Our second reading list is a bit of a reflection. This list, culled from curators we consider family, was generated in the midst of the first 2020 quarantine. We circled back to see if these titles still held their interest despite the "awakening." We are happy to report that, despite being in the vortex of change, their attention was still on these texts. We hope you find inspiration in their reading lists.


Director. Perez Art Museum Miami.

by Jose Saramago (1995)
“How could you not grab this in the first few weeks of the current situation? Everybody goes blind... and then has to figure out a way together to put life back together. And, the Old Man with the Black Eyepatch goes blind while viewing a painting in a museum...”

Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil by William Middleton (2018)
“A deep dive. A big book full of great stories about looking at and loving on art, and acknowledging the spiritual nature of the looking and the loving.”

Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis (2015)
“Amidst an inspiration in art that leads to beautiful words written on the evils and the beauties of our history, Coste weaves wonderfully lyrical poems. Helps me find the beauty amidst the daily and the banal of news...”

Joey Lico

Global Curator + Senior Director. The Cultivist

Jack Whitten: Notes from the Woodshed by Jack Whitten (2018)
“This book is a re-read, and first and foremost, JACK WHITTEN! But what I've loved about this book is Jack's honesty about the struggle that artists undergo—even when seeing some success. There is a candid and desperate need that artists have for outside INDIVIDUAL support—not ONLY financial, but also emotional and psychological. The world is already asking them to step up and create for us in this dark time, but what are we all doing for THEM?! Are we paying any mind to how they are carrying home and studio rents? Are we buying works (large or small)? Sending them cans of paint or toner for their printers (as Lennie Bocour did for Jack)? I suppose I wanted to reinforce my immediate impulse that artists are going to need us too. It's not ok to quote Toni Morrison as a way to rescind any responsibility for their survival, and then just wait for them to make some magic we all can enjoy, "when things return to normal." So this book, more than anything, is a call to action.”

Blues in Black and White by May Ayim (1993)
“I just finished May Ayim's Blues in Black and White—have you read it? She was a brilliant, young poet and activist whose themes speak uniquely and transformatively about language and the politics of existence or her existence, as an Afro-German. She committed suicide at the age of 36. Not sure why I felt that was important to say, but her brief life made an enormous impact.”

Lauren Haynes

Director of Artist Initiatives + Curator Contemporary Art. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary

Duro Olowu: Seeing
by Naomi Beckwith (2020)
“Duro Olowu: Seeing was published to accompany an exhibition that Olowu curated (along with Naomi Beckwith) at the MCA Chicago. The exhibition, Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, opened at the end of February, and I don't think I'll get a chance to see it in person, so I'm very excited to spend some time with this catalog.“

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
"I got this book last year, and it's been in my stack of bedside books for a while. This felt like the perfect moment to read it as I wanted to be prepared to watch the series on Hulu.”

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (2019)
“This is my book club's June read. I'm excited to read it and to actually (finally) be prepared for a book club discussion.”


Holly Block Social Justice Curator, Bronx Museum and Founder Project for Empty Space, Newark, NJ

World War Z by Max Brooks (2006)
“This sounds counter-intuitive, but reading/listening to books that are the exaggerated version of what's happening now somehow gives me comfort. What's happening in the world financially and socially is so similar to what happens in the book, it's eerie and also thrilling. Brooks has an insightful take on what would happen during a pandemic (just swap out flesh-eating reanimated dead bodies, for a plague). I'm also fascinated by the clear global research he did for a piece of fiction. Every vignette (for lack of a better word) has so much culturally engaging nuance. I've probably listened to the book at least seven times, and this is my second time reading it.”

Earthseed Chronicles (Parable of the Sower) by Octavia Butler (1993)
“An old favorite, and one that I'm using for an upcoming exhibition! Clearly, I have a thing for dystopian YA literature. This book also seemed so apropos to this moment that we're living in — the election of a zealot, the end of the world, the reality of empaths. All of it reflects the extreme version of our potentials, as we get closer and closer to the time when the book took place (2024). I live for Octavia Butler's writing in general, but this series is hands down my favorite and in my top 10 reading list of all time.”