creativity books

25 Best Books for Artists and Creatives to Improve Creative Thinking

Cover Image - 25 Best Books for Artists and Creatives to Improve Creative Thinking

Artists and creative professionals must balance the demands of their craft with the need to stay organized, motivated and productive. Fortunately, the best books for artists and creatives offer practical advice and inspiration.

Here, I’ve compiled a list of the best books for artists to read. These books cover a wide range of topics including creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship. These have all the tools and strategies to help artists overcome challenges, and become successful in their endeavours.

Table of Contents

Art & Fear, by David Bayles

Art & Fear is a book about making art; ordinary art. explores the way artists make art and the difficulties that force many to give up along the way. The book is more real-life experiences than self-help, and it’s among the best books about artists. It provides a glimpse into the life of artists in the real world. And it's about their performances as they sit down to do the work they do.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn't very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren't good, the parts that aren't yours.

Vision, uncertainty and knowledge of materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from.

To the artist, all problems of art appear uniquely personal. Well, that's understandable enough, given that not many other activities routinely call one's basic self-worth into question.

Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.

The desire to make art begins early. Among the very young this is encouraged (or at least indulged as harmless) but the push toward a 'serious' education soon exacts a heavy toll on dreams and fantasies.

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art is another of the books for artists on creativity. It’s a guide for those who struggle to express their creativity It’s about inspiration to help artists and creatives achieve their goals. This book for artists provides practical advice on how to develop the habits necessary for creative success. It also talks about treating creative work as a profession and meeting others along the way. It’s an inspiring guide to overcoming creative blocks.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

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.

Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic book is a self-help book for creative professionals to make their own way in the world. It’s one of the most popular self-help books for artists. And it offers real stories, insights and experiences to help artists overcome fear and handle any defeats that may come. In this book about creative thinking, Elizabeth digs deep into her own creative process to share her perspective on creativity. It encourages readers to uncover the hidden jewels within them.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.

Recognizing that people's reactions don't belong to you is the only sane way to create.

Also Read: 7 Best Books for Growth Mindset

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist is one of the must-read books for artists and creative professionals. It’s one of the most popular books on the creative process. It’s a manifesto for writers, designers and other creatives alike. The book is like an illustrated cheat sheet of self-help for anyone attempting to make art in the digital age. The book has anecdotes and practical tips for readers to unleash their creative spirits, making it one of the best books on creativity and art. It has several exercises and examples to help one be in touch with their artistic side.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.

If you ever find that you're the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.

You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.

Be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else--that's how you'll get ahead.

Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.

Also Read: 8 Best Books for Introverts to Go from Quiet to Confident

The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit is a motivational read for people who want to live a creative arts lifestyle. It’s one of the top inspirational books for artists that aims to ease the fear of creative blocks and introduce new possibilities. Twyla draws from her personal experiences and shares insights to help artists get out of creative rut. It’s one of the top creativity self-help books. And it paves the way to restore order and peace to fuel the creative process.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

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.

Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.

When I walk into [the studio] I am alone, but I am alone with my body, ambition, ideas, passions, needs, memories, goals, prejudices, distractions, fears.

Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.

When you're in a rut, you have to question everything except your ability to get out of it.

Also Read: 11 Best Books on Willpower

Design as Art, by Bruno Munari

Design as Art is another of the best books for artists on creativity. It’s an illustrated book into the role of art and artistic possibilities in real life. It explores Bruno’s idea that design should be beautiful, functional and accessible. The book is enlightening and entertaining as it sets out illuminating the importance of design in daily life. It’s, probably, one of the best creative thinking books. Many of the design principles in the book are pretty much the norm now.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense.

When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.

When a lot of money comes along before culture arrives, we get the phenomenon of the gold telephone.

The vase once had an extremely common use. Most probably it was used for cooking-oil. It was made by a designer of those times, when art and life went hand in hand and there was no such thing as a work of art to look at and just any old thing to use.

People haven’t got time to stop in the street, size a poster up, see what it refers to and then decide whether or not it interests them.

The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman

The Design of Everyday Things is another book for product creatives that emphasizes on human-centred design. Although, it’s a creative design book meant for product design, it’s one of the must-have books for artists to improve creative thinking. It’s a primer on how to make products usable and satisfying for customers. Anyone who designs anything for humans must read this book. It can change your perspective on design and inspire you to design things, and not just make them. It’s one of the top books to improve creativity and creative art.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.

Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible.

Principles of design: a) Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head, b) Simplify the structure of tasks, c) Make things visible, d) Get the mappings right, e) Exploit the power of constraints, f) Design for error, and g) When all else fails, standardize.

Rule of thumb: if you think something is clever and sophisticated, beware – it is probably self-indulgence.

A brilliant solution to the wrong problem can be worse than no solution at all: solve the correct problem.

Also Read: 7 Best Books on Mindfulness

On Writing, by Stephen King

On Writing is a book for writers, as evident from the name. It’s a masterclass for this artistic ability people know as writing, and it’s probably the best book for creatives in the marketing field, or writing in general. This creative thinking book is a memoir of Stephen in which he provides practical advice on the craft stemming from his own experiences. It’s an account of his journey from being a struggling writer to become one of the bestselling authors of all time.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

Also Read: 12 Best Books for Writers to Build the Craft

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

On Writing Well is for anyone who needs to do some writing to get through the day. It’s one of the good creativity books that covers topics such as style, structure, grammar. It offers insights for anyone looking to improve their written communication skills and develop a clear and effective writing voice. And it’s targeted at writers of all levels, from beginners to seasoned professionals, to help them understand how to do better creative work.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.

Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.

Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time.

Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.

Examine every word you put on paper. You'll find a surprising number that don't serve any purpose.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird is another book about the craft of writing. It’s full of advice and encouragement for anyone who wants to write. Anne offers a variety of tips and exercises to help you get started writing, even when you feel like you have nothing to say. It’s one of the best books on artists, especially writers, and their creative struggles. The book is funny, insightful and personal. And Anne shares her struggles as a writer in a way that’s both relatable and inspiring.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.

E.L. Doctorow said once said that “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Also Read: 11 Best Books for Beginning Readers

The Practice, by Seth Godin

The Practice is a book about the art of making art and finding your audience. It’s one of the best books for artists, as it aims to help them overcome their creative blocks and develop a consistent practice. The book has practical advice and motivation for creatives looking to bring their artistic vision to life. Seth also offers a variety of strategies for sharing your work with the potential fans, making it one of the most useful books for creative people.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Writers write. Runners run. Establish your identity by doing your work.

The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin. But begin.

The magic of the creative process is that there is no magic. Start where you are. Don't stop.

Your work is too important to be left to how you feel today.

Shipping, because it doesn’t count if you don’t share it. Creative, because you’re not a cog in the system. You’re a creator, a problem solver, a generous leader who is making things better by producing a new way forward. Work, because it’s not a hobby.

Creative Confidence, by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

Creative Confidence is perhaps the best book on creative thinking. It’s a book for the creative professionals to help them overcome self-doubt and fear. The book has several case studies and personal anecdotes emphasizing the importance of taking risks and embracing failure. It’s an inspirational book that helps develop confidence and creative thinking skills. It’s one of the must-read books about creative thinking for people to unlock their creative potential.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

I used to think that to make something happen in a corporation or in the army, you had to be at the higher ranks, to be a general. But you just need to start a movement.

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

Failure sucks, but instructs.

Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process.

If you want a team of smart, creative people to do extraordinary things, don’t put them in a drab, ordinary space.

Show Your Work!, by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! provides practical advice and inspiration for sharing creative work, making it one of the most important books artists should read today. In the book, Austin encourages artists to share their creative process, rather than just the final product. The book suggests the use of social media and other platforms to connect with and build an audience. It has tips on how to effectively share work online and establish a personal brand.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.

But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow.

We all love things that other people think are garbage. You have to have the courage to keep loving your garbage, because what makes us unique is the diversity and breadth of our influences.

The worst troll is the one that lives in your head.

Don’t try to be hip or cool. Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too.

Also Read: 10 Best Books for Self-Love to Overcome the Inner Critic

The Creative Entrepreneur, by Lisa Sonora Bea

The Creative Entrepreneur is among the most effective creative business books. It’s for artists, crafters and creative individuals to turn their passion into a sustainable business. It’s a guide to launching and growing a business, from developing a business plan to marketing and branding. This book for artists suggests many ways to monetize skills and build a successful business out of creative ideas. Lisa has practical advice to turn a creative process into a systematic business.

Top 3 Lessons from the book:

In terms of target audience, trying to be all things to all people usually results in not being anything to anyone.

We profit when we provide value people are willing to pay for and when we are able to communicate that value in ways our customers can understand.

Whenever we say yes to something, we are by definition saying no to something else.

Also Read: 14 Best Books for Young Entrepreneurs to Take on the World

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup is another book that can help artists monetize their skill. While the book isn’t specifically targeted at creative professionals, it provides a framework for building and scaling a successful startup. Eric emphasizes the importance of testing and iteration in the early stages of a business. He has plenty of advice for creating a minimum viable product (MVP). The book offers valuable insights for anyone looking to launch a new product or service.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.

We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.

Reading is good, action is better.

If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.

As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.

Pandeymonium, by Piyush Pandey

Pandeymonium offers insights and inspiration for creative professionals in advertising. Piyush draws on his own experience as a successful ad executive to provide practical advice and basics of advertising. The book is more about real-world examples on topics such as brand building, storytelling, and creative problem solving. It offers valuable insights for effective ad campaigns, making it one of the top creative thinking books

Top 2 Lessons from the book:

Play where you can make a difference.

The more insecure you are about your idea, the less you will share it and the less the possibility for a good idea to become great.

Mastery, by Robert Greene

Mastery is one of the mind-blowing books about artists lives. The book distils the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness. In this book, Robert analyses the lives of masters of different fields to provide a roadmap for achieving mastery. The book offers valuable insights for readers to unlock the passion within. It can serve as an inspiration for anyone looking to achieve excellence in their creative work.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.

The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.

No one is really going to help you or give you direction. In fact, the odds are against you.

People around you, constantly under the pull of their emotions, change their ideas by the day or by the hour, depending on their mood. You must never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is a statement of their permanent desires.

The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.

The One Thing, by Gary Keller

The One Thing is a book on increasing efficiency and maximising productivity, making it one of the best books for creatives to read. It emphasizes the importance of focusing on one thing at a time, rather than trying to multitask, and it focuses on ways to avoid distractions that come on one's way. The book draws on real-life examples and scientific research to offer valuable insights on time management.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass.

Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.

Multitasking is a lie

Your next step is simple. You are the first domino.

I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate.

Also Read: 5 Best Books for Time Management

To Pixar and Beyond, by Lawrence Levy

To Pixar and Beyond book takes readers inside Pixar and Disney. It’s a business biography of Pixar and it provides a behind-the-scenes look at the business and creative processes of Pixar. Lawrence provides an up-close, first-hand account of the culture and innovation that helped Pixar become one of the most successful animation studios. The book offers insights on team building and collaboration, and it’s one of the most valuable books about the creative process.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

The problem with success, even a little success, is that it changes you. You are no longer walking along the same precipice that drove you to do great work in the first place.

Steve once told me that the gestation of great products takes much longer than it appears. What seems to emerge from nowhere belies a long process of development, trials, and missteps.

It’s not just about entertainment. It’s about telling stories that audiences connect with emotionally. The way to do this is to make our films personal, to make certain they mean something to our directors.

I had a mentor who taught me lessons about business and life that served me for years. He looked at business the way a grand master might look at a chessboard. There’s nothing you can do about where the pieces are. It’s only your next move that matters.

Steve paid attention to every nuance of the slides, even details that, as far as I could tell, were invisible to the naked eye.

Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull

Creativity, Inc., is another among the best books about creative process, storytelling and emotions. It offers a window to the creative process at Pixar. The book also explores the role of leadership and management in fostering a culture of creativity in any organization. Ed draws on real-life examples from his experience, as well as insights from other creative leaders, to illustrate the principles of creative collaboration and problem solving.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.

You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

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.

If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.

The Dip, by Seth Godin

The Dip is for creative professionals to understand when to quit and when to persevere in their pursuit. It’s among of the good books for artists, exploring the concept of “Dip” – a period of struggle and stagnation that separates the winners from the losers. It’s a fun little book with advice for identifying the dip and knowing if it’s time to quit. It might not be the best book for creative thinking, but it’s one of the best books for artists to read. It will help you figure out if you’re in a Dip that’s worthy of your time, effort and talents.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.

Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.

The people who are the best in the world specialize at getting really good at the questions they don't know.

Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.

The Cul-de-Sac (French for “dead end”) is a situation where you work and work and work and nothing much changes.

Also Read: 15 Best Books for Success and Personal Growth

Crush It!, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Crush It! Is for artists to understand how to build a personal brand and leverage social media to achieve success. In this book, Gary shows how to use the power of the Internet to turn a passion project into a real business. He shares his own experiences with content creation that helped him become a successful entrepreneur and social media influencer. It offers valuable insights and inspiration to make dreams come true.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.

Live your passion. What does that mean, anyway? It means that when you get up for work every morning, every single morning, you are pumped because you get to talk about or work with or do the thing that interests you the most in the world.

Even if your ambitions are huge, start slow, start small, build gradually, build smart.

There no longer has to be a difference between who you are and what you do.

Developing your personal brand is the same thing as living and breathing your resume.

The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way is another motivational self-help book that provides practical advice for overcoming obstacles and achieving success. It contains strategies to embrace challenges and use them to your advantage. The book draws on the philosophy of stoic philosophy to look at challenges as opportunities for growth and development. And it contains real-world examples to illustrate the power of stoicism in the face of adversity.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.

We forget: In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.

The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.

Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead.

If an emotion can't change the condition or the situation you're dealing with, it is likely an unhelpful emotion. Or, quite possibly, a destructive one. But it's what I feel. Right, no one said anything about not feeling it.

The Artist's Guide, by Jackie Battenfield

The Artist’s Guide, as the name suggests, is a practical guide for artists to build a sustainable career in arts; specifically, visual arts. It’s one of the best books on creative thinking with advice on all aspects of a job. Jackie offers tips on self-management, professional development and marketing to make a living from creative work. With real-life examples and illustrations, this is definitely one of the best creative books to have.

Top Lesson from the book:

Just as you would when making a new work of art, don’t ask for help or seek the judgment of others. You don’t want to be subjected to another person’s limitations or expectations.

Also Read: 7 Best Books for Graphic Designers

Keep Going, by Austin Kleon

Keep Going is a popular book for creative thinking and motivation. It aims to inspire artists in getting past the obstacles and challenges in a creative life. The book touches many topics such as burnout, creative blocks and self-doubt, among others that affect professionals in their day-to-day work. Austin draws on his own experience as a writer to provide a wealth of practical advice and inspiration, making it one of the top books for creatives.

Top 5 Lessons from the book:

Creativity is about connections, and connections are not made by siloing everything off into its own space. New ideas are formed by interesting juxtapositions, and interesting juxtapositions happen when things are out of place.

We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on.

If you want to change your life, change what you pay attention to.

“If you draw,” said the cartoonist E. O. Plauen, “the world becomes more beautiful, far more beautiful.”

To be on brand is to be 100% certain of who you are and what you do, and certainly, in art and in life, is not only completely overrated, it is also a roadblock to discovery. Uncertainty is the very thing that art thrives on.

OK, those were all the best books to read for artists I have for you. These are some of the top books on creativity, business management and growth mindset. These books won't only fuel creative thinking and innovation, but also help monetize creative skills.

Liked the article?

Join Book Blabbers WhatsApp group to bond over books, memes and quotes.

Subscribe to Book Blabber's Bulletin to get book summaries, reading tips and occasional hugs in your inbox.