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Top Ten Books on Creativity

Top 10 Books on Creativity

If you are wondering what book to give an artist, or to get for yourself, here are our top 10 books on creativity. A few surprises amidst some standards you have seen before. This is great if you are looking for new ideas, or if you simply desire refreshing honesty about the creative life and creative challenges. These books are by people from all different walks of life – from top product designers and best-selling novelists, to choreographers and retired art professors. Let us know what you books you love, and what you might add to the list by posting your comments at the bottom. And know we have connected our amazon affiliate link to each book cover so you can purchase any of these books too. Enjoy! 

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

This book is a great gift for any creative – writer, actor, filmmaker, dancer, etc. This book is as refreshingly profound as it is brief. Each chapter is short, concise and to the point. Some chapters are only a paragraph or two, but they make their point with wit, humility and the directness of a mentor challenging you to keep creating. He describes some aspects of the creative life so well, you will feel like he has been watching you through the window as you face all the distractions, anxieties and paralyzing fears creatives face.



Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Another book every artist should read. These two art teachers weave great quotes, anecdotes and illustrations into a book that is so refreshing. If you ever feel alone in facing fear as an artist, just read this book to understand you are not alone, and there are ways to move beyond that fear.




Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmull

Pixar took the film world by storm for good reason. In an industry constantly struggling to find great stories, Pixar created great box office hit one after the other. Read this book to understand how their corporate culture in a creative context set them apart. The freedom to fail, to take risks and start over were eminently important. It is a fun read and particularly helpful for those working in large communities and corporations.



Real Artists Don’t Starve, by Jeff Goins

The story of Michelangelo alone will stick with you for years to come. This book is a breath of fresh air, and it mirrors the very heart of our Catalyst Online Course for creatives. We need to dispel this myth about passion and poverty. Now, more than ever, artists can make a living, no matter where they live. You may even want to give it to your skeptical relatives who think you are crazy to purse a life as a creative.



The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp

Twyla’s dance and choreography has been celebrated for decades. She is a powerhouse. She has faced the ‘white room’ the way writers face the ‘white page’ thousands of times. My wife and I heard her speak at a theatre here in Los Angeles for the book tour on one of her books. She is amazing. This book speaks honestly about the challenges, but also very practically about the personal discipline, mental focus, the beauty of accidents, the reality of failures, and the skills that carry you in the long run. Don’t let the fact that she is a dancer tempt you to overlook this book. I would recommend this to corporate CEO’s in a rut as much as a student or an actor.


Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer

Jonah takes a look at creativity from an entirely different viewpoint. He utilizes scientific research to explain the creative process and how creativity works. He utilizes stories about Bob Dylan and delves into creativity through the medical lenses of tools like functional MRIs and EEGs. He offers techniques and practices that can also stimulate our creativity.




Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

A very short book, with a great point. Everyone can be tempted to feel insecure because we have not done something completely original or vanguard. That is what is celebrated in our culture. This title is reminiscent of the famous Picasso quote, “Good artists copy, Great artists steal.” As my jazz professor use to say, “All artists are kleptomaniacs.” We are always adapting and incorporating new ideas, harmonies, melodies and conversations. If you are feeling that pressure to be original and that feeling is holding you back from starting new, or starting a new project, this might help get you out of that rut.


Creative Confidence, by David Kelley and Tom Kelley

Written by prolific designers, who designed everything from the first computer mouse for Apple to software and hardware tools to help people with diabetes. Their audience is anyone seeking to develop their creativity. As David Kelley states in his TED talk, his passion is helping anyone gain creative confidence. Naturally, they dismiss the idea that only some people are creative. Filled with great stories, illustrations and encouragement to break out of your own ruts, so you can pivot and innovate in your own field.



Chance or the Dance, by Thomas Howard

This author, Thomas Howard, passed away just a few weeks ago, which is why it was on my mind. This book is an older book, and it isn’t about creativity per se. It is really about how modernity stripped life of mystery and wonder. That sense if of wonder is essential to a life of creativity and joy. With a writing style akin to C.S. Lewis, Howard tells wonderful stories while reminding us of the beauty, wonder and awe of life. It is deeply thoughtful and thought provoking.



Range, by David Epstein

Read fascinating stories of Comic book writer Stan Lee working for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Stories of David Brubeck barely graduating with a music degree yet becoming a jazz giant. Then read of the unusual circumstances that enabled NINTENDO to succeed where others failed. What gives people greater insight? It is not found in the years studying the same subject in depth like some scientist. Rather, it is found in spending time in disparate studies and hobbies. The great creatives in this new world will be those who are not specialists, but generalists. If this doesn’t get you to think outside the box again, nothing will. A delightful read.


We hope you like and read the suggestions and we always love to hear your response— so be sure to share below in the comments section!

If you want more articles about creativity, check these out:

Creativity in the Midst of Crisis

5 Creativity Hacks to Use Right Now

Creativity Fueled by the Incarnation

Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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