The best books for a more fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable creative life

The Books I Picked & Why

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

By Eckhart Tolle

Book cover of A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

Why this book?

A New Earth is one of Tolle’s follow-up books to his immensely popular The Power of Now. Although The Power of Now may be more accessible for some readers, A New Earth goes into greater depths into some of Tolle’s core teachings, especially his thoughts on how the ego makes us suffer and distorts our understanding of reality.

So why is this helpful stuff to learn about for a more fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable creative life? Because the ego is the main thing getting in the way of actualizing your full creative potential. The more aware you become of your ego and how it’s interfering (and making you doubt, fear, procrastinate, and suffer) the easier it becomes to transcend your ego and participate more fully and blissfully in what Tolle calls “the dance of creation.”


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The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

By Russ Harris

Book cover of The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

Why this book?

This might seem an odd book for enhancing your relationship with creativity, but if you struggle with doubts, creative fears (such as a fear of rejection or criticism), the imposter syndrome, anxiety about not being good enough to create what you feel called to create, or other limiting beliefs, the Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) techniques that this book focuses on are just what the doctor ordered. 

Essentially, ACT borrows insights and teachings from older nondual philosophies such as Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism, and puts them in a more conventional, research-based package. Personally, I think ACT doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the root causes of suffering. However, The Happiness Trap gives a quick, easy-to-grasp introduction to some useful techniques that most readers can put into practice right away to create a more “rich and meaningful life.”


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The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

By Steven Pressfield

Book cover of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Why this book?

A quick, engaging read that effectively describes what resistance is and how it holds creators back from unlocking their full potential. For some readers, this book can be the swift “kick in the ass” that they need to start taking their creative calling more seriously. Some of the short, blunt chapters are things you might want to come back to again and again. But if the “just be a professional” approach doesn’t work for you, or if Pressfield’s grumpy uncle “let me tell you how I did it” voice rubs you the wrong way, you might want to skip this one.


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The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron

Book cover of The Artist's Way

Why this book?

Based on a class for artists that Julia Cameron taught for years, The Artist’s Way is a warm, welcoming book that explores creative therapy for anyone who feels creatively wounded or blocked. This book takes some time to get through, as it’s structured more as a workbook, with exercises to do over 12 weeks to help you recover different aspects of creativity. Many of the exercises can help in establishing life-long, useful creative practices. 


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The Transparency of Things: Contemplating the Nature of Experience

By Rupert Spira

Book cover of The Transparency of Things: Contemplating the Nature of Experience

Why this book?

I’ll confess right off the bat that I’m the only person I know who genuinely enjoys reading Spira’s books. His philosophical, highly conceptual, contemplative chapters might not be for everyone. But if you take the time to carefully read and contemplate what Spira discusses, his books can be deeply impactful.

Spira is a “Direct Path” teacher, who conveys some of the deeper teachings of Tantra, Advaita Vedanta, Sufism, and other nondual traditions in a secular, direct, philosophical way. If you want to dive deep into what experience is, what can make life a struggle, and how to experience greater happiness, Spira can be a powerful teacher. The Transparency of Things is a great introduction to his work, but the concepts Spira discusses cannot be understood intellectually. Ultimately, they must be directly experienced to be grasped, and that can take a bit of time, work, and luck.


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