Top Ten Books on Creativity

These are the classics. As a student of the creative process for forty years, I feel that the following books are must-reads for any serious investigation of creativity. While contemporary texts on the topic abound, most are either overly complex works written by psychologists or philosophers or, to the other extreme, they are often limited, idealistic, over-simplified treatments of the theme . The books listed here have stood the test of time and have inspired thourands of readers, often over many generations.

These are the classics. As a student of the creative process for forty years, I feel that the following books are must-reads for any serious investigation of creativity.

1.) Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Hands-down best treatment of the subject. Masterful and highly inspirational. Rilke remains one of the most original voices of the modern era. A must-read for anyone involved in a creative pursuit.

2.) Memories Dreams Reflections, by C.G. Jung

Jung's autobiography. His life was one of creative discovery: of himself, the world around him, and of many of the key concepts in modern psychology. The source of much of his creative inspiration grew from his own relationship with the unconscious. Read especially the last chapters, Late Thoughts and Retrospect, for an understanding of how his life was driven by the creative impulse.

3.) The Courage to Create, by Rollo May

A classic work on creativity. Rollo May's thought extends well beyond the boundaries of viewing creativity as a function of neurosis or a compensatory act. He believes that the impulse to create is a reflection of our potential wholeness and one of humankind's most distinguishing and important characteristics. It remains one of the most timely and comprehensive books on the topic.

4.) The Creative Process: Reflections on Invention in the Arts and Sciences, edited by Brewster Ghiselin

An edited anthology of writings on creativity from a wide variety of artists, scientists, musicians, and writers. A hidden gem. First published in 1952. Recently re-issued by University of California Press.

6.) Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

One of the few contemporary books on the topic to rival the classics. Her scope is broad, and her understanding is substantial, derived from her own experiences as a writer. Very enjoyable and well-written. Both wise and humorous.

6.) The Daybooks of Edward Weston, Edited by Nancy Newhall

A highly inspirational chronicle of a creative life of one of the master photographers of the Twentieth Century. It helped shape my life as an artist. View creativity from the inside-out. Or, read the Journals of Leonardo, or the Diaries of Anais Nin or Paul Klee.

7.) The Teachings of don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

We cannot leave out one the greatest teachers of our generation: don Juan Mateus. The passages on finding a "path with heart" and ovecoming the "four natural enemies of becoming a man of knowledge" closely parallel the stages of the creative process.

8.) Mount Analogue, by René Daumal

"A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing." Enough said. Read it. You will not be disappointed. Daumal and Rilke were perhaps two of the greatest guides on the creative process of the past Century.

9.) Acting: The First Six Lessons, by Richard Boleslavsky

Though written for actors, this little book well describes the discipline of creativity through six discrete lessons. Highly recommended.

10.) Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

An insightful series of observations on artmaking, designed for artiss and students. Has become something of an underground classic. Speaks well to the current generation of art students. Authors describe the challenges, both inner and outer, of working as a creative individual.