Are you in the mood to be inspired? Maybe you’ve got a pesky case of creative block and you need to break out of it. Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve rounded up 10 book picks that promise to indulge your creative side.
Last year, the American Time Use Survey told us that pleasure reading in the US has fallen by more than 30 percent since 2004. In other words: a mere 19 percent of Americans, aged 15 and older, read for pleasure on a given day. In a similar vein, findings released by the Pew Research Center revealed that nearly a quarter of American adults admitted to not having read even part of a book in the past year. Meanwhile, north of the US, First Book Canada estimates that a quarter of Canadian households don’t own even a single book, and information gathered by BookNet Canada indicates that the percentage of Canadian readers is slowly but steadily declining.
Though these numbers don’t bode well for the future of literacy, the psychological benefits of reading books remain uncontested. Reading regularly fosters brain connectivity, improves concentration, and boosts creativity. (Some studies even show that people who read daily tend to live longer than nonreaders.) But not all books are created equal, and if you’re looking for creative inspiration the reading material you choose can have a huge impact.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp
Geared at: Anyone pursuing a creative career
Twyla Tharp is a dancer, choreographer, and entrepreneur with a remarkable 35-year career and a couple of books under her belt. The Creative Habit—originally published in 2003—contains life lessons and practical exercises geared at anyone who finds themselves at a creative dead end. For that reason, Tharp’s book is meant for anyone who considers creativity and artistic expression to be cardinal in their career and life in general, be that a performance artist, writer, photographer, painter, or even a new parent.
Find out more about The Creative Habit.
Find out more about Twyla Tharp.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Edwin Earl Catmull
Geared at: Anyone in a leadership role in a creative environment
Edwin Earl Catmull is a computer scientist and the former president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios—the latter of which he founded with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. His book, which was originally published in 2014, is essentially a manual for cultivating creative culture in the workplace. As such, the book unpacks the philosophies, managerial ideals, and team-working techniques that have led to Pixar’s success and profitability as a company.
Find out more about Creativity, Inc.
Find out more about Edwin Catmull.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Geared at: Anyone striving to cultivate and live a creative life
You may have heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s name before, in conjunction with popular works of fiction, such as Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things. Though Gilbert has attained inarguable success writing fiction, some of her best work is of the non-fiction variety. Big Magic, which was published in 2015, is Gilbert’s interpretation of the role creativity plays in our daily lives: how it tends to manifest and how we can tailor our attitudes, approaches, and habits in order to optimize creativity.
Find out more about Big Magic.
Find out more about Elizabeth Gilbert.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
Geared at: Anyone pursuing a creative career
Steven Pressfield is an author and screenplay writer with a contentious viewpoint on the inner workings of the creative process. According to Pressfield, the creative process is war and Resistance (with a capital “R”) is the enemy. The War of Art is for anyone who wants to tear down their creative roadblocks and better equip themselves for future setbacks. Warning: Pressfield is angry at the war that is art, and he wants readers to get angry about it too!
Find out more about The War of Art.
Find out more about Steven Pressfield.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
Geared at: Aspiring writers
Regardless of your writing chops, Stephen King’s On Writing, is a must-read. In addition to being part-memoir, On Writing deals with topics that a myriad of creative professionals can relate to. It includes advice on: practicing your craft, creating an inspiring workspace, letting go of fear, and delivering your beloved brain-child to the masses. These themes and more make King’s book as much of a bible for budding writers as it is an insightful read for everyone.
Find out more about On Writing.
Find out more about Stephen King.
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron
Geared at: All creatives
Though The Artist’s Way was published in 1992, the lessons it contains are undoubtedly timeless. In addition to being an author, Julia Cameron is a teacher, artist, poet, playwright, filmmaker, composer, and journalist, and as such, she is well-versed on the inner workings of the creative mind. Cameron’s book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery and contains a 12-week program of exercises and assignments designed to get creativity flowing again.
Find out more about The Artist’s Way.
Find out more about Julia Cameron.
Letter to My Daughter, by Maya Angelou
Geared at: Everyone
Given the fact that Maya Angelou herself is a creative icon and an inspirational force, it’s entirely unsurprising that her autobiographies, essays, and poetry are deeply revered. Though Letter to My Daughter is hardly a self-help book or instructional manual on catering to your creativity, it is beautifully written and contains unparalleled insights on pursuing your dreams, maintaining positivity, and living a life of meaning.
Find out more about Letter to My Daughter.
Find out more about Maya Angelou.
Real Artists Have Day Jobs (And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School), by Sara Benincasa
Geared at: Aspiring creatives
Real Artists Have Day Jobs is all about adulting as a young and struggling artist. Author and comedian, Sara Benincasa, published this witty and provocative complication of essays in 2016 with the hope that she could impart some of her hard-earned wisdom, born from a harrowing stint as a lost twenty-something herself. Benincasa’s book includes 52 essays and advice on dating, job hunting, managing money, and staying true to who you are, as an artist and as a person.
Find out more about Real Artists Have Day Jobs.
Find out more about Sara Benincasa.
Show Your Work & Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
Geared at: Aspiring artists
Austin Kleon’s books tend to revolve around the practicalities of being an artist. Show Your Work is no exception, as it deals with themes such as: becoming findable as an artist, utilizing your network, and letting others discover your artist process as a modest means of self-promotion. Prior to Show Your Work, Kleon published Steal Like an Artist—which is another important read for young artists who are trying to discern where their work fits in, within the larger context of the art and artists that have preceded them.
Find out more about Show Your Work.
Find out more about Steal Like an Artist.
Find out more about Austin Kleon.
Read on for more inspiration:
How My Day Job Inspires My Creative Work
10 Ways Artists Can Get Motivated—And Stay Motivated
Self Care Ideas For Artists