20 Books on Creativity That Will Change The Way You Live and Work
When I think of tools related to creativity, I always lean toward books. For most of us, books and storytelling are the first introduction to art and the fantastical, imaginary life outside our own experience.
In sixth grade, my friend Heidi won a storytelling contest for her aural rendition of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs; later that year I went to a workshop where a woman performed a dramatic retelling of “Little Red Hooding Ride”; my Mom and I kept standard read aloud hours well into middle school including a tortuous turn into Wuthering Heights. These are memories I carry even as the edges begin to blur; memories that shaped me as both a person and as a creative. They were all based on stories.
This is a list. It’s not exhaustive, nor will it guarantee any strikes of inspiration but as these books are on my bookshelf, in my “creative toolkit” or however it is your refer to the sources you go when you need that extra umph, I find them incomparable. When you’ve looked at your blinking cursor so long, you’ve considered a narrative about the blinking cursor. These are my dog-eared, highlighted, rough-looking, most recommended to me, most recommended to others and ultimate sources of inspiration, motivation, style and umph.
- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
- William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
- Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
- Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality
- Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
- Jocelyn K. Glei (ed), Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
- Jocelyn K. Glei (ed), Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks Build an Incredible Career
- Peter Biskind, Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock ‘N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
- Jocleyn K. Glei (ed), Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done
- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework
- Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
- Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work
- Jessica Hische, In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist’s Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector
- Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
- Tom Kelley & David Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
- Linda Venis, Inside the Room: Writing Television with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
- William Rabkin, Writing the Pilot
- Luke Sullivan, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads
What’s great about most of these books it that you don’t have to read them cover to cover to get to the creative meat. Some of them (Jocelyn K. Glei, Austin Kleon, etc.) are designed in a way to give brief but impactful nuggets of wisdom you can parse out into daily doses. If learning about Jessica Hische’s design process isn’t up your alley, wait until you see her work. Research and immersion are part of the creative process, don’t neglect your own development.
As a great aside, if you click on any of these links you’ll be directed to (and hopefully supporting) one of these independent bookstores: Parnassus Books (Nashville, TN); Strand Books (New York, NY); Malaprop’s (Asheville, NC); Book Soup (Los Angeles, CA). I’ve been to all of them, roamed aimlessly through their stacks and left better than I came in.