Some books on creativity

I have been actively investigating creativity and related research for well over 40 years and have hundreds of books on the topic. Perhaps it is an addiction of sorts. Rather than give you an exhausting bibliography, I have culled this one down to those books I go back to time and again.

As there are literally tons, and tons of books on creativity, my best suggestion is to go to Amazon’s and Barnes and Noble’s websites and punch in the descriptors creativity, or creative thinking, or creativity in the classroom, etc, and then browse, read the reviews, and then investigate those that seem to speak to you. Unfortunately some of the best ones are out of print but well worth the search for online versions, through interlibrary loan, or through used book sources like Alibris. Here are annotations on some of the favorites from my collection.lady reading

1. Bagnall, J & Koberg, D. The Universal Traveler : A Soft-Systems Guide to Creativity, Problem-Solving, & the Process of Reaching Goals - This gem has been around for years but is still one of the best books for teachers (and parents) and students on creativity. It is loaded with ideas for classroom use (and life usage) and does a nice job of taking many different aspects of creativity and explaining them, simply! It is also inexpensive — a real gem.

2. Dacey, J. Fundamentals of creative thinking - Wonderful text on creativity with tests and discussions of personality characteristics. Unfortunately, it is out-of print but an online search may turn up a copy or two.

3. Ealy, C.D. The woman’s book of creativity - Some great exercises, as well as thoughtful discussions about the acute differences between traditional male perceptions of creativity and that of females’ perceptions, actions, and reactions.

4. Gelb, M.J. How to think like Leonardo da Vinci. A wonderful compilation of stories about the times and life of Leonardo. The author then takes readers into a transitional series of exercises and perspectives designed to help readers think like “the master.” (Well realistically, as the author artfully points out, since Leonardo is one of the world’s greatest minds, the intention here is to help readers begin to think a little bit like the master.) Entertaining, informative, instructive and fun!

5. Golden, B. Unlock Your Creative Genius (A guide for exploring creativity at personal levels) If you are looking for something to help you become more creative, this is very helpful.

6. Goleman, Kaufman, and Ray. The Creative Spirit - A popular trade publication spawned by a PBS series of the same name — very readable and discusses important issues related to all aspects of creativity. Again an oldie.

7. Hennessy and Amabile. Creativity and learning - NEA – A small fastback, a classic by two of the world’s experts on creativity.

8. Kent and Steward. Learning by heart - A very gentle book with a series of visual and introspective exercises guaranteed to make you see the world differently. Unfortunately, it’s now out of print. Bookstores may be able to help you locate existing copies. Well worth the search!

9. MacKenzie, G. Orbiting the giant hairball - Here MacKenzie offers priceless tips on how to maintain creativity within the overwhelming rules and regulations of governmental and corporate structures. Personally, this is one of my very favorites and I used it in my graduate creativity class. My students loved it — it helped them think outside the box and offered insights into the real world or work.

10. Maisel, E. Fearless creating: a step-by-step guide to starting and completing your work of art. – Some great exercises, many of which can be adapted to the classroom.

11. Marks-Tarlow. Creativity – inside out: learning through multiple intelligences. This book is an outstanding collection of classroom activities, and it combines them with the ever popular concept of MI!

12. Nachmanovitch, S. Free play. Another oldie but goodie, especially for those readers who are musical.

13. Piirto, J. Understanding those who create - A comprehensive discussion on creative people and what makes them different– full of valuable information about creative spirits. Another classic.

14. Piitro, J. Understanding creativity – This is another comprehensive gem from Professor Piitro. If you have to get one book on creativity, start with this one as she gives you some insights on personal characteristics of creative folks but also then combines that so that readers can understand the processes.

15. Robinson, K. Out of minds learning to be creative. Sir Ken is a gifted speaker and has become popularized by his energizing insightful TED talks.

16. Starko, A.J. Creativity in the classroom: schools of curious delight - A sure bet for those of you looking for a text-like approach to aspects of creativity. Many comprehensive suggestions and discussions on related topics, some activities.

17. Sternberg, R.J. & Williams, W.M. How to develop student creativity. A short, inexpensive book from The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development that is specifically geared toward initiating creativity in the classroom. The book’s framework is based primarily on 25 basic techniques and strategies identified earlier by Sternberg and Lubart (1995). Very inexpensive but full of useful ideas and suggestions for enhancing creativity. Indeed, anything by Sternberg on creativity is well worth checking out.

Books on the “flow” experience

I have added these here as well as on my page about the flow state because while not wholly about creativity, “flow” is certainly involved and an integral part of the creative experience.

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly The evolving self. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Csikzentmihalyi, M. Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. Basic Books

Email Leslie