5 Creativity Books Everyone Should Read

Personally, I've always thought “creativity” was sort of elusive.

I thought creative people, like Pablo Picasso, for instance, were blessed with some sort of magical, innate talent that most of us just don't have. And this is how I'd rationalize why people like Picasso were so much more creative than I was.

But, as it turns out, I was dead wrong (sort of).

Most people think Picasso just sat down in front of the canvas and effortlessly produced masterpieces all day long, but that's not how things went down.

The way Picasso actually painted was much more in-depth. He'd sit down and start at the corner of the canvas with one single stroke of the brush.

Then, he'd expand from there, allowing the brush to let him transfer whatever he was envisioning onto the canvas.

Sometimes, he'd decide to let an idea take his painting elsewhere. Other times, he'd end up painting something totally different than what he initially envisioned.

A few times, he'd start the whole damn thing over again. But, almost every single time, he'd end up with something beautiful.

How did he create so many masterpieces? Was he talented? Hell yeah.

Was he “born with it”? Maybe, but people are born with all sorts of talents they neglect to nurture and refine.

And that's the key: cultivation.

Picasso cultivated his talent into mastery. He was dedicated to his craft.

In other words, he did it often enough to recognize that if he went off the beaten path halfway through a painting, he could take a different route and still end up with a piece of art.

Bottom line? Creativity is neither magical nor mysterious.

Creativity is like a muscle. And these five books will show you how to build that muscle up so you can personally and professionally maximize your own creative potential.

1. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield


The War of Art, $10, Amazon 

“The War of Art” will teach you how to break through the blocks every creative runs into from time to time.

Creatives have to work through the fear of failure, being their own worst critics and a lack of self-confidence.

Pressfield also talks about overcoming procrastination and the energy that comes from working on the things you deem to be your true calling.

2. “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Flow, $9, Amazon 

Ever experience that feeling where you totally lose track of time, you feel absolutely unstoppable and your excellent work just seems to effortlessly stream out of you? That's called a “flow-state.”

And in this book, you'll learn how to bring it about within your own work.

3. “Lateral Thinking” by Edward de Bono


Lateral Thinking, $11, Amazon 

For most folks, the concept of creativity is sort of like hitting the lottery: There's a fat chance it'll happen today, but maybe next time.

In "Lateral Thinking," author Edward de Bono shows us how to align our thinking in a way that actually helps us become more creative.

While everyone else is trying to dig the same hole in the same place, this book shows you how to dig a new hole somewhere different.

4. “Creativity” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Creativity, $7, Amazon 

In “Creativity,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi schools us on how to leverage flow-states to take our creativity to another level.

In the book, he discusses what he learned after interviewing 91 creative professionals from a wide array of professional endeavors, from astronauts to writers, philosophers and everyone in-between.

Here are a few big ideas from the book: Creative people have a thirst to constantly continue learning about their subjects of interest; they never get sick of practicing the fundamentals, and they know how to connect seemingly unrelated ideas together to create something totally new.

5. “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon


Steal Like an Artist, $7, Amazon

This is a book about permission. It's about the permission to stop hiding behind your own shadow, the permission to start creating something that actually matters and the permission to stand on the shoulders of giants who came before you and take advantage of their great ideas.

The idea isn't to “steal” other people's work. (So, don't do that; stealing is bad.) Just take bits and pieces from other people's work and make something of your own out of that.

If you use people's stuff to make something of your own, then let them know about it. It's usually (but not always) flattering.