I often get emails asking for recommendations on drawing and sketching books. So here's the list of books I think are good for beginners.
Everyone has a different learning style which is why there are always new drawing books coming out. So there's probably no such thing as a best drawing book. As such, I will not give you a long list of books. I'll just present my 2 favourite books from each category. If you want more, visit the list of art instruction books.
If you want to skip through the list, I'll just recommend one book Keys to Drawing. That's the book to get if you can only get one book.
If you have any drawing books that works for you, share them in the comments section.
General Drawing Books
My favourite book on drawing is Keys to Drawing (review) by Bert Dodson. The instructions are straightforward. Lessons are short and fun. Content is accessible and thorough. You can pick it up anytime and go through any examples. Even after you have gone through the book, it's still a really nice book to flip through for ideas and inspiration. This is a great book for beginners.
If you can only get one book, get this book.
The other popular drawing book is The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (review) by Betty Edwards. Reviews for this book are somewhat mixed. There are those who like it and those who don't. This book works, especially for beginners. The drawing principles it teaches are fundamental, examples and the explanations are clear, even if a bit lengthy compared to Keys to Drawing. I used to have this book but have sold it away because I find myself still going back to Keys to Drawing once in a while.
These are two of the most effective books on drawing. They are simple books. You can start with instantly with pencil and paper. These two books focuses on drawing from what you see, and not on drawing from imagination or construction.
Perspective Made Easy is the one book you need to learn perspective. Instructions are clear, and examples are easy to follow. Everything that is complex is explained simply for easy understanding.
Figure Drawing and Anatomy Books
Figure Drawing for All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis is one of the better figure drawing books. I love the text of the book. The tone is very encouraging and the instructions are always clear. The examples are beautifully illustrated. It's easy to follow along and learn. This old classic has been out of print for so long that I applaud Titan Books for getting the republish rights.
Andrew Loomis' figure drawing book focuses on construction, drawing from your mind. However, to draw the human figure accurately, you need a good anatomy reference book.
Classic Human Anatomy: The Artist's Guide to Form, Function, and Movement by Valerie L. Winslow is a well written book. The bodies, muscles and skeletons are well illustrated and explained. Every anatomy part and every muscle shown is explained in terms of functionality. Understanding their function helps in understanding what you draw and aids retention of what you've learned.
Mastering Composition review is a good book on composition. The lessons are illustrated by lots of examples, mostly painted by himself. They are mostly landscapes, still life, and a tiny bit on portrait. The painting demonstrations included are very detailed, down to the type of colours used.
Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers (review) by Marcos Mateu-Mestre complements the Mastering Composition Book very well. This book deals with they dynamic composition you need to tell a story immediately in just one image. Highly recommended.
I think experimenting with watercolours is a fun, effective and cheap way to understand how different colours work with one another. Watercolor Artist's Guide to Exceptional Color (review) covers all you need to know about colour schemes and mixing.
Since I'm talking about watercolour, I might as well recommend one as well. The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook (review) by Gordon MacKenzie is a very informative book on watercolours. Well, it's actually two books in one so you get a lot of value for your money.
The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook: A treasury of watercolor secrets discovered through decades of painting and experimentation is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository
I'll just name a few but not so much as to overwhelm you. These are books I go back to frequently.
An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory
Everything Is Its Own Reward: An All Over Coffee Collection by Paul Madonna
Wasserfarben für Gestalter by Felix Scheinberger
That's all for inspiring sketchbooks. There are a lot more on the list of art books reviewed.