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37 Books Every Creative Person Should Be Reading

Making things is hard. Here are some books to inspire and invigorate you.

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1. The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

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“I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

2. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

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"The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little."

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3. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

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“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

5. Manage Your Day-to-Day, by Jocelyn K. Glei

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“Like it or not, we are constantly forced to juggle tasks and battle unwanted distractions—to truly set ourselves apart, we must learn to be creative amidst chaos.”

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9. The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard

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“Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

11. Creative Confidence, by Tom Kelly and David Kelly

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“That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.”

12. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

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“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

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13. In The Blink Of An Eye, by Walter Murch

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“Most of us are searching-consciously or unconsciously- for a degree of internal balance and harmony between ourselves and the outside world, and if we happen to become aware-like Stravinsky- of a volcano within us, we will compensate by urging restraint. By that same token, someone who bore a glacier within them might urge passionate abandon. The danger is, as Bergman points out, that a glacial personality in need of passionate abandon may read Stravinsky and apply restraint instead.”

14. Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer

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"We need to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions, surround ourselves with people who don't know what we're talking about. We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise."

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20. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion

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“People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called "character," a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to the other, more instantly negotiable virtues.... character— the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life— is the source from which self-respect springs.”

21. Art & Fear, by David Bayles & Ted Orland

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“Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.”

22. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards

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"Like other global skills – for example, reading, driving, skiing, and walking – drawing is made up of component skills that become integrated into a whole skill. Once you have learned the components and have integrated them, you can draw – just as once you have learned to read, you know how to read for life; once you have learned to walk, you know how to walk for life. You don’t have to go on forever adding additional basic skills. Progress takes the form of practice, refinement of technique, and learning what to use the skills for."

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25. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

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"If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."

26. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

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“Unfortunately, as a society, we do not teach our children that they need to tend carefully the garden of their minds. Without structure, censorship, or discipline, our thoughts run rampant on automatic. Because we have not learned how to more carefully manage what goes on inside our brains, we remain vulnerable to not only what other people think about us, but also to advertising and/or political manipulation.”

30. The Immoralist, by André Gide

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"I have always thought that great artists were those who dared to confer the right of beauty on things so natural that people say on seeing them: 'Why did I never realize before that that was beautiful too?'”

31. Catching the Big Fish, by David Lynch

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“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

33. Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull

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“Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.”

36. Damn Good Advice, by George Lois

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"Trends can tyrannize; trends are traps. In any creative industry, the fact that others are moving in a certain direction is always proof positive, at least to me, that a new direction is the only direction."

37. Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon Mackenzie

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“You have a masterpiece inside you, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.

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