Soup Cans and his silkscreen images of Marilyn Monroe are internationally recognized icons of modern art. The series of Factories where his silkscreens were produced became the haunt of misfits, drop-outs, and addicts, while also of the most chic and wealthy New York society. In 1968, he narrowly escaped death when he was shot by disappointed actress and writer Valerie Solanis, an act that seemed to put the American Seal of Approval on the fame he had been seeking since adolescence.
Based on massive research and scores of interviews with Warhol’s friends and associates, in Loner at the Ball, bestselling biographer Fred Lawrence Guiles gives us a complete view of a remarkable twentieth-century life and an informed assessment of what Warhol’s work represents in the history of art.
He explores the paradoxical nature of a man who cultivated celebrity status but whom television producers learned to avoid because he had so little to say; a man who, surrounded by a world of drugs and sex, was largely celibate, did not smoke or take drugs, and was rarely drunk; perhaps above all, a man who spent most of his waking hours in the heart of a crowd yet felt that he himself was in a vacuum – a solitary observer, a loner at the ball.
The Andy Warhol Diaries; edited by Pat Hackett
This international literary sensation turns the spotlight on one of the most influential and controversial figures in American culture. Filled with shocking observations about the lives, loves, and careers of the rich, famous, and fabulous, Warhol’s journal is endlessly fun and fascinating.
Spanning the mid-1970s until just a few days before his death in 1987, this absolute gem among books on Andy Warhol offers a compendium of the more than twenty thousand pages of the artist’s diary that he dictated daily to Pat Hackett. In it, Warhol gives us the ultimate backstage pass to practically everything that went on in the world – both high and low.
He hangs out with “everybody”: Jackie O (“thinks she’s so grand she doesn’t even owe it to the public to have another great marriage to somebody big”), Yoko Ono (“We dialed F-U-C-K-Y-O-U and L-O-V-E-Y-O-U to see what happened, we had so much fun”), and “Princess Marina of, I guess, Greece,” along with art-world rock stars Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and Keith Haring.
Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties by Steven Watson
Factory Made is a fascinating look at the avant-garde group that came together – from 1964 to 1968 – as Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory. Steven Watson follows their diverse lives from childhood through their Factory years. He shows how this ever-changing mix of artists and poets, musicians and filmmakers, drag queens, society figures, and fashion models, all interacted at the Factory to create more than 500 films, the Velvet Underground, paintings and sculpture, and thousands of photographs.
Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol
A cultural storm swept through the 1960s – Pop Art, Bob Dylan, psychedelia, underground movies – and at its center sat a bemused young artist with silver hair: Andy Warhol. Andy knew everybody (from the cultural commissioner of New York to drug-driven drag queens) and everybody knew Andy.
His studio, the Factory, was the place where he created the large canvases of soup cans and Pop icons that defined Pop Art, one could listen to the Velvet Underground and rub elbows with Edie Sedgwick, and Warhol himself could observe the comings and goings of the avant-garde. In the detached, back-fence gossip style he was famous for, Warhol tells all in POPism – the ultimate inside story of a decade of cultural revolution.
Factory by Stephen Shore
Stephen Shore was 17 years old when he began hanging out at The Factory – Andy Warhol’s legendary studio in Manhattan. Between 1965 and 1967, Shore spent nearly every day there, taking pictures of its diverse cast of characters, from musicians to actors, artists to writers, and including Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed, and Nico – not to mention Warhol himself. This book presents a personal selection of photographs from Shore’s collection, providing an insider’s view of this extraordinary moment and place, as seen through the eyes of one of photography’s most beloved practitioners.
a: A Novel by Andy Warhol
Conceptually unique, hilarious, and frightening, a: A Novel is the perfect literary manifestation of Andy Warhol’s sensibility. In the late sixties, Warhol set out to turn a trade book into a piece of pop art, and the result was this astonishing account of the artists, superstars, addicts, and freaks who made up the Factory milieu. Created from audiotapes recorded in and around the Factory, a: A Novel begins with the fabulous Ondine popping several amphetamines and then follows its characters as they converse with inspired, speed-driven wit and cut swaths through the clubs, coffee shops, hospitals, and whorehouses of 1960s Manhattan.
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol claimed that he loved being outside a party – so that he could get in. But more often than not, the party was at his own studio, The Factory, where celebrities – from Edie Sedgwick and Allen Ginsberg to the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground – gathered in an ongoing bash.
A loosely formed autobiography, told with his trademark blend of irony and detachment, this compelling and eccentric memoir riffs and reflects on all things Warhol: New York, America, and his childhood in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, as well as the explosion of his career in the sixties, and his life among the rich and famous.
Andy Warhol “Giant” Size by Phaidon Editors
Andy Warhol “Giant” Size is the definitive document of this remarkable creative force, and a telling look at late twentieth-century pop culture. A must-have for Warhol fans and pop culture enthusiasts, this in-depth and comprehensive overview of Warhol’s extraordinary career is packed with more than 2,000 illustrations culled from rarely-seen archival material, documentary photography, and artwork.
Dave Hickey’s compelling essay on Warhol’s geek-to-guru evolution combines with chapter openers by Warhol friends and insiders to give special insight into the way the enigmatic artist led his life and made his art. It also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the New York art world of the 1950s to the 1980s.
As It Turns Out by Alice Sedgwick Wohl
As It Turns Out is a family story. Alice Sedgwick Wohl is writing to her brother Bobby, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1965, just before their sister Edie Sedgwick met Andy Warhol. After unexpectedly coming across Edie’s image in a clip from Warhol’s extraordinary film Outer and Inner Space, Wohl was moved to put her inner dialogue with Bobby on the page in an attempt to reconstruct Edie’s life and figure out what made Edie and Andy such iconic figures in American culture. What was it about Andy that enabled him to anticipate so much of contemporary culture? Why did Edie draw attention wherever she went? Who exactly was she, who fascinated Warhol and captured the imagination of a generation?
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Andy Warhol, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on Walt Disney!