The best books to help you get in touch with your inner artist

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with studying the artistic process for over 25 years since I got my degree in Studio Art and Art History at Vanderbilt University. After getting my MFA in Creative Writing, I headed out to Hollywood to produce national television for over twenty years. I’ve worked with many of the greatest actors, filmmakers, and writers of our time and written my own bestselling novels about artists. I read as many books on the artistic process as possible. My mission has always been to ensure that every person knows that they, too, can be artists – creating art isn’t just for the “great”, it’s for everyone. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

What is my book about?

Called “tremendously entertaining” by The New York Times, Stephanie Storey’s brilliant bestselling debut brings early 16th-century Florence alive while entering with extraordinary empathy into the souls of two great Renaissance artists: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. 

From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo and Michelangelo both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself. This is the fictionalized story – based on real history – of their heated rivalry that pushed them to create two of the most iconic masterpieces in all of history, in the same town, at the same time: the Mona Lisa and the David.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back

Stephanie Storey Why did I love this book?

This is not just a book for songwriters. This is a book for anyone who has ever created – or anyone who has ever dreamed of creating – any piece of art. I don’t care if you’re a writer, actor, dancer, painter, architect, or weekend crafter, this book will inspire you to approach your art in new, creative ways. Whenever I’m feeling stuck or down on my own creative output, I return to this book to find new gems in its prose to inspire me. Tweedy’s love for what he does is contagious, but it’s his embracing of the mystery and magic of songwriting that puts this book above all others.

By Jeff Tweedy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Write One Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A ROUGH TRADE and PITCHORK BOOK OF THE YEAR

'A guide to rediscovering the joys of creating that we all felt as children.'
NEW YORK TIMES

One of the century's most feted singer-songwriters, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, digs deep into his own creative process to share his unique perspective about song-writing and offers a warm, accessible guide to writing your first song, championing the importance of making creativity part of your everyday life and experiencing the hope, inspiration and joy that accompanies it.

'Fascinating.' ROUGH TRADE
'Eloquent.' INDEPENDENT
'Nourishing.' PITCHFORK
'A proselytiser for the act of songcraft.' FINANCIAL TIMES
'A smart,…


Book cover of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Stephanie Storey Why did I love this book?

I’m not a procrastinator in my creative life, but this book by the world-renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp kicked my own creative habits up to the next level. Tharp’s passion for creating art through music and dance drips off every page, and any time I open up the pages of this book, I am inspired to race back to my own creative projects as quickly as possible. This isn’t just some flaky “artist’s” book – no, it gives you practical tips on how to get over some of the biggest hurdles (like creative blocks) and how to make creating art a part of your life – every single day. Plus this bonus: beyond just my own art of writing, this book always makes me want to do something I don’t usually do with my time: dance!

By Twyla Tharp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What makes someone creative? How does someone face the empty page, the empty stage and making something where nothing existed before? Not just a dilemma for the artist, it is something everyone faces everyday. What will I cook that isn't boring? How can I make that memo persuasive? What sales pitch will increase the order, get me the job, lock in that bonus? These too, are creative acts, and they all share a common need: proper preparation. For Twyla Tharp, creativity is no mystery; it's the product of hard work and preparation, of knowing one's aims and one's subject, of…


Book cover of Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over

Stephanie Storey Why did I love this book?

Other people kept recommending this book to me, but I kept putting it off. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Once I did, the only thing I had to regret was that I hadn’t read it sooner. Now, I’ve returned to its pages time and time again to re-ignite my own love of creating and to remind me that it’s never too late to follow new creative dreams. This book makes me laugh and cry with the hope and pain of creating art, but the most important part of it to me is its relentless insistence that we all must ignore that annoying “You will never be an artist” putdown. Read this book and you will know, without a doubt, that you can be an artist if you want, no matter the obstacles. 

By Nell Painter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old in Art School as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, this memoir of one woman's later in life career change is "a smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age" (Essence).

Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school--in her sixties--to earn a BFA and MFA in painting. In Old in Art School, she travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how…


Book cover of Conversations with Wilder

Stephanie Storey Why did I love this book?

Billy Wilder was a genius filmmaker, but even if you aren’t a fan of The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like it Hot, or any of his other movies, there is still so much for any artist to learn from his fabulous creative brain. This is a unique book, in which director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry McGuire) sits down to talk to Wilder – not so much about his life, as his creative process. It digs deep into the soul of a filmmaker who changed the way we all approach storytelling. I return to it about once a year to dig back into Wilder’s brain to find new advice to make my own storytelling more effective and alive. 

By Cameron Crowe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Conversations with Wilder, Hollywood's legendary and famously elusive director Billy Wilder agrees for the first time to talk extensively about his life and work.

Here, in an extraordinary book with more than 650 black-and-white photographs -- including film posters, stills, grabs, and never-before-seen pictures from Wilder's own collection -- the ninety-three-year-old icon talks to Cameron Crowe, one of today's best-known writer-directors, about thirty years at the very heart of Hollywood, and about screenwriting and camera work, set design and stars, his peers and their movies, the studio system and films today. In his distinct voice we hear Wilder's inside…


Book cover of True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor

Stephanie Storey Why did I love this book?

This is probably the most challenging read here, but so worth the effort if you want to dive deep into one of the most unique artistic minds of our time. If you’re not a trained actor, you might not understand all of the nuances here – Mamet is a definite theater guy and doesn’t stop down to explain every detail here -- but any artist can learn Mamet’s biting, witty, shocking creative tips. I recommend just letting this one wash over you the first time, but if you give yourself to this text and to Mamet, it is sure to give you a new perspective on the way we all create art and hopefully inspire you to delve into some creative expression that you were always too scared to try. 

By David Mamet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked True and False as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, director and teacher has written a blunt, unsparingly honest guide to acting. In True and False David Mamet overturns conventional opinion and tells aspiring actors what they really need to know. He leaves no aspect of acting untouched: how to judge the role, approach the part, work with the playwright; the right way to undertake auditions and the proper approach to agents and the business in general. True and False slaughters a wide range of sacred cows and yet offers an invaluable guide to the acting profession.


You might also like...

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

Book cover of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

What is my book about?

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. is a true story of brotherly love overcoming all. Reuben, who has Down's syndrome, was trapped in a care home during the pandemic, spiralling deeper into a non-verbal depression. From isolation and in desperation, he sent his older brother Manni a text, "brother. do. you. love. me."

This cry for help, this SOS in the sand unleashed a brotherly love that had Manni travelling back to the UK mid-pandemic to rescue his brother from the care home, and together they sheltered from the world in a cottage in deepest, darkest Dorset. There began a journey of recovery and rediscovery. Little by little, the brothers had to piece back together Reuben's world, help him to find his voice and find ways for him to trust the world again. This is a book about care, about Down's syndrome, about love. It is a story of resilience and patience in a world that Reuben thought had abandoned him.

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

What is this book about?


The story of two brothers, one with Down syndrome, and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.

"Profoundly moving and hugely uplifting."—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Reuben, aged 38, was living in a home for adults with learning disabilities. He hadn’t established an independent life in the care system and was still struggling to accept that he had Down syndrome. Depressed and in a fog of antidepressants, he hadn’t spoken for over a year. The only way he expressed himself was by writing poems or drawing felt-tip scenes from his favorite musicals…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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