We all possess creativity. However, sometimes, it feels like our muse is gone. We just can’t seem to find an idea worth working on. Making things is hard.
Here is a list of books to inspire you and stimulate your imagination. If there’s a good book missing from this list, it’s because I haven’t read it yet. All of these books are books that I recommend personally.
If you purchase one of these books after clicking on a link on this page, I will receive a small commission. It’s an easy way to support the work I do at Ness Labs while learning a new thing or two!
On Writing by Stephen King – I bought this book when I used to be an aspiring novelist, but I still go back to it to this day. It describes Stephen King’s experiences as a writer with advice for anyone who wants to start writing and get better at it. It’s an honest account of his life, his techniques, his failures and successes. Coming from Stephen King, it’s obviously also very well written.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – What if I told you there is a book that describes everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization? Reading about all the scientific discoveries, the way humans went about inventing new concepts and solutions, and how clueless we can sometimes be is incredibly inspiring. It also outlines some of the things we still don’t have an answer for, which will no doubt spark your imagination.
The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman – A book in which a neuroscientist takes you on a journey to understand that poorly understood organ that makes you, you. It’s very high level and fun to read, and was one of the books that sparked my interest in neuroscience. There are many approaches you could take to increasing your creativity, but understanding how your brain works is not a bad place to start.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan – If you enjoyed learning how your brain works with the previous book, take it a step further with this one. It’s one of my all time favourite books. The author puts himself forward as a guinea pig and explores the future of human consciousness through a series of experiments involving psychedelic drugs. The book reveals some amazing secrets about the way our brain works.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – This book is considered a masterpiece by many. The premise is that we have two main ways of making choices: one is fast, intuitive thinking, and the other one is slow, rational thinking. It may not seem like much when put like this, but the book does an amazing job at explaining how we can be wrong even when we think we are being logical. It also gives you some actionable advice to think smarter. So your mind can stop racing and you can take the time you need to create meaningful work.
Originals by Adam Grant – I read this book when I had just left Google, while climbing Kilimanjaro. Sitting inside my tent, I could not stop taking notes. This book a series of case studies of non-confirming people who, each in their own way, changed the world. Considering that the author advocates for staying in your day job for as long as possible, and that I had already left Google, this was a scary read, but a fascinating one nonetheless.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely – Another book about understanding your brain and your thought patterns. Why do smart people make illogical decisions? The author explains how the answer to this question is embedded in the very structure of our minds. This is a very fun read, and will certainly give you a few ideas by changing your understanding of human behaviour.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.