What a privilege it is to stroll through thousands of years of magnificent art with the keen-eyed, confident, supremely knowledgeable Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose opinionated, charming prose could make anyone feel like an art-world insider. Whether or not you know an ism from an altarpiece, Hoving will gently grasp your elbow and welcome you to the party, introducing you to everyone who's anyone and encouraging you to partake of the nourishing, sumptuous feast. Like most of the books in the For Dummies series, this one isn't, really. It's a delightful, erudite romp, cleverly and clearly designed to allow the art-curious reader to correct for a nearly universal deficit in American education. There are pictures, of course, including some in color, but this book assumes real love on the part of the reader, who is expected to get off the couch and--with Hoving's excellent guidance--go find the real thing and gaze upon it in the flesh.
Tom the Jargon Slayer offers 14 chapters on the history of Western art, from cave painting to the 1999 Venice Biennale; others cover appreciating art ("the only true enemy of art is good taste"); beginning your own collection ("Dürer is never mushy"); and what to do if your child shows artistic genius ("get out of the way"). He offers readers a priceless tip on how to visit any museum, tells you where the hidden gems are all over the world, describes a mysterious expedition with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Hermitage, and sputters bitterly over a shortsighted superior who refused to allow him, then a young curator, to buy a tiny Flemish masterpiece that is now a centerpiece at a rival museum. Although written for adults, this fact-filled book would entertain and educate students from middle school on. --Peggy Moorman [via]