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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Creativity, Inc. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part autobiography, part history of Pixar, part business book, Creativity Inc is a stimulating, feel-good, insightful and highly inspirational collection of lessons in creativity and business from the president of Pixar and Disney Animation, Ed Catmull.

'Just might be the best business book ever written.' -- Forbes Magazine
'Great book. Wish I could give it more than 5 Stars' -- ***** Reader review
'Incredibly inspirational' -- ***** Reader review
'Honestly, one of the best books I've read in a long time' -- ***** Reader review
'Read it and read it again, then read it again and then again' -- *****…

Book cover of The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

Why did I love 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.

By Seth Godin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Practice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Purple Cow and This is Marketing comes an elegant little book that will inspire artists, writers, and entrepreneurs to stretch and commit to putting their best work out into the world.

Creative work doesn't come with a guarantee. But there is a pattern to who succeeds and who doesn't. And engaging in the consistent practice of its pursuit is the best way forward.

Based on the breakthrough Akimbo workshop pioneered by legendary author Seth Godin, The Practice will help you get unstuck and find the courage to make and share creative work. Godin insists that…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Austin Kleon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Steal Like an Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When asked to talk to students at Broome Community College in upstate New York in the spring of 2011, Austin Kleon wrote a simple list often things he wished he'd heard when he was their age: 'Steal like an artist; Don't wait until you know who you are to start making things; Write the book you want to read; Use your hands; Side projects are important; Do good work and put it where people can see it; Geography is no longer our master; Be nice (the world is a small town.); Be boring (it's the only way to get work…

Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Why did I love 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.

By Jonan Berger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Contagious as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why are some products and ideas talked about more than others? Why do some articles make the most emailed list? Why do some YouTube videos go viral? Word-of-mouth. Whether through face-to-face conversations, emails from friends, or online product reviews, the information and opinions we get from others have a strong impact on our own behaviour. Indeed, word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.It is between 8.5 and 30 times more effective than traditional media.But want to know the best thing about word-of-mouth? It's available to…

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 did I love 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.

By Anders Ericsson, Robert Pool,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Peak as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selected as a Book of the Year by New Statesman

Mozart wasn't born with perfect pitch.

Most athletes are not born with any natural advantage.

Three world-class chess players were sisters, whose success was planned by their parents before they were even born.

Anders Ericsson has spent thirty years studying The Special Ones, the geniuses, sports stars and musical prodigies. And his remarkable finding, revealed in Peak, is that their special abilities are acquired through training. The innate 'gift' of talent is a myth. Exceptional individuals are born with just one unique ability, shared by us all - the ability…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in creativity, execution, and popularity?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about creativity, execution, and popularity.

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Execution Explore 16 books about execution
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