Saying that all creative people aren’t the same is well, accurate.
There’s no way all of them would want the same thing.
And no one book is going to help all creative people either. Creative people are–by the very definition–different. But I think this list of great books for creative people presents several awesome option and hopefully one resonates with you or someone that you know.
Check and the list and let me know which ones you would add!
1. Things Are What You Make of Them by Adam J. Kurtz
Designer Adam Kurtz has a healthy side hustle as a creator of journals and inspirational advice. This book is hand-written motivational quotes and thoughts, that also has plenty of room for reflection. Adam has definitely carved out a niche for himself and any creative person could do worse than to follow his lead.
2. 100 Tricks To Appear Smart in Meetings by Sarah Cooper
I first read Sarah (Sarah Cooper) on Medium several years ago. She’s a former Googler turned comedian, and this book is perfect for any creative person trying to navigate the sometimes absurd nature of the conference room.
3. How To Appear Normal at Social Events by Lord Birthday
A comic artist turned famous Instagram account, Lord Birthday offers practical (?…at least it’s funny!) advice to help social misfits navigate their way through life.
4. Syllabus by Lynda Barry
I remember reading about Lynda Barry from Austin Kleon, probably. Anyway, this book is an excellent read and exercise about creativity and drawing. Lynda thinks about what she would do if she had to teach a class about creativity and writing, which is essentially her job anyway. Gotta check out this book if you haven’t seen it already.
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5. What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky
The creative industry is mostly fueled by wannabes giving advice on Medium and ThriveGlobal. (Yep, a few of them may even be on this list!). That can be overwhelming and Heather is here to cut through that and to give reassurance for your current station in life. Encouraging words for the journey, whether it’s up or down.
6. Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin Manuel Miranda
Yep, the writer and star of Hamilton put together a few poems and pep talks to start and end your day. These are encouraging words to help any creative person combat anxiety and the dread that can come with another frustrating day at the keyboard. Or making stuff. Whatever. Bonus: Jonny Sun illustrates, of weird Twitter fame.
7. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
I mentioned Austin a few paragraphs up and this work is now a classic. He created this book as a short talk for students, and it morphed into something bigger. Austin started his career doing newspaper blackout poems, and now has become a creative guru of sorts. He’s very interested in collage, combination, mashups and also showing up every day to do the work. His blog, as well as his books, are impeccable. This one is short and small, filled with his illustrations, but always great to have on the shelf especially if you’re concerned about how a “real” artist should act and behave.
8. Sharpie Art Workshop by Timothy Goodman
If you’re going to do blackout poems like Austin’s, you’ll need some Sharpies. Or those big Marks-A-Lot ones. And if you’re grabbing Sharpies, you might as well see what else you can do with them. Timothy Goodman lays out all the different types of Sharpies and then presents designs and exercises you can try on your own. Even if lettering isn’t your thing, it’s a cool thing to try to test out some different brain cells in your head.
9. Creative Quest by QuestLove
The bandleader from the Roots and The Tonight Show house band relays his own creative philosophies while also sharing tips and insights from his many collaborators over the years. Definitely a must-read for anyone who feels stuck in their current creative pursuits and need some insightful suggestions to bust out of the slump.
LOL, I was flipping through a couple of search options and came across this. I haven’t tried this book in particular, but I have done Sudoku and other puzzles in the past. I like them because they help be creative in a different way. I wouldn’t say I’m the best problem solver, so trying out something like this is completely low-stakes…it doesn’t matter how long I take. The fate of the world isn’t in my hands or something, I’m only trying to figure out the next number. It’s a mental break from my normal writing while also providing a stimulating way to pass the time. Yeah, I know there are apps for this, but I can get off my phone and into something different.
11. Change by Design by Tim Brown
There are loads of design thinking books these days, it’s definitely a hot topic. However this one is written by one of the originators, Tim Brown of IDEO. If your creative person is looking for practical application and rethinking of how products are made and developed, this is a great book.
12. Creative Confidence by David Kelley
Another book by an IDEO co-founder. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve purchased it. This shows that creativity is not only for the “creative types” but how people in whatever department can really tap into their creative potential. Why should a creative person read it? To help them collaborate better with others and to help foster creativity in their teammates as well.
13. Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher
If there can be an honest guru, I guess James would be as close as you can get. Maybe Brian Koppelman is a little better. Altucher isn’t an artist or a creator, but he’s definitely a creative guy, turning over business opportunities and reshaping them in a different way than most people would. He’s self-made so to speak, but has also climbed out of bankruptcy a few times. He has a popular interview podcast and also does these small books about trying and failing and trying again. A top-notch person for any creative person to know.
Okay, what should you do with this list?
- Choose a book and send to a friend. Write a note inside telling them that you believe in their work.
- Choose a book for yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it, even if the outcome isn’t always what you expected.
- Buy the book that sounds the exact opposite from your normal self. You’ll be challenged in a different way, and hey you only lost a few bucks in the process.
Whatever you do, I’d love to hear about how these books have influenced you and changed your work.
Disclaimer: And yes, a few of these are affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you happen to buy anything.
Originally published at joshspilker.com on November 25, 2018.