Here are some of my favourite and most useful books on the bookshelf in my office. And of course, a link to my own book Be Creative – Now! which covers all of the topics on NewThinking.Tools in one handy place. These are listed roughly in order of readability, easiest ones first.
Storytelling and communication
- Bobette Buster: Do/Story. Heartfelt advice from a great script-writer.
- Blake Snyder: Save the Cat. Funny and direct guide to getting the beats of your story straight.
- George Lois: Damn Good Advice (for people with talent). Unstoppable energy from one of the original Mad Men.
- Dominic Gettins: How to Write Great Copy. Does exactly what it says on the tin.
- George Orwell: Politics and the English Language. Don’t be put off by the title, this essay is about writing from the heart and killing off jargon, cliche and bullshit.
- Lisa Cron: Wired for Story. Why our brains are so receptive to information contained in the form of a story.
- David Edgar, How Plays Work. Wish I’d read this one ten years ago.
- Rory Sutherland, Alchemy: the Surprising Power of Ideas that Don’t Make Sense. Insights from the irrational world of advertising, told by a pro.
- Carmine Gallo: Talk Like TED. Great advice from a man who has studied thousands of TED talks to discover their secrets.
- Jonah Berger: Contagious. What makes stories spread online.
- Jonah Sachs: Winning the Story Wars. Why big corporations are employing storytellers.
- Shawn Callahan, Putting Stories to Work. Advice on how stories can win over colleagues and customers. And of course, it’s full of great stories.
- John Yorke, Into the Woods. An experienced writer’s take on the theories about why stories work.
- Will Storr, The Science of Storytelling. How “character” works in the stories we love.
- Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. Part spiritual, part practical guide for anyone who wants to write or create.
- Sally Holloway, The Serious Guide to Joke Writing. Funny doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it. Funny ha ha or funny peculiar – either way, new ideas happen.
- John Weich, Storytelling on Steroids. Pumped up tales from the world of advertising and pop culture.
- Roger Horberry & Gyles Lingwood, Read Me: 10 Lessons for Writing Great Copy. The secrets of people who write stuff for a living.
- Clare Lynch, Good Copy, Bad Copy. Fantastic blog from an experienced copywriter.
- Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories. Astonishing book, treats storytelling like any other evolved human trait.
- Walter Fisher: Human Communication as Narration. Why we see the world in terms of stories, not facts.
- George Marshall. Don’t Even Think About It. How the narratives of climate change discourage people from acting.
- Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots. From Homer’s Illiad to Homer Simpson, why we keep telling stories about heroes.
- Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning. How our beliefs are structured around a world divided into chaos and order.
- Steven Pinker, A Sense of Style. Why a good sentence works the way it does. Grammar for non-pedants.
- Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace: Creativity Inc. Brilliant lessons from the founder of Pixar.
- Hans Rosling, Factfulness. A masterclass in telling stories with data.
- David Robertson: Brick by Brick. How innovation almost broke LEGO, and how innovation saved the company too.
- Margaret Heffernan: Beyond Measure. Examples from all over the world of companies thriving with a “just culture”.
- David Halpern: Inside the Nudge Unit. The story of the Downing Street team using behavioural economics to save the UK government millions of pounds and make its citizens happier.
- Laszlo Bock: Work Rules. Insider tips on innovation from Google’s head of HR.
Creative theory, philosophy and brain science
- Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow. Decades of research on cognitive biases and why smart people make stupid mistakes.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Black Swan. A philosopher/financier’s view of uncertainty, learned on the trading floors of Wall Street and applied to life. See also Antifragile and Fooled by Randomness from the same author.
- Gray, Brown & Macanufo: Gamestorming. Dozens and dozens of creative techniques, ice-breakers, visualisation tools and more.
- Roger Firestien: Leading on the Creative Edge. A thorough guide to the creative process.
- Alex Osborn: Your Creative Power. Brainstorming tips from the father of brainstorming, written back in the 1940s.
- David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old. Good antidote to neophilia, our obsession with new things. Here’s why we should pay attention to boring old things.
- Steven D’Souza: Not Knowing. Why good ideas sometimes lurk in the dark of what we don’t understand.
- Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong. Such a good book on the complex business of making mistakes.
- Claire Bridges, In Your Creative Element. An overview of scientific studies of creative thinking.
- Benjamin Bergen, Louder than Words. We process information by creating an embodied simulation using our visual, aural and motor centres of the brain.
- Paul Lawrence & Nitin Nohria, Driven. How four basic drives motivate human behaviour: to acquire, defend, bond and learn.
- The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist. Detailed account of how the left-right split of our brains shapes our perceptions, actions and culture.
- Jaak Panksepp, Affective Neurobiology. How mammal brains like ours are wired to experience and be guided by emotions.
And as someone who will never love a glass screen as much as I love actual books, here is one virtual library I would recommend: Brainpickings.org – a lovingly curated source of information and reviews about all aspects of creativity.