10 Books to Boost Your Creativity

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Last week I posed the question, “What Are You Reading?” In case your answer was, “Nuthin’,” I wanted to — as a public service — both give you some ideas on where to start and spur your creativity at the same time! By the way, I was going to call this article My 10 Favorite Books About Creativity, but I realized that I’ve got about 25 that belong in my Top 10. So you see, the math doesn’t work out. But rest assured, these ten are among the best, and will definitely get your creativity muscles flexing!


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1. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

by Twyla Tharp

Tharp is one of America’s greatest choreographers, and no stranger to the creative process. In this highly literate — but very readable — book, she takes us through her process of creation. The exercises in the book are good, and while Tharp doesn’t come from the world of business, her examples and anecdotes paint one of the truest pictures of what the creative process really looks — and feels — like.

2. Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius

by Michael Michalko

Michalko has written several great books on creativity, but this is the one that really put him on the map. In it, he brings the techniques of some of history’s most creative thinkers — people like Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci — into the modern world. This book is filled with exercises, activities, and tools that anyone can use to “think like a genius.”



3. Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

by Gordon MacKenzie

This may be the strangest book on this list. Okay, forget “may be.” It is the strangest book on this list. (The title alone should have given you a clue!) For thirty years, MacKenzie worked at Hallmark Cards, where he eventually earned the title of “Creative Paradox.” In this fun, quirky, and brilliant book (many people have cited it as their favorite book on corporate creativity), he explains why the phrase “corporate creativity” is often an oxymoron — and offers a way through the creativity roadblocks that are natural part of corporate bureaucracy.


4. The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

by Todd Henry

The subtitle of this book says it all: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice. (And if that doesn’t at least get you a little bit curious, you’re not half the person I thought you were.) Most people think creativity is like lightning: unpredictable and blinding, striking seemingly at whim. But when my team and I were producing our TV show, we had to be creative on demand. When I was writing jokes for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, I had to be creative on demand — every day. I couldn’t wait for lightning to strike. Fortunately, creativity can be accessed on demand. This is the book to help you master that skill.


5. Creativity On Demand: How to Ignite and Sustain the Fire of Genius

by Michael J. Gelb

This is the book for creatives who want to get more in touch with their “woo-woo” selves. Okay, that may be a little unfair. Let me explain. This book focus heavily on Qi — the Chinese word for “intelligent, creative, universal energy.” Unlike the other books in this list, Creativity on Demand includes physical exercises designed to encourage “the natural movement of qi within your body, and between your body and the unlimited field of energy that surrounds you.” Woo-woo, right? Maybe so, but this book offers a totally different take on creativity — one well worth exploring.


6. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

by Austin Kleon

This is an incredibly creative book about creativity! Starting with the premise that “nothing is original,” Kleon gives creatives permission to look around for creative sparks. His ideas and tips are practical and non-intuitive. What other book on creativity would offer such advice as “Be nice,” and “Be boring”? (It’s also an innovatively designed book! Just looking at it will spark your creativity!)


7. The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation

by Frans Johansson

This is not a “how-to” book (don’t worry — there are plenty of those on this list). Instead, it’s a book full of fascinating examples of Johansson’s central idea: that creative ideas occur at the intersection of previously existing — but until now unconnected — ideas. If you ever wanted to know ants helped truck drivers negotiate the Swiss Alps, this is the book for you!


8. Stimulated!: Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius at Work

by Andrew Pek & Jeannine McGlade

This book explores five habits that can help you release your creativity and unlock your innovative thinking (scouting, cultivating, playing, venturing, and harvesting). At a mere 208 pages, this is not the most robust book on the list. But if you want a quick jolt of creative caffeine, you may want to check it out.


9. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

by Tom Kelley & David Kelley

This book provides a great reminder that creativity is not just reserved for the “creative types.” Everyone is creative, and we each have the ability to tap into that creative potential whenever we need — or want — to. Written by two brothers who are among the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity, Creative Confidence is a perfect confidence booster to anyone who feels that they’re “just not creative.”


10. Where Good Ideas Come From

by Steven Johnson

In this book, Johnson outlines seven key patterns behind genuine innovation. He explores questions like: Where do the great ideas come from? What kind of environment breeds them? What sparks that flash of brilliance? This is not a “how-to” book; rather, it is a deep dive into the very heart of creativity. If you’re looking for a light, “just before bed” read, this may not be your best choice. But I found it to be a fascinating study of a crucial subject.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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