The best books for appreciating your natural creatively entrepreneurial genius

Who am I?

I never believed the idea that creativity was for a gifted few. Throughout my life, as a teenage fishing guide, an entrepreneur and college professor, novelist, and creativity guide, the folks I’ve met are rich with creative and entrepreneurial qualities. My calling is to help you appreciate your creative genius so that it appreciates in value for you. Growing your creatively entrepreneurial genius is the best way to prepare for a future of unknowable unknowns, the best way to build careers we desire, the best way to fully appreciate life. I offer various perspectiveS on core creative and entrepreneurial concepts so you can construct the best path to your personal renewal and growth.

I wrote...

Becoming A Creative Genius (again)

By Carl Nordgren,

Book cover of Becoming A Creative Genius (again)

What is my book about?

Research NASA participated in found that 98% of us at age 4 perform on creativity assessments at levels NASA labels Creative Genius but by age 25 only 4% of us do. This book is the best of my courses taught to 2,000 Duke students to help them reclaim their creative genius—they do, having fun along the way.

As an entrepreneur I develop creative talent continuously; as a teacher, I study relevant neuroscience and social science research regularly; as a novelist, I explore personal creative habits; as a woods walker and animal husbandman, I live with natural creative forces. All those are sources for what I teach in a short book with a bias for action throughout.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

Why did I love this book?

This book had to be first. I’ve read three biographies about da Vinci, alert for clues into his brilliance. And I’ve never had a book recommended to me as frequently, by former students, colleagues, and friends. I’ve read it twice. Gelb draws on da Vinci’s notebooks and his work to shape The Seven da Vincian Principles—Curiosity, Being Sensual, Embracing Uncertainty, and Holistic Perspectives are my favorites—and also provides specific creative tips to help us live true to those principles in all aspects of our lives. I love da Vinci’s appreciation for what nature can teach us about being creative and this book captures that well. 

By Michael J. Gelb,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring and inventive guide teaches readers how to develop their full potential by following the example of the greatest genius of all time, Leonardo da Vinci.

Acclaimed author Michael J. Gelb, who has helped thousands of people expand their minds to accomplish more than they ever thought possible, shows you how. Drawing on Da Vinci's notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, Gelb introduces Seven Da Vincian Principles—the essential elements of genius—from curiosità, the insatiably curious approach to life to connessione, the appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things. With Da Vinci as your inspiration, you will discover an…

Book cover of Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity

Why did I love this book?

How do creative people produce their best work? That’s the question Galenson researched as an economics professor leading to this book comparing the two major creative approaches he’s identified: Do they create by just getting started and through incremental efforts and continuous testing they feel their way until they discover what they will create? Or do they begin with careful and comprehensive plans of what they will create, beginning only when they are confident they have a full vision of what the end looks like? He studied artists—painters and poets, novelists and sculptors—but the questions he asks and the answers he frames are relevant to all creatively entrepreneurial work and he shares his thoughts about that as well. I love Cezanne’s paintings and was delighted to learn my creative process is similar to his. 

By David W. Galenson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old Masters and Young Geniuses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When in their lives do great artists produce their greatest art? Do they strive for creative perfection throughout decades of painstaking and frustrating experimentation, or do they achieve it confidently and decisively, through meticulous planning that yields masterpieces early in their lives? By examining the careers not only of great painters but also of important sculptors, poets, novelists, and movie directors, Old Masters and Young Geniuses offers a profound new understanding of artistic creativity. Using a wide range of evidence, David Galenson demonstrates that there are two fundamentally different approaches to innovation, and that each is associated with a distinct…

Book cover of How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

Why did I love this book?

I used this in class the last semester I taught at Duke; had I continued to teach I would have used it again. The students and I found it was two things—as it tells the Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery it also spotlights creative strategies and entrepreneurial behaviors in the stories it shares. It’s an entertaining history and narrative of creative and entrepreneurial successes; both teach us, guide us, maybe even inspire us. I’m the father of three daughters and appreciated the stories he’s uncovered of many life-changing innovations that women led but men claimed. 

By Kevin Ashton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Fly a Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the vein of Susan Cain's QUIET and Malcolm Gladwell's DAVID AND GOLIATH, HOW TO FLY A HORSE is a smart, empowering book that dispels the myths around genius and creativity.

There is a myth about how something new comes to be; that geniuses have dramatic moments of insight where great things and thoughts are born whole. Poems are written in dreams. Symphonies are composed complete. Science is accomplished with eureka shrieks. Businesses are built by magic touch.

The myth is wrong. Anyone can create. Necessity is not the mother of invention. We all are.

In How to Fly a…

Book cover of The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

Why did I love this book?

I used this book in class for three semesters. The students were fans; I stopped using it only because I re-designed my classes regularly. It’s a deep dive into hundreds of social science and neuroscience research projects about how we relate to each other, how we want to engage with each other, and why. It first appeared to be an unusual pick for a class on creatively entrepreneurial growth but students agreed it made sense when reminded that most creative work is done in collaborative teams so understanding each other is of great creative benefit. Brooks uses fictional characters, a man and a woman, and tells their life stories, illuminating them with insights rooted in research; we see the deep human truths behind behaviors and are entertained along the way. 

By David G. Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Social Animal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


With unequaled insight and brio, New York Times columnist David Brooks has long explored and explained the way we live. Now Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life. This is the story of how success happens, told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica. Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to old age, illustrating a fundamental new understanding of human nature along the way: The unconscious mind, it…

Book cover of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World

Why did I love this book?

First and foremost we are sensual critters. At birth, our brains still have significant development to accomplish and focuses initially on the Sensory Control area since it’s vital for growth that we fully realize the messages and signals that the physical world is constantly sending. Here’s a poetic and philosophical exploration of how we emerged from and continue to be part of the physical sensual world. It makes sense it’s last. I’ve been reading it for two years without finishing; after a couple of pages of Abram’s beautiful wisdom about how, for instance, the first spoken languages were composed of natural sounds I need to put the book down and ruminate for a few days on the creative implications of my speaking and the sounds I make. 

By David Abram,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Spell of the Sensuous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the International Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction

Animal tracks, word magic, the speech of stones, the power of letters, and the taste of the wind all figure prominently in this intellectual tour de force that returns us to our senses and to the sensuous terrain that sustains us. This major work of ecological philosophy startles the senses out of habitual ways of perception.

For a thousand generations, human beings viewed themselves as part of the wider community of nature, and they carried on active relationships not only with other people with other animals, plants, and natural objects (including…

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