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Im skipping the whole realms of music, art and film. These arts can and should be experienced directly. Reading about them can be interesting, but its definitely secondary. Ive read a number of books about particular composers, artists and filmmakers that I like, but I dont think theres much point in listing them it makes more sense for you to read about those that you like.
If youre new to classical music, listen to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and other great composers. See live performances if you can. Talk to other fans and ask them for recommendations. In this way you will get some idea of what is involved and may acquire a taste for particular composers or performers. Only then will it make much sense to do some background reading about what you have become interested in. The same goes for jazz, folk, rock and other kinds of music. Most fun of all, of course, is to participate, which is fairly easy to do with folk and rock.
If you’re new to art, I suggest that you get some general overview such as H.W. Jansons History of Art, Helen Gardners Art Through the Ages, E.H. Gombrichs The Story of Art or Arnold Hausers The Social History of Art, then explore those artists that appeal to you.
I will recommend one book on film: Parker Tylers Classics of the Foreign Film (1962), an insightful and beautifully illustrated examination of 75 great films from 1919-1961. It was a helpful guide when I was really getting into film in the late sixties. By 1970 I had discovered that almost no recent films were of any interest whatsoever, so I stopped going and am almost totally ignorant of films since that time.
Section from Gateway to the Vast Realms: Recommended Readings from Literature to Revolution, by Ken Knabb (2004).
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