I received a most amazing pair of heavy duty "nerdy" art books today:
Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs
huge online preview here:
Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols
These are wonderful, they're amazingly in depth. The author did all the 2000 or so pieces of line art over 8 years or so and the text explains every symbol, icon, etc. Every "thing" in the paintings accompanying or that are inspired by the Bardo texts (or Tibetan Book of the Dead). These two books hide nothing in mystical speak. They're like monographs on Tibetan Varajna / Tantric Buddhist art & icons. I'm fascinated by how symbols are used by different cultures and every aspect of their paintings are symbolic. These books are like keys to translating the paintings (see example painting below). Even the style of how a symbol is crafted changes it's meaning. Telling much more of a story than what the initial look expresses. I like finding out that hidden complexity which one wouldn't normally "get" unless viewing it from within the reality tunnel of the "enlightened" practitioners. Makes subsequent viewings of the art much, more interesting, enjoyable and open to interpretation depending upon your daily perceptions and what aspects of life you are tuning-in today when you look out at the world... or at least when you look at Tibetan art.
Example of a Bardo / Thangka painting. There are no paintings such as these in the book, only line art and detailed background information of each design element. Chapters on cloud symbolism, rock formations, land masses, water, flames, weapons, gestures and poses, mythical creatures, skulls, corpses, etc.
If you like this sort of artwork (I like to say it was the original psychedelic art) these two books will help you enjoy them that much more.
On the other hand, my traveling metal reporter Shan Siva from BattleHelm.com mountain climbed in Nepal on one of his vacations and said the mystique of the Buddhist monks is destroyed when you see them and they're riding around on scooters and demanding money from tourists for letting them take their picture. lol!