Three (good) books on creativity

Creativity is an important and interesting topic. Unfortunately it’s a topic that seems to be dominated by hot takes, uninformed speculation, and personal anecdotes. This is even true for much academic work and articles in magazines published by the b.schools.

There’s a rich body of creativity research full of all sorts of interesting ideas, but it’s often ignored or glossed over. One factor contributing to this is the lack of a good introductory book for a general reader. For some time I’ve been referring folk interested in creativity research to Teaching creativity in the common core.1 The books limitation, though, is that it’s focused on secondary education which can be a distraction for some readers.

A new book, The creativity advantage2 by James Kaufman (one of the authors of Teaching creativity in the common core) neatly fills this hole. James provides us with an easy to read overview of research into creativity (in a somewhat quirky style, but which works) and delves into some of the benefits of creativity (beyond the obvious). The whole narrative is illustrated with anecdotes to help make the ideas concrete for the read. It’s now my go-to recommendation for a a good introductory book on creativity.

Another recent publication on creativity is The creative act by Rick Rubin,3 which is getting a fair amount of press given the profile of its author. The creative act is a collection of personal anecdotes and speculation, but manages to avoid most of the problems with this approach. The observations and recommendations it provides as surprisingly well aligned with the research insights you’ll find in The creative advantage. It also delves down an additional layer when the author outcomes some of the strategies he uses to deal with creativity challenges. It can, however, be over self-indulgent at times. Good to dip into at random when you have a spare moment.

Finally, I thought I’d mention my favourite book on creativity which is Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones4 (of Bugs Bunny fame). Technically it’s more a biography than a book on creativity. It’s also quite old, first published in 1990. (Chuck sadly passed in 2002.) It is, however, chock full of fascinating insights into Chuck’s creative process and how it developed over time, and well worth the read.

  1. Beghetto, Ronald A., James C. Kaufman, and John Baer. Teaching for Creativity in the Common Core Classroom. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 2015. ↩︎
  2. Kaufman, James C. The Creativity Advantage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023. ↩︎
  3. Rubin, Rick, and Neil Strauss. The Creative Act: A Way of Being. New York: Penguin Press, 2023. ↩︎
  4. Jones, Chuck. Chuck Amuck. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999. ↩︎