Unexpected Films and Books To Check Out This Weekend With Your Library Card

Mary McCoy, Senior Librarian, Art, Music, & Recreation Department,
Recommended best artsy books and films
Recommended best artsy books and films

Sometimes it’s hard to get past the home page when you’re browsing streaming content. Staff in the Art, Music, & Recreation Department are here to help you make a deep dive into the best artsy books and films available on the library’s streaming platforms like hoopla, Kanopy, and OverDrive.

You don’t need to watch Love Is Blind again. Or that thing about the tigers. We know you’re better than that.

Art Department Recommends

Book cover for The 400 Blows
The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut

The release of The 400 Blows in 1959 began the seminal French New Wave cinema movement. Francois Truffaut's first full-length film stars Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel, a troubled adolescent who has a hard time finding sympathy among his family, his school, or society. Truffaut once set himself a goal to watch three films per day and to read three books per week—but he wasn’t dealing with a global pandemic. If you watch this you will have watched one classic, beautiful film and that deserves congratulations! If you want to keep exploring French New Wave movies, Kanopy also has classics like Cleo from 5 to 7 directed by Agnes Varda or Breathless directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

Book cover for Loving Vincent
Loving Vincent
Dorota Kobiela

Loving Vincent is considered the first "all-painted" feature film. This gorgeous movie explores the mysteries of Vincent Van Gogh's last days using images and portraits from his paintings. One question to consider as you watch Loving Vincent; what does this film have to show us about history?  

Book cover for God’s Own Country
God’s Own Country
Francis Lee

Francis Lee’s debut feature stars Josh O’Connor as Johnny, a resentful young man who uses drinking and casual encounters to escape the loneliness of his life on his family’s Yorkshire sheep farm. His world changes dramatically, however, when his family hires Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) to help him with the farm. This movie has terrific character-driven performances and a lovely quiet romance between the two leads.

Book cover for Human Flow
Human Flow
Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei takes the viewer to the frontlines of the refugee crisis as he traces the path of displaced peoples around the world. The viewers are forced to confront this often overlooked issue with personal stories and conversations. The film also documents the response by governments and the challenges refugees face in their host countries. 

Book cover for Impromptu
James Lapine

This artistically inspiring biopic about the love affair between the composer Fredric Chopin and the writer George Sand is full of swoony, messy romance and an all-star cast that includes Mandy Patinkin, Emma Thompson, Julian Sands, at his 19th century period piece dishiest, and Hugh Grant, in one of his early romantic lead roles.

Book cover for Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns
Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns
Ken Burns

A celebration of America’s greatest original art form. Ken Burns’ 10-part documentary series opens at the dawn of the 20th century, incorporating American culture and historical events that interact directly with the music. From the 1890s through the ferment of the Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age, to the Great Depression, New Deal, Second World War, and beyond, Jazz paints an astounding portrait of a nation and its improvisational core of music.

Book cover for Kedi: The Cats of an Ancient City
Kedi: The Cats of an Ancient City

Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Winner of Best First Documentary and nominated for Best Documentary at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards.

Book cover for Logan Lucky
Logan Lucky
Stephen Soderbergh

A Southern family struggles to stay together in this fun and heartwarming film, which has car racing, prison breaks, and bank robbery in the mix, and stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. This Stephen Soderbergh film flew under the radar when it was released in 2017, and it’s worth catching now. 

Book cover for Smoke
Wayne Wang

This collection of cinematic vignettes around a Brooklyn cigar store directed by Wayne Wang, The Joy Luck Club, and starring Harvey Keitel and Forest Whitaker, is peak 90s indie film with a two-hankie ending set to the music of Tom Waits.

Book cover for Biblio-Style
Nina Freudenberger

Freudenberger compiles gorgeous photos of people’s home book collections: just what the doctor ordered for when your favorite library is closed!

Book cover for Finger Painting Weekend Workshop
Finger Painting Weekend Workshop
Iris Scott

This art workshop is a fun beginners guide to creating brush-free works of art. Iris will show you simple techniques with clear, step-by-step instructions for recreating five masterpieces “mistake free” in a single day. If you’re a fan of adult coloring books, and other forms of relaxation; this finger painting workshop is right for you. Finger painting has long been regarded as a classic form of fun meditative therapy that anyone can play with making it an ideal project and hobby. So I encourage you, don’t be afraid and get your hands dirty.

Book cover for Get Your House Right
Get Your House Right
Marianne Cusato, Ben Pentreath

Cusato takes traditional architectural principles and explains them simply. It will both make you cringe at your house, and inspire you to make improvements.

Book cover for The Lives of the Muses
The Lives of the Muses
Francine Prose

Like nine art world biographies for the price of one, this book explores the lives of women who inspired great art, including photographer Lee Miller, artist models Elizabeth Siddal and Charis Weston, ballerina Suzanne Farrell, and artist and musician Yoko Ono. Some of them are all but forgotten, others unfairly maligned, and many overlooked as accomplished artists in their own right. All nine chapters will open your eyes and introduce you to women who not only made art, but lived their lives like works of art, too.

Book cover for Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshop
Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshop
Rebecca Ringquist

Ringquist walks readers through different kinds of thread, needles, and stitches in this beautifully illustrated, in-depth guide to beginning embroidery. There are also projects of varying levels of difficulty that will test and expand your new skills.

Special thanks to the Art, Music, & Recreation Department Staff for their help with this post.