Creativity has driven global progress for millennia. It’s a vital part of problem-solving, innovation, and advancement. ‘Being more creative’ is something we know could take our work to the next level, but it’s much easier said than done.
While creativity isn’t something that can be switched on and off, the mind can be encouraged to work more creatively. We often think the aim of creativity is to make something original, but creative theft (see: “Steal Like an Artist”) is an integral part of the process. Looking at how others have approached creativity can make it easier to hit your own creative stride.
9 Books That Inspire Creativity
Here are our picks for 9 of the best books for sparking creativity. These books will provide a deeper understanding of the factors at play in creative thinking and help readers develop strategies to tap into creative potential.
From practical exercises to advice on managing creative teams, there’s something here to suit every creative need.
1. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Of Innovation by Steven Johnson
Using powerful historical examples from a variety of industries, this book explains the patterns that lie behind iconic creative innovations.
With case studies ranging from Charles Darwin to Apple, Johnson embarks on an ambitious exploration of innovation and inspiration. He weaves in neuroscience, economics, and other approaches to provide a deeply nuanced overview of the factors that drive creative advancement.
The book offers both an inspiring look at the power of creativity and practical advice about how to establish the circumstances where innovation is most likely to occur. It’s a useful read for anyone looking to optimize their creative process and workflows.
2. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
This prose-structured poetry collection is a strange yet beautiful series of disjointed thoughts about objects, food, and rooms. It will help readers see the creative potential in everyday things and discover the freedom that lies in creative experimentation.
It’s a perfect companion if you need to brainstorm a new concept or solution. The author’s free-flowing association of objects and observations will help you sink into a mindset where your own ideas are free to connect and evolve in new ways.
The book might also help you if you’re feeling anxious or blocked about a particular problem at work. Stein invites you on a meandering linguistic adventure in which (rather than ransacking the brain for meanings and solutions) readers can sit back and let inspiration arrive organically.
3. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
Kleon structures the book around the 10 things he wishes someone had told him before he embarked on his career as a writer and artist. The result is an honest, fun, and beautifully illustrated read.
If you worry about making something ‘new’ or ‘unique,’ Steal Like an Artist should leave you feeling revitalized and reassured.
Kleon’s take is that the very point of creativity is making “new” things out of what already exists. Creativity is an evolution and theft is inevitable (though it’s vital to know where inspiration ends and plagiarism begins). Rather than waiting for a fully formed idea to occur, you should look for the elements of your next product, design, or marketing campaign in the world around you.
4. Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Whether you’re hunting for a way to improve your email open rate or a winning concept for your next presentation, this book will help you leave behind existing preconceptions of creativity.
The concept of ‘Freakonomics’ is the brainchild of Levitt and Dubner, a pair of economists who wanted to deconstruct every aspect of what we consider ‘normal life.’ With this book, they show how they did it and give you the tools you need to examine problems from new angles.
Using fun and fascinating real-world examples, Think Like a Freak uncovers the twisted nature of seemingly ordinary things. It also offers a powerful insight into your audience’s thought process, something that helps guide and shape your creative output.
5. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky
This is the perfect book to reach for if your problem lies in making something tangible out of abstract, creative thoughts.
Making Ideas Happen moves away from the hunt for inspiration to the heavy lifting of implementation. Through practical strategies and advice from successful creatives, the book offers techniques to help you overcome common obstacles (like timeframes and societal demands) and inhibitions that can derail even the best ideas.
6. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind edited by Jocelyn Glei
This book’s concept is founded on the principle of making time for creativity in everyday life. From Maya Angelou shutting herself away in a hotel room to Beethoven counting out precisely 60 coffee beans for his morning brew, many renowned creatives have relied on a unique routine that provided them with the space to create. This book could help you discover yours.
Manage Your Day-to-Day offers a wealth of advice from 20 brilliant and successful creatives. It empowers readers to make the most of their time, adapt to the demands of the modern work world, and take steps to deliver winning thoughts and ideas.
7. The Book of Doing by Allison Arden
This book offers a holistic approach to creativity, helping readers rediscover the thrill of making something new. If you’re looking for interactive books to inspire creativity, Arden’s work is a must.
Allison Arden guides readers through over 90 activities to boost creative thinking and strengthen creative muscles. From crafting to cooking, each suggestion will help unlock different aspects of creative potential and provide insight into the role pure creativity plays in adult life.
8. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
In Creativity Inc. Ed Catmull shares the lessons he learned from his years of creating hugely imaginative films at Pixar. It offers techniques to empower the imagination and seed new ideas. In addition, the book demonstrates how the company enabled its network of creatives to do their best work and come together to produce stunning, original, and perhaps unprecedented creative output.
Through the fascinating lens of Pixar’s successes and setbacks, the book offers advice on effective team management, possible obstacles, and the dynamic creative process.
9. Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Chris Riddell
For those strapped for time, this short read offers a quick boost to your imagination and a quiet moment to reflect on what creativity really means.
Novelist Neil Gaiman aims to remind readers why creativity is such a fundamental part of everything we do. When feeling creatively burnt out or uninspired, this powerful collection of thoughts should help you reset and get back in touch with your creative side. In addition, Gaiman’s work inspires the necessary courage to pursue a creative angle for projects or motivate colleagues to back a disruptive idea.
Spark Unique Ideas Through Books to Inspire Creativity
Whether you are in need of practical advice on generating and implementing ideas or an uplifting reminder of the power of creativity, opening a book is a strong first step. To reinforce new creative insights with practical skills, follow up with our proven ways to improve on writing techniques.
While we all create differently, there is still so much we can learn from others’ creative successes and setbacks. Picking up one of these books could give you the boost you need to find your next creative idea and make it a reality.