If you are interested in creativity, that means that sooner or later, someone is going to ask you The Question. You know, the one that starts, “creativity…isn’t that something you are born with?”

After teaching creativity for twenty years, I have had to deal with this question more times than I can remember. As a result, I have had to develop a menu of answers that cover all different types of settings, i.e. polite pre-dinner chitchat, through to the fellow passenger on the plane.

In order to help you navigate these tricky encounters, I want to suggest four books that can provide you with the necessary theoretical underpinning required to deal with even the most curious interviewer. It is important to note that these books are not domain-specific. They explore creativity from many perspectives and therefore enable you to elegantly deal with all creativity related questions whether they are from artistic uncles or aerospace engineer nieces.

I have arranged these books in increasing order of “researchiness”. Creativity is For Everyone was written by two creativity practitioners, and provides a gentle, but well-grounded introduction to the theories of creativity. The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, on the other hand, offers tremendous depth, and would enable you to ask annoyingly good questions of psychology professors when they are just about to order off a dinner menu. The depth of your learning is limited only by your enthusiasm for the topic, and how well your friends and family take your hints about which books you would like as gifts this year.

Please note:  These books are intended to help you understand the field, but will not necessarily help you be more creative.  We are currently compiling a list of 20 books that address that issue, and we would love to hear your thoughts on books that have really helped to release your creative capability. Please use this link to vote for your favorite books.  We will post the list in early December. 

There are lots of wonderful books in our field, and if you find one that really speaks to you, I would love to hear about it.



Creativity for Everybody is a quick, and easy-to-digest overview of the field of creativity. It is written by two creativity practitioners, Kathryn Haydon and Jane Harvey.  It contains quick stats based on scientific research, short stories of creativity, and a visual design with lots of pictures to engage your senses!  This book is meant for- you guessed it-everybody!

Creativity is ForeverCreativity is Forever

I used Creativity is Forever, written by Gary Davis, in my Foundations of Creativity Course. My students loved this text, as it is easy-to-read, and provides a solid theoretical foundation of the field of creativity, with a splash of humor throughout.  This book was written for purpose of helping people understand creativity as a topic, becoming a more creative person, and to help others be more creative.

Creativity 101Creativity 101

Creativity 101 is written by one of the leading researchers in the field of creativity, James Kaufman (you will see his name again in the next book as well).  Although billed as a 101 text, it is actually quite a substantial volume and does a wonderful job of covering both the major ideas in the field and providing enough detail on each to allow you to make new connections between perspectives. Spending time with this book will help you understand theories and definitions in the field, as well as the relationship between creativity and intelligence, personality, and mental health.  While supporting his thoughts with research, Kaufman also writes in a way that is easy for someone new to the field to understand, and integrates his sense of humor throughout the book.

The Cambridge Handbook of CreativityThe Cambridge Handbook of Creativity

The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity is edited by James Kaufman and Robert Sternberg, two leading researchers in the field of creativity.  It contains chapters from over 30 leading scholars in the field.  If you are looking for richness and depth on a variety of key subjects related to creativity this is definitely your choice.  However, if you are looking for a quick and easy read to help you understand the field, this is not the book you are looking for. In fact, reading this book is a rite of passage for psychology grad students, and the first chapter lays out a rigorous training regime that the students must undertake before commencing their study. OK, that part isn’t true, but I would definitely have benefited from some sort of workout prior to reading it. In summary, it is a hugely valuable book, that will significantly enhance your knowledge of the field, but it will take some time to finish.

Dr. Cyndi Burnett is a creativity and education specialist who is devoted to developing creative and engaging lessons in education. She spent 20 years as an academic teaching deliberate creative thinking and creative problem-solving at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State. She is currently the Director of CreativityandEducation.com an online platform dedicated to helping educators and parents navigate how to bring creativity into their classrooms and homes. 

Her work includes projects such as: working with educators to bring creative thinking into the classroom, a YouTube Station, CreateTUBEity, which features different creative thinking activities, and designing and running a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Everyday Creativity. She is the recipient of the President’s Medal for Excellence in Teaching 2018 by SUNY Buffalo State, was Buffalo Business First, Woman of Influence 2018 for her work in creativity, and was featured in the NY Times article titled, “Creativity Becomes an Academic Discipline.” She is the co-editor of the Big Questions in Creativity book series and co-author of the books Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum, 20 Lessons for Weaving Creativity into your Curriculum (coming in 2021!),  and My Sandwich is a Spaceship: Creative Thinking for Parents and Young Children

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