The best books on creativity and how to harness it as a skill

Who am I?

I have been addicted to reverse engineering things since I was a kid. I wrote The Creative Curve to reverse engineer the science of creativity. What could academic research teach us about creativity? If we talked to some of the world’s leading creatives, what would they tell us? My goal is to help readers unlock the part of them (that, as I argue, we all have) that is creative. When I’m not writing, I invest in tech startups that I think will leverage the principles from my book. I live in New York City with my mischievous, but incredibly adorable corgi Maven. 

I wrote...

The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

By Allen Gannett,

Book cover of The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time

What is my book about?

Overturning the mythology around creative genius and revealing the science and secrets behind achieving breakout commercial success in any field. Including interviews with everyone from the Broadway team behind Dear Evan Hansen, to the founder of Reddit, from the Chief Content Officer of Netflix to Michelin star chefs, The Creative Curve reveals the four laws of creative success and identifies the common patterns behind their achievement.

The books I picked & why

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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

By Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace,

Book cover of Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Why this book?

We all know that Pixar is uniquely capable to create movies that people love. What you might not realize is that Pixar is also an incredibly methodical organization that focuses on creating psychological safety throughout its organization. 

Creativity, Inc. is written by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. Catmull co-founded Pixar and uses this book to break down the actual mechanics of their process, and along the way shares captivating stories of an incredible career.

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

By Seth Godin,

Book cover of The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

Why this book?

In The Practice, Godin successfully does that “thing,” that he is so uniquely good at: sharing wisdom with panache and joy, not condescension or cliché. He artfully argues for the creative to better empathize with their audience, and in doing so, create better art. Since, creativity is nothing without impact.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

By Austin Kleon,

Book cover of Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative

Why this book?

This book has become a classic and for good reason. Kleon is able to quickly (and with illustrations!) make the argument that all art is remixing (or stealing, in his parlance). It is also in that rare Venn diagram overlap of books that are both informative and look great on a coffee table.

Contagious: Why Things Catch on

By Jonan Berger,

Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Why this book?

Creative ideas are nothing without distribution. Social recognition plays an essential role in the creative process, but ideas can’t get recognized without people being exposed to them. Berger’s book provides a manual and framework for how to get your ideas seen, heard, or experienced. He also (successfully) leans on his professorial background to use research to help explain why these tactics work.

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

By Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool,

Book cover of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

Why this book?

There are three legs to the creativity stool: craft, timing, and distribution. When I started researching creativity, I assumed that craft was heavily reliant on natural born talent. K. Anders Ericsson is the leading academic in the field of talent development. This book makes clear a surprising, but important point: natural-born talent is probably at best grossly overstated, and probably non-existent. We can learn world-class levels of talent if we have the right access to time, resources, and motivation.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in creativity, execution, and popularity?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about creativity, execution, and popularity.

Creativity Explore 66 books about creativity
Execution Explore 10 books about execution
Popularity Explore 11 books about popularity

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Creativity in Business, An Audience of One, and Think Like a Rocket Scientist if you like this list.