The fall books season has arrived, not just for exhibition catalogs, but for scores of new titles boasting cutting-edge art, new projects, and new ways to line one's bookshelf. Here are our picks for what to read and why.
1. This Is Mars (Aperture, October 31)
Aperture Foundation takes us across time and space to the red planet in this book of photographs captured by the U.S. observation satellite MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) since 2006. In stunning black-and-white photos, the images conjure the sweeping canyon, craters, and surfaces of Mars in often gorgeously abstracted images. They're not only artworks in their own right but important pieces of scientific discovery.
2. Warhol's Queens (Hatje Cantz, September 30)
Andy Warhol may be known for his prints and Polaroids of famous figures, but the Pop art star also had a fascination with New York City's drag queens, an interest that gets a full treatment in this book of photographs. Paired alongside his Polaroids of women like Princess Caroline and the Princess of Norway are his outrageous, outré images of downtown drag queens, whom he once called "living testimony to the way women used to want to be." The book offers a glimpse into the lesser-known later work of Warhol.
3. American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (FSG, November 5)
The biographer and critic Deborah Solomon traces the life of the famed painter of Americana. Rockwell was at The Saturday Evening Post for about half a century, going on to paint iconic images of American families as well as the news of the day, as in his well-known painting of Ruby Bridges. Given that Solomon previously penned biographies of avant-garde heroes Jackson Pollock and Joseph Cornell, it will be interesting to see what she makes of this decidedly different artist, who is often seen in the context of illustration, Americana, and kitsch.
4. Raymond Pettibon: Here’s Your Irony Back, Political Works 1975–2013 (Hatje Cantz/David Zwirner/Regen Projects, November)
The punk provocateur may be known for art-music connections, having designed album covers and T-shirts for Black Flag in his early artist days, but Raymond Pettibon political work has always been just as charged. Pettibon has earned a reputation as a sharp critic of the American presidency, from Reagan to Obama, through fraught, often darkly comic drawings. The book also collects his reflections on the horrors of war, from Vietnam to Abu Ghraib, showing a very different side of an artist widely celebrated for his gestural drawings of surfers and baseball players.
5. Balthus: A Biography (Knopf, September)
Nicholas Fox Weber's account of the painter's bizarre and fascinating life—the only authoritative biography in existence—is rereleased to coincide with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition "Balthus: Cats and Girls." Since his first exhibition in 1934, the controversial painter was rarely out of the public eye, and Weber takes a broad, critical look at the life and work of the enigmatic artist whose fetishistic focus on prepubescent girls in psychosexual settings can be truly disturbing.
6. Richard Corman: Madonna NYC 83 (Damani, October 31)
The photographer Richard Corman captured the rise of the pop star in the early '80s downtown scene. Not just a documentation of her outrageous appearances, fashions, and performances, it showcases the goings on of the 1983 NYC art scene. when funk, punk, and pop first got a foothold in the music and art that would define the generation.
7. Cindy Sherman: Untitled Horrors (Hatje Cantz, September 30)
This selection of Cindy Sherman's photographs explores the darker side of her oeuvre, with echoes of fairytales, horror, and the surreal. This is certainly not the artist you know from her Untitled Film Stills—the photographs surveyed here include her disturbing doll-part works from the '80s as well as edgier versions of her characteristic reinventions, such as one in which she appears with fire-red hair, a nose ring, black lipstick, and prosthetic breasts beneath a black fishnet. With text by Miranda July, the book is sure to be a must-read as well as a must-see.
8. Sophie Calle: Ghosts (Actes Sud, September 30)
In her new book project, Sophie Calle takes on the ghosts of the art world in the form of "objects which have been misplaced, damaged, stolen or have otherwise disappeared from public view." These include the masterpieces heisted from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston—the artist interviews those who knew the works in an attempt to preserve their memory—and other lost artistic treasures. Owing to the artist's tendency to combine photographs and text in her work, this book is a gripping way to engage with this important artist's practice.