Terence Koh: TOP TEN BOOKS


Celebrated queer artist Terence Koh is often most associated with wearing all white, briefly hosting a YouTube show with guests such as Lady Gaga and Ai Wei Wei, throwing wild, all-night parties, and successfully selling his own gold-plated excrement for $500,000. Perhaps it was a sort of repentance for his party boy behavior to perform “nothingtoodoo” in 2011, circling, on his knees for eight hours a day, a small mountain of salt for one month at the Mary Boone Gallery. More recently, the artist left the party of the Manhattan art world behind for a quieter life upstate.

Below are Terence Koh’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


The Krishnamurti Reader

J. Krishnamurti
A guide on living. Krishnamurti asks us to question everything, find out the answers ourselves. It’s something that strikes my mind every time I read the news and all the problems we have today. Start with mutating our own mind and then society’s will follow.
Add to cart


John Cage
John Cage sings to me in that calm gentle voice of his every day. Just sitting here while writing this — crick crack of logs burning in woodstove, almost silent sound of a distant wind — I am reminded that the universe is a constantly changing song. The most beautiful music in existence is when we let our minds be silent.
Add to cart

Four Quartets

T.S. Eliot

“Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past./ If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable.”

I have not read the rest of this little book beyond these first two sentences. The ever-living now: live it fully and awake.
Add to cart


Henry David Thoreau
I glued all the pages of “Walden” shut and it’s the only book that sits by my bed. For me, it’s the idea of this book as a single physical object that matters. A book unopened can be a bed lamp.
Add to cart

The Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work and Art in the Far East

Alan Watts
Oh, sparkling Alan Watts. What I remember most clearly from this book is that all words — the book itself — is only a guide, like a boat, to help you cross the river. Don’t mistake the book for the way across. All books are a boat. Zen is life itself sewn into the fabric of daily existence.
Add to cart

The World As I See It

Albert Einstein
On the second page, Einstein outlines the principles that guide his life: “The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been truth, goodness, and beauty.” Three simple words, yet full of mystery and light.
Add to cart

The Snow Leopard

Peter Matthiessen
A book about mountains, loss, death, life, living Zen and everything else in between. Living on a mountain myself, Peter reminds me that the mountains and stones are alive. Friends that I speak to daily. Peter Matthiessen, together with Gary Snyder, Arne Naess and John Cage are my teachers on how to grow older. With vigor, elegance and spark.
Add to cart

The Good Life

Helen and Scott Nearing
This was the book that inspired me to move from the city and live on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and everywhere. In 1932, they too moved from New York City to start living off the land deep in the green mountains of Vermont. Living off the land and in the seasons gives one a sense of honest purpose. Art, farming, poetry, architecture, carpentry, accounting, cooking have no boundaries with each other.
Add to cart

We Were An Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam

Peter Blanchard
A story about a couple that bought a remote island in Maine to live on for the rest of their lives. A dream of mine, too: to live on an island, physically and spiritually.
Add to cart

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I have been collecting different versions in book form of this simple song:

Row, row, row your boat/ Gently down the stream/ Merrily, merrily, merrily/ Life is but a dream

Live life gently and merrily. Never judging, just observing on this boat ride. Alone at home I sing this song every day and perhaps you will too.
Add to cart