The Best Books for Creatives

Creative Books to Read

I should probably begin with a little confession; I am a bad reader. Yep, I hold my hands up. I used to really love reading, and in fact at one point I had worked my way through the whole Young Persons section in my little hometown library – I even started requesting books from other libraries in the county. I would inhale a Nancy Drew/Gossip Girl book for breakfast! Things have changed quite a lot since 2004 (blimey) and now I hardly read books at all.

BUT I do still read, but it’s mainly magazines, blogs and online articles. It’s a bit sad really, especially as books played a big part in shaping me as I grew up and I’m a big believer in print – I mean, have you seen my ‘Print isn’t dead’ tote bag? After 4 years it’s looking a bit worse for wear but I’ve lovingly sewn it back together 3 times because I can’t bear to part with it! However, there ARE a few books which I love and happily made the time to read so I thought they were worth sharing.

Creative design books

If you’re waiting for my Nancy Drew recommendations then you’re going to be disappointed (sorry ha) because these days my reading taste is more focused on my lifestyle as a creative and freelancer. Sometimes there are things that you can’t find on google (Eeek – a scary thought I know) and these books have delivered some of the best wisdom and enjoyment. Now let me explain why:

The Working Woman’s Handbook by Phoebe Lovatt – £14.99

I had heard a lot of great things about this book (via the internet) so my expectations were pretty high. I picked it up on a chilled Sunday afternoon and became SO engrossed that I literally read it all in one sitting. It is really THAT good! It has the perfect mix of information, exercises and interviews for inspiration – female editors, designers, creative directors killing it from around the world. And all of that whilst looking pretty in pink with flashes of a terrazzo pattern. Covering mind set, time management, productivity and money (which is super important but actually rarely talked about) I feel like it’s a really well rounded book which not only feeds your imagination but your motivation too. You should also check out the publisher, Prestel, because they have lots of other cool creative focused books!

Little Black Book by Otehga Uwagba – £5.00

For a little while I thought this book was following me around – every shop I went to, every Instagram feed… it was there! After seeing Otehga speak on a panel I was finally sold and about to buy one when I was kindly given it by Lizzie from Smug ha As the name suggests the Little Black Book is small, but you know what they say about things that come in small packages! It’s jam packed with so much great information and advice that you won’t find anywhere else – tips for public speaking, building your brand and words of wisdom from inspirational women. And it’s such a bargain price – you can’t get much for a fiver in life (especially in London), so snap this gem up next time you see it!

Creative business booksCreative Books to Read

Design Your Life by Vince Frost – £20 (Hardback)

After handing my notice in at my studio job, I saw Vince talk about this book at Offset festival back in 2015… and then it was my leaving present (they actually ordered it all the way from Australia bless them because it was hot off the press)! ha Looking at ways you can apply the problem solving design skills to your own life, Design Your Life is full of straight talking advice with some personal anecdotes from Vince (ex-Pentagram and the founder of Frost Design) thrown in for good measure. There are 15 principles in total, with my personal faves including Design by Failure, Say ‘YES’ and mean it and Eat the Frog. There’s pages of playful typography to accompany the advice too, proving the point that design doesn’t always have to be so serious.

An A to Z guide to being a freelance designer by Alan Long – £9.99

This is one that does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s simple format makes it to the point and kinda brief but very easy to digest. I know what you’re thinking – ‘there’s only 26 letters in the alphabet’ but don’t worry, there are more than 26 pages! From bullshit to deadlines and humour to proof reading, it covers quite a broad selection of topics which I think most creatives will relate to in some way (not just the Graphic Designers). As a little bonus, there are also download links to spreadsheets to help you with time management and to figure out how much to quote for different projects – cheers Alan! You can buy the digital version for £7.99 here.

Inspirational creative booksCreative readsBooks about freelancing

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – £6.47

Possibly the most hyped book of 2016 – every blogger and their dog was reading it! Back then I was going through a frustrating career period and both my boyfriend and friend bought me a copy for Christmas so I felt it was time to give it a read. Although I’d heard mixed reviews (it’s a bit like marmite), I went into it with an open mind and absolutely LOVED it… I definitely think this book was a contributing factor of me quitting my studio job! Powerful stuff, eh? As a Capricorn I can be pretty cynical but when I connect with an idea I really connect with it, becoming so passionate and swept up in it. That’s what happened with Big Magic – when it talks about how the universe works in terms of ideas, timing and creativity.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think it’s definitely a book for a certain time in your life and if you’re not in the right headspace it could be a bit too airy fairy. Luckily for me, it was just the book I needed at the time and it gave me a boost when I needed it the most. I’m currently lending my ‘spare’ copy to one of my friends… I need to check in with her to see how she’s getting on actually. (P.S. Big Magic isn’t pictured – oops!)

Graphic Design booksCreative Books to Read

Oh Sh*t What Now? by Craig Oldham – £17.99

Although at first glance this might appear a book for creatives fresh out of study (I mean, it even says ‘Honest advice for new Graphic Designers‘ on the cover), I think it provides something for all levels. It could be the memories of your first internship, updating your portfolio or applying for a new job; don’t forget that every day is a school day after all! I really loved the honest and down to earth chatty style because it sounds like you’re literally in conversation with Craig – it’s always good to have the advice of an award winning designer on hand. I mean he must be doing something right ha It also helps that this book is beautifully designed with flashes of neon orange, green and hot pink typography through out – overall it’s a thumbs up from me.

Books for freelancersFreelance design books

Feeling inspired to sit down with a cuppa and a book? I hope so anyway because we all need to make a bit more time for learning, reflection and improving ourselves! Maybe you’ve got a book that you always dip into for inspiration? If so, I wanna know because sharing is caring after all!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored but I was kindly sent some of these books for review purposes and does contain affiliate links, which means I will receive a small amount of money if you do decide to purchase them – think of it as a tip for my tips! As always all opinion and enthusiasm is 100% my own and I wouldn’t share anything that I didn’t truly like with you.

One comment

  • Asti

    12/04/2018 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations! I have been quite the slacker in the reading department as well lately (I think I only read six books last year?!), but I am starting to feel inspired to read more, especially in the creative department. I love that even if the books weren’t useful information-wise they’re still beautiful to look at because as bad as it is, I still tend to judge books by their covers. I actually just read a Big Magic review on someone else’s blog so feel like it’s calling me right now. Let’s hope by the time I get to it my mind is still in the right place that it’s not too airy fairy!

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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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