Books on Creativity

Here are some of my all time favorite books on creativity

I have been actively investigating creativity and related research for well over 40 years and have literally hundreds and hundreds of books on creativity (And that is after retiring and giving many away!) Perhaps it is an addiction of sorts — I am after all a bookaholic. Rather than give you an exhausting bibliography, I have culled this one down to those books I go back to time and again and ones that offer something new and promising.

lady readingAs there are literally tons, and tons of books on creativity, my best suggestion is to go to Amazon’s, or Barnes and Noble’s websites and punch in the descriptors creativity, or creative thinking, or creativity in the classroom, creative problem solving, 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 or AbeBooks. Here are annotations on some of the favorites from my collection and some newer,promising offerings. Happy browsing.

Recent Favorite:

Nordby, J. (2016) Blessed are the weird: A manifesto for creatives. Jacob Nordby reminds us of what creativity used to look like before the ages of mechanization, industrialization, manufacturing, assembly lines, computerization, and robotics. Previous to these times lots of things had to be created for existing in everyday life and many people were considered creatives. In this discussion Nordby explains why so many of us today long for the time, space, inspiration, and direction to exercise our creative spirits. He also explains why both following and appreciating creativity are imperatives within this time and into our futures. This is an interesting and insightful discussion on many layers and aspects of creativity and on the natures and eccentricities of creative people.  The book is short, entertaining and very readable.

Best bets for teachers and parents:

Robinson, K. and Aronica, l. (2016)  Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

The problem with conformity in education is that people are not standardized to begin with.” But how do we personalize education? In this book Robinson and Aronica propose alternatives to the current educational morass. Their proposed solutions help encourage creativity and higher level thinking and fly in the face of the standardized testing insanity that has caught us in its grips. This is one of those books that should be mandatory reading for all educators, parents, politicians and education policy makers. Its offerings should then be discussed and debated – and acted on!

Piitro, J. (2011)  Creativity for 21st Century Skills: How to Embed Creativity Into the Curriculum 

Jane Piitro’s career has been devoted to helping others understand creativity and creative people. Here she mobilizes years of writing and resaserch into suggestions for how to bring creativity to schools. A much needed book! 

Old favorites and classics in the world of creativity
  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. Carson, S. Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your LifeInteresting perspective as the author thinks that the different aspects of creativity have different brainsets or states. She lists 7: Connect, Reason, Envision, Absorb, Transform, Evaluate, and Stream. Includes tests and inventories readers can use to find out which state they prefer. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Hennessy and Amabile. Creativity and learning– NEA – A small fastback, a classic by two of the world’s experts on creativity.
  9. Kent and Steward. Learning by heart: Teachings to free the creative spirit – This is one of my favorite books. A very gentle book with a series of wonderful visual and introspective exercises guaranteed to make you see the world differently. This was out of print for years, but has now been reissued! Praise be!
  10. Kaufman, S. B. and Gregorie, C. (2015) Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.  This work examines the lives of highly creative and successful people in an attempt to pinpoint and unlock the commonalities within the development of creative spirits.   
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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!
  14. Nachmanovitch, S. Free play. Another oldie but goodie, especially for those readers who are musical.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Robinson, K. Out of our minds learning to be creative. Get the 2011 updated edition. Sir Ken is an exceptionally gifted speaker and has become popularized by his energizing insightful TED talks. Any of his books on creativity are good and quite readable. Be sure to catch his speeches on TED. You will be able to hear him reading you his books in your head! Well some of you will. 🙂
  18. 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.
  19. 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 and it is key to understanding why people create.

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