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10 Books Every Creative Should Read for the New Year

[fa icon="calendar"] 11/20/18 9:11 AM / by Paul Kovalski

We are just a few short weeks away from saying goodbye to 2018 and welcoming in a new year. Where did the time go?

The end of the year brings with it holidays and fun activities with your family but it’s also time for reflection. While individuals have the ability to change at any time it seems that a new year tends to offer a unique opportunity to start anew, to have a fresh plate.




It’s also a great opportunity to find yourself a comfy chair/couch/seat on the subway and sink your mind into a good read. Why not read something that you not only enjoy but will also help you to be better at your job and look at your life in a new light?

Fran Lebowitz once said “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” Use the end of this year as a time to reflect and grab a book off this booklist to assist in your efforts.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is a professor, author, and creator of the popular blog ‘Study Hacks- Decoding Patterns of Success.’ He also is notable for his viral TED Talk on quitting Social Media (I highly recommend checking it out).

Deep Work is part self help and part exposé on knowledge workers in the modern economy. We as creators have a treacherous journey on the way to focused work in an unfocused world. Not only are distractions abundant but we are also rewarded for keeping up with these distractions, as they oftentimes show up as current events in the business world.

We need a compass and a north star to help us to do meaningful work while maintaining our sanity and keeping up to date with the information that matters. Sounds like a tall task! Deep Work offers practical tips to achieve this while also reminding us why we are doing it.  

The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time by Allen Gannett

Allen Gannett founded an advertising technology company called TrackMaven and has been on the “30 under 30” list for both INC. and Forbes.

The Creative Curve offers several case studies and research backed with data to identify the science behind creative success. A lot of us find it easy to attribute success, especially the creative kind, to ‘luck.’ Gannett disputes this and uses examples from Disney, Netflix, The Beatles, and even J.K. Rowling.  

Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual by Jocko Willink

What can a navy seal teach us about being more creative? You would be surprised :)

If ‘Deep Work’ helps us to accept the importance of focus, Jocko hammers home the point in a not-immediately-apparent way. The title itself probably has you a bit confused- and it should.

I put it on this list because the most creative breakthroughs often come after periods of intense focus followed by periods of stress and anxiety. However, a ‘breakthrough’ really only ever happens if you can continue through the wall, climb up the mountain, or complete whatever other metaphor you prefer.

This manual will motivate you to get disciplined, stop making excuses, and formulate processes in your life that will lead you on a path to creative freedom.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey  

I personally geek out over reading about other people’s rituals and this book is an expansion on that. While you can draw inspiration from one man’s philosophy and rituals on life, having a bit of variety never hurt either!

What you learn from Mason Currey is that many artists see routine as a necessity and that finding your own and staying consistent with it is more important than following what somebody else does.

Currey looks at everybody from Karl Marx to Andy Warhol and this book is full of fun anecdotes that you may not have heard before.

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield

Some people fight wars on the battlefield while others fight it in conference rooms and lonely offices. I’m pretty sure I know where I stand.

There are many commonalities throughout books on creativity, and having ‘breakthroughs’ are something that will come up again and again. To create something new is to solve a problem that hasn’t been solved before and that isn’t easy!  Da Vinci didn’t have a ‘how to’ guide when he painted the Mona Lisa and Harry Potter did not exist until JK Rowling took what was in her mind and put it on paper.

Pressfield is an empathetic creator (it took him 17 years to get his first paycheck) and highlights several ways to overcome the many forms resistance to meaningful art.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The concept of Flow has been popularized in recent years with books like “The Rise of Superman” and the continued research of Steven Kotler and others. A recurring theme throughout this book list is identifying strategies to increase creativity and a foundational component of that is being in the right mind state.


Csikszentmihalyi is the psychologist that identified this state of consciousness and this book is the classic work in which it was revealed. Learn not only what flow is but methods to obtain it on the path to a ‘feeling of complete engagement in a creative or playful activity’.


Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Authors aren’t the only ones that have ‘writer’s bloc.’. Everyone, no matter their career, has come upon a large roadblock while trying to solve a problem or create something new. Steal like an artist reminds us that inspiration is everywhere and it’s ours for the taking.


In reality, nothing is ever really original because everything is built on the foundation of something else. A lot of books on this list will give you valuable processes to open yourself up to creativity. This book helps to accelerate those processes when you get there.  


The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s famous book is a guide that is part self therapy, part call to higher power, with sprinkles of wisdom to become more creative. Two concepts: morning pages and the artist date, are incredibly valuable to anyone who has to solve hard problems and get out of their head.


Podcaster Erick Godsey explains that writing down your stream of consciousness thoughts every morning allows you to look back at the lie you are telling yourself. Powerful stuff!


The Artist’s Way is a program that is followed over the course of several weeks and should be considered as a great way to start off 2019 on the right note.


Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking  by David Bayles and Ted Orland

A short read but a goodie. The 1994 cult classic is a reminder that the majority of artists will not be the next Mozart and that’s ok! It helps to normalize the entire experience of creating something and all the doubt and anxiety that comes with it.


Sometimes understanding that you are not alone is a game changer, and this book is the bear hug you need to know that’s it’s gonna be alright.


Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss

This is by far the largest book on this list and there’s a reason why I put it last. It’s easy to find the time to read most of these books in a long afternoon or over the course of several days when you are relaxing by the fire. Tools of Titans is not that book.


Tools of Titans is a encyclopedia you come to time and time again when you are looking for an answer to a particular problem. Ferriss changed the entrepreneurial game with the 4 hour workweek and has automated his life so that he can pursue his passion interviewing incredible people. This book is the result.

Paul Kovalski

Written by Paul Kovalski

Paul is a content marketer that has worked with mid market and enterprise companies to help amplify their message and develop deeper relationships with their customers.