The only thing I enjoy more than devouring a good book is devouring a book that sparks my creativity and provides me a fresh look at the world.  

In an effort to help our readers, I wanted to put together a list of the top 20 books that have helped others live a more creative life.


The Survey

So, I created a one-question survey that asked the question, “What book has helped you be a more creative person?”  I sent it out to our listserve of 50K people from all over the world who are enrolled in our Massive Open Online Course on Igniting Your Everyday Creativity. Then, I posted it throughout social media, specifically targeting various creativity groups.  I had 386 people respond. 


Sorting Through the Nominations

I went through each of the submissions.  Some people listed two or three books and I included all of them.  I removed all children’s books (they will come in a later post), and books that were on my “help you to understand the field of creativity” blog post.  Three people said the Bible was the book that helped them to be a more creative person.  Given the magnitude of the Bible, I felt it was inappropriate to include this on the list of “honorable mentions”.  


What I Uncovered

Honestly, I was amazed at the results. Not with the top 12, but with the number of books that were cited. I realize this was a small sample size,  but it does provide a rich and interesting snapshot.  I am going to share what I uncovered.  


My Recommendation To You

Spend some time going through the list.  If you click on any of the pictures, it will take you to the Amazon page for the book.  Look for books that spark something inside of you, and, don’t be afraid to read something outside of your comfort zone.  If you do not consider yourself an artist, pick a book that focuses on artistic creativity.  Likewise, if you are an artist, you might want to dig deeper into a book that has a focus on innovation. Creativity often happens at the intersection of two disciplines, so you never know what “magic” might occur when you try something new.


Before We Get Started…

In full transparency, I used the affiliate program on Amazon to put this page together, as it provides a very small financial kickback.  I highly recommend you support local bookstores at this time.  AND, if you choose to use Amazon, any funds that are generated from these affiliate links will be used to purchase creativity books for children in the city of Buffalo (where I am from).  

What a Surprise!

Of the 386 respondents, 165 books were nominated only once.  The thing that surprises me the most about this is:

1. There are A LOT of books that can help support your creativity out there!

2. There isn’t a lot of clear consensus on what has worked for people, and different books probably provide people with different perspectives. 

I think the wide range of books reflects the range of perspectives on what we, as individuals, need to be more creative.  I thought about not sharing these books with you, as they are not the “top” books nominated.  However, for those of you who love books to enhance your creativity, this is a playground for your imagination.

The 5 second ruleThe 5 second rule
7 habits of highly effective people7 habits of highly effective people
the 7 levels of changethe 7 levels of change
Steps to innovationSteps to innovation
The 12 secrets of creative womenThe 12 secrets of creative women
Bill BrysonBill Bryson
A wild sheep chaseA wild sheep chase
The Accelerated LearnerThe Accelerated Learner
An Illustrated LieAn Illustrated Lie
Anyone can drawAnyone can draw
Are you ready to succeed?Are you ready to succeed?
Art AskingArt Asking
The Artist JourneyThe Artist Journey
A whole new mind border=A whole new mind
Brand YouBrand You
Braving the WildernessBraving the Wilderness
Broken CrayonsBroken Crayons
Catching the big fishCatching the big fish
Change by DesignChange by Design
Chicken Soup for the SoulChicken Soup for the Soul
Coaching the artist withinCoaching the artist within
Create FlashCreate Flash
The Creative ConnectionThe Creative Connection
Creative DevelopmentCreative Development
The Creative PriorityThe Creative Priority
Creative RevolutionCreative Revolution
Creativity RisingCreativity Rising
Creativity RulesCreativity Rules
Creative Schools border=Creative Schools
Conscious CreativityConscious Creativity
Daily RitualsDaily Rituals
Daring GreatlyDaring Greatly
Design and TruthDesign and Truth
Getting Things DoneGetting Things Done
Glitter in the bloodGlitter in the blood
Group GeniusGroup Genius
Grow or DieGrow or Die
Growing GillsGrowing Gills
How to have great ideasHow to have great ideas
Systematic InnovationSystematic Innovation
Healing ArtsHealing Arts
The Hidden BrainThe Hidden Brain
How to raise a wild childHow to raise a wild child
How to fail at almost everything and still win bigHow to fail at almost everything and still win big
How to win friends &  influence peopleHow to win friends &  influence people
If you want to writeIf you want to write
A crash course on creativityA crash course on creativity
Inner engineering a Yogi's guide to joy SadhguruInner engineering a Yogi's guide to joy Sadhguru
Innovate like EdisonInnovate like Edison
Diana's AdventureDiana's Adventure
The Innovator'sThe Innovator's
The Journey to the EastThe Journey to the East
Keep it movingKeep it moving
Last Child in the WoodsLast Child in the Woods
Let the Elephants RunLet the Elephants Run
Light the DarkLight the Dark
The Lord of the RingsThe Lord of the Rings
Make your Creative Dreams RealMake your Creative Dreams Real
Making PearlsMaking Pearls
Marketing Insights form A to ZMarketing Insights form A to Z
The Mindfulness SolutionThe Mindfulness Solution
Narcissus and GoldmundNarcissus and Goldmund
Newspaper BlackoutNewspaper Blackout
No ExcusesNo Excuses
Old friend from far awayOld friend from far away
Organizational creativityOrganizational creativity
How non-conformists move the worldHow non-conformists move the world
Out of our mindsOut of our minds
playing alongplaying along
playing to winplaying to win
Learn to improve your memoryLearn to improve your memory
Refuse to chooseRefuse to choose
Seeing Around CornersSeeing Around Corners
So good they can't ignore youSo good they can't ignore you
Marketing ManagementMarketing Management
Own it allOwn it all
Story GeniusStory Genius
Studio Thinking from the startStudio Thinking from the start
Sunday SketchingSunday Sketching
Surely You're Joking Mr. FeynmanSurely You're Joking Mr. Feynman
Unlock your creativityUnlock your creativity
The Advertising Concept BookThe Advertising Concept Book
The Artist's HandbookThe Artist's Handbook
The Book of AwesomeThe Book of Awesome
The boy who followed his father into AuschwitzThe boy who followed his father into Auschwitz
Blue Ocean StrategyBlue Ocean Strategy
The Code of the Extraordinary MindThe Code of the Extraordinary Mind
The Courage to be DislikedThe Courage to be Disliked
The Creative LifeThe Creative Life
The Creativity ChallengeThe Creativity Challenge
The creative JournalThe creative Journal
The Design Thinking Quick Start GuideThe Design Thinking Quick Start Guide
The ElementThe Element
The Female Arise in AcademiaThe Female Arise in Academia
The Heart of ManThe Heart of Man
The Language of EmotionsThe Language of Emotions
The Magic of thinking bigThe Magic of thinking big
The natural way to drawThe natural way to draw
Creative bookCreative book
The path of least resistanceThe path of least resistance
The power of creative intelligenceThe power of creative intelligence
<The power of habitThe power of habit
The Science of SuccessThe Science of Success
The Slight EdgeThe Slight Edge
The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things
<The theoretical minimumThe theoretical minimum
The Wisdom of BeesThe Wisdom of Bees
The Writer's JourneyThe Writer's Journey
Talking to StrangersTalking to Strangers
Theory UTheory U
Think betterThink better
Thinking, fast...slowThinking, fast...slow
Think outside the buildingThink outside the building
Train your brainTrain your brain
Twenties GirlsTwenties Girls
Understanding ComicsUnderstanding Comics
Unlock CreativityUnlock Creativity
Use your headUse your head
The Theoretical MinimumThe Theoretical Minimum
Who moved my cheeseWho moved my cheese
Why didn't I think of that?Why didn't I think of that?
Why it does not have to be in focusWhy it does not have to be in focus
What it isWhat it is
living the writer's lifeliving the writer's life
Year of YesYear of Yes
Your inner critic is a big jerkYour inner critic is a big jerk
Zen CameraZen Camera
The Surprising Path to Greater CreativityThe Surprising Path to Greater Creativity
creative bookcreative book
The Japanese Secret to a long and happy lifeThe Japanese Secret to a long and happy life
Walking in the worldWalking in the world
The Success PrinciplesThe Success Principles
no more guiltno more guilt
super thinkingsuper thinking
how should we livehow should we live
Take the road to creativityTake the road to creativity
No mistakesNo mistakes
Complete DIY ManualComplete DIY Manual
The Secrets of CodesThe Secrets of Codes
Becoming a life change artistBecoming a life change artist
The Art bookThe Art book
Baking with KafkaBaking with Kafka
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Baking BookBaking Book
A technique for producing ideasA technique for producing ideas
The Care &  Feeding of IdeasThe Care &  Feeding of Ideas
A kick in the seat of the pantsA kick in the seat of the pants

There were also 24 books that had 2 or 3 votes each.  There are some incredible books on this list.  Feel free to click on a book to read more about it!

Applied ImaginationApplied Imagination
Bird by birdBird by bird
Learning by HeartLearning by Heart
Jonathan Livingston SeagullJonathan Livingston Seagull
Mind MapMind Map
How to think life Leonardo da VinciHow to think life Leonardo da Vinci
The secret of the highly creative thinkerThe secret of the highly creative thinker
Drawing on the artist withinDrawing on the artist within
Creative approaches to problem solvingCreative approaches to problem solving
Cracking creativityCracking creativity
The wart of artThe wart of art
the courage to createthe courage to create
On writingOn writing
women who run with the wolveswomen who run with the wolves
a brief history of humankinda brief history of humankind
Rich Dad, Poor DadRich Dad, Poor Dad
The all new universal travelerThe all new universal traveler
The subtle art of not giving a fuckThe subtle art of not giving a fuck
creative callingcreative calling
sticky wisdomsticky wisdom
your creative brainyour creative brain
growing up creativegrowing up creative
free playfree play

And finally, your top twelve!

Well?  Did you enjoy the list?  I would love to hear your comments below.

And, if your favorite book is missing, please make sure to VOTE with this link, and in November 2021, we will create a new list of books that have helped our readers be more creative.

Happy Reading!

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 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


  • Marta Ockuly says:

    What a great article!!! It is so interesting to see the wide range of books people find creatively inspiring. I own hundreds of books about creativity and found my top pics in your collection as well. Creativity is personal, so it seems natural many varied perspectives would be shared. I also loved your suggestion to pick a book that ‘feels’ interesting or sparks interest.

  • Clayton Rhodes says:

    An incredible list of amazing books!

  • Marlies says:

    Hi Cyndi
    This is so inspiring and well put together – I love how you slowly unfold the lists and how many I know and don’t know yet!
    Much much more reading to do still.
    So many facets of creative process shine through to meet all needs.

  • Shahinaz El Ramly says:

    I have many of these books, Habit to Charles Duhig, Think fast, slow, alchemist, How to win friends and influence people, etc.

  • Carmel Richmond says:

    Oh brilliant – many thanks! My nomination was an art book – just looking at painting is enough for me!!

  • Rona says:

    Hi Cyndi,
    The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a life changer. Clearly understand why it got the most votes. Thanks so much for the inspiring list of books. Many thanks.

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