For sparking my own creativity, I find people’s descriptions of their own creative processes more useful (and certainly more interesting) than books that analyze creativity or suggest creativity exercises.

I love many books on this subject, and here are just a few of my favorites.

Each one of these books is fascinating and can be read with pleasure by anyone, whether or not you’re interested specifically in creativity.

Bob Dylan, Chronicles

This a haunting, brilliant book, and I don’t even listen to Bob Dylan’s music (fact: I don’t really listen to any music very much). For instance, I’ve read and re-read his description of his reaction to folk songs.

Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters

In the last few years, I’ve developed a new interest in reading books of letters, and this is my very favorite. O’Connor brilliantly describes her work and writing process — in her own inimitable language.

Edward Weston, The Flame of Recognition

These journal entries are brief and marvelous. His description of his reaction to green peppers! Mind-blowing.

Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

This book is a bit more prescriptive than the others. Crammed with insights, ideas, and illustrations from her own life about how to spark creativity.

W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up

This is a perceptive, fascinating book about writing and observing.

Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

I’ve read this book countless times. Countless. I’ve practically memorized several passages.

Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

This book is different from the others — it summarizes the daily habits of writers, painters, scientists, choreographers, and other kinds of creative people. It demonstrates an important truth: there is no single “best way” to spark creativityDifferent approaches work for different people. The most creative and productive people figure out what they need to do their best work, and make sure that they have the environment they need.

What are some of your favorite books about creativity? 

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.


Image courtesy of Anthony Tran.