The best books on creativity

The Books I Picked & Why

Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi

By Howard E. Gardner

Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi

Why this book?

Howard Gardner admitted Creative Minds was the personal favorite of all his books, and I can see why. From Albert Einstein’s transformational science to Martha Graham’s innovative dance, the book traces the personal forces at work in radical creativity of ‘the greats’ from science to arts and politics. It taught me to look at the entirety of a person’s biography to get to grips with their creativity and challenges the reader to think about a common creative scheme, but perhaps underestimates the role of conversation and community.


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The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional

By Agustín Fuentes

The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional

Why this book?

I love the way that Fuentes digs right back into human pre-history for clues to understand our extraordinary creative capacity as a species. From stone tools to warfare, religion, and innovative sex (yes, really!) he traces the ‘creative spark’ through the uniquely social and communicative demands on homo sapiens. The way he explains the vital part played by failure in all creativity is very helpful. And, of course, it’s refreshing and encouraging to read that science is one of the creative fields in his anthropology. 


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Art and Science (Art and Series)

By Siân Ede

Art and Science (Art and Series)

Why this book?

Siân Ede gets right behind the commonplace clichés of the art/science divide, from the over-negative polarisation of ‘The Two Cultures’ to the naïveté of ‘sci-art.’ Featuring the work of both artists on their own terms, and a collection of art-science collaborations, she celebrates the differences and pushes against false ‘syntheses’ of art and science. The problematic nature of ‘beauty’ appears in the striking examples she chooses, and creativity threads its way in the background throughout the book.


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On Creativity

By David Bohm

On Creativity

Why this book?

David Bohm is celebrated for creating a completely different theory of quantum mechanics, equally adept and accounting for experiments but conceptually irreconcilable from those of Schrödinger and Heisenberg. Put that together with his broad and deep understanding of culture, and you have a uniquely sensitive and original take on creativity. I particularly like his sharp critique of superficial ‘creativity’ which he claims is mostly reflex. Bohm helps his readers to see that ‘discovery’ and ‘creation’ cannot easily be disentangled.


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Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art

By Arthur I. Miller

Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art

Why this book?

Visual representations are not the only pathway to creative acts in art and science, but they are responsible for large territories of creativity – including, and surprisingly, the mathematical. Arthur Miller shows how ‘seeing the unseen’ becomes possible from atoms to the conservation of energy in science, and from modernism to cubism in art. The book itself is as visually striking as its contents and helped me to think through why the visual metaphor – ‘Oh, I see!’ – becomes the standard description of the moment of insight.


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