Valerie Hector The Art of Beading: Historical Inspiration, Contemporary Design (ISBN 0-8320-0307-8) is an interesting combination of historical and cultural analysis of various traditions bead making and presentation of works of modern designers inspired by these traditions.
The book examines a number of ethnic and historical pearl embroidery traditions:
Each chapter has a brief description of the historical tradition of beadwork, sometimes with fascinating anecdotes (I liked that about the "pearls" whose beads come from), followed by projects of contemporary beaded artists based on each of these traditions. Each project is shown with detailed photos and diagrams.
The overall impression is that of the incredible creativity of the human spirit that has turned these little objects into dazzling and astonishing creations in so many cultures and times. Even if you are not interested in recreating any of the motifs presented here, the Art of Beadwork is a fascinating book on which you will probably come back again and again.