The 8 Best Books on Creativity You Should Read This Year

We’ve selected 8 books that have made us more curious, inspired, and creative at IDEO U this year. We hope that this list, which covers topics from problem-solving to purpose, will provide you with inspiration in your own lives as well.

What books have helped you be more creative? If you have favorites, share them with us at

Superhuman by Design: Keys to Unlocking Your Creativity for Life-Changing Results by Donald Burlock, Jr. 

The book cover of Superhuman by Design by Donald Burlock, Jr.

Superhuman by Design is about how to develop and follow your core values—a.k.a. your superhuman code. With more than a decade of experience at leading companies such as Dolby Labs and Amazon Lab126, designer Donald Burlock, Jr. includes his own personal lessons as well as practical tips. In the book, you’ll find insights on how to reach your fullest potential through creativity, purpose, and design thinking.

Larger Than Yourself: Reimagine Industries, Lead with Purpose & Grow Ideas into Movements by Thibault Manekin

Larger than yourself book cover

Larger Than Yourself shares how people have turned great ideas into real change. Based on a podcast by social entrepreneur Thibault Manekin, the book shares methods on finding your purpose and working toward a larger mission. With personal stories as well as profiles from successful changemakers, Larger Than Yourself emphasizes the importance of reimagining the status quo.

Radical Architecture of the Future by Beatrice Galilee

Radical Architecture of the Future

Beatrice Galilee, a former associate curator of architecture and design at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, provides a look into the present and future of architecture—and how it goes beyond just buildings. She shares the work of groundbreaking designers, architects, and artists, from Diller Scofidio + Renfro to David Adjaye. Radical Architecture of the Future shows how design is continuing to shape the world around us.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath

The book cover of Upstream by Dan Heath.

In Upstream, New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath shares an approach to problem-solving that involves finding and preventing problems early on. By going “upstream” to address the systems that cause problems before they go downstream, you address what may be preventable issues. Hundreds of interviews with problem solvers provide insights on how to apply them in your own work.


Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways by Sarah Stein Greenberg

 Creative Acts for Curious People Book Cover

Written by Stanford Executive Director Sarah Stein Greenberg, Creative Acts for Curious People is an engaging and practical resource that will help you jumpstart your creativity. It includes stories and exercises from creative leaders at organizations such as Stanford, IDEO, and Google. With hands-on activities and vivid illustrations, this book encourages creative experimentation and exploration.

Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz

Subtract Book Cover

Oftentimes, we consider more to be better. Leidy Klotz, a professor of engineering at the University of Virginia, shares how subtraction—the act of removing things from our processes, to-do lists, and minds rather than simply adding more—can also be a useful tool in solving challenges. With real-world examples and research from designers, innovators, and Nobel prize winners, Subtract provides a different way to approach problem-solving.

The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas by Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal

The Human Element Book Cover

A Wall Street Journal bestseller, The Human Element is about how to overcome the friction that comes with change. Authors Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal, professors at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, show how inertia, emotion, effort, and reactance cause resistance—and how they can instead be used to create change. Their research provides a framework for innovation and transformation that you can use in your own organization.

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet by John Green

The Anthropocene Reviewed Book Cover

Based on New York Times bestselling author John Green’s podcast of the same name, The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of essays that center on today’s world, where humans have fundamentally shaped our planet. Touching on a vast array of topics, John Green shows how storytelling and humanness can bring color to everyday stories. 

Want to go deeper with creativity? Learn how to unlock your team’s creative potential in IDEO U’s online course Leading for Creativity.

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