August Books for Creative Folks

August is a great month to shake off the late-summer slumber and gear back up for the awesome work you’ll be doing the rest of the year.

In my time working on Delight is in the Details I did a lot of reading. I read some new (to me) books and revisited some books I’ve read over the years in my own journey to become a better writer and designer.

Here are some books I recommend adding to your queue. Some are practical, some are inspirational, all are awesome.

The Shape of Design

By Frank Chimero.

We all believe that design’s primary job is to be useful. Our minds say that so long as the design works well, the work’s appearance does not necessarily matter. And yet, our hearts say otherwise. No matter how rational our thinking, we hear a voice whisper that beauty has an important role to play.

The Shape of Design is one of most enjoyable and inspirational books I’ve ever read on the subject of design. Frank is a genuine artist, through and through. After I finished his book I felt empowered and encouraged as a designer.

Managing Your Day to Day

By 99U (edited by Jocelyn K. Glei)

These people sabotage themselves because the alternative is to put themselves into the world as someone who knows what they are doing. They are afraid that if they do that, they will be seen as a fraud.

This book is filled with about 20 short chapters, each one written by someone else (the above quote is from Seth Godin’s chapter). The book talks a lot about time management, focus, and creativity.

The Icarus Deception

By Seth Godin

Don’t worry about your stuff. Worry about making meaning instead.

Seth has an uncanny way of encouraging creative individuals to make great art while reminding them that they are not frauds.

On Writing

By Stephen King

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

Much of this book is filled with stories by Stephen King about his life and childhood and how he became a writer. Just writing about it here makes me want to pick it up and read it again.

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott

My students assume that when well-respected writers sit down to write their books, they know pretty much what is going to happen because they’ve outlined most of the plot, and this is why their books turn out so beautifully and why their lives are so easy and joyful, their self-esteem so great, their childlike senses of trust and wonder so intact. Well. I do not know anyone fitting this description at all. Everyone I know flails around, kvetching and growing despondent, on the way to finding a plot and structure that work. You are welcome to join the club.

Another one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. Anne’s writing is enjoyable and entertaining. Some of the best writing and design advice I’ve ever heard comes from Anne, especially her emphasis on writing a crappy first draft because the most important part of writing is to sit down and actually begin doing the work.

Writing Down the Bones

By Natalie Goldberg

(I gave away my copy of Writing Down the Bones and have not yet replaced it. So, alas, I can’t pull any highlighted passages to quote here. You’ll just have to get your own copy and read the whole thing for yourself.)

Reading Natalie’s book is a lot like sitting in on a question and answer time where people ask all the right questions and she gives all the right answers.

You don’t have to read the book front to back. The chapters are short and fast and can be read completely out of order because each one is its own nugget of advice or food for thought. And quickly, Natalie begins to feel like a trusted friend — someone who’s not afraid to shoot it straight and who has nothing to hide.

Some books tutor you on how to write better; Writing Down the Bones will help you to become a better writer.

Making Ideas Happen

By Scott Belsky

You can only stay loyal to your creative pursuits through the awareness and control of your impulses. Along the journey to making ideas happen, you must reduce the amount of energy you spend on stuff related to your insecurities.

Centered around Thomas Edison’s famous quote that Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, Scott writes with a fondness towards the creative professional. This book is a guide for taking the constant flow of ideas we have and turning them into reality.

This is one of the few books that I have gone out and bought multiple copies of so I could give them away. I highly recommend it to anyone with a creative, entrepreneurial, or otherwise adventurous bend towards life.


If you like interviews and behind-the-scenes personal stories, then you’ll love Insites. Keir Whitaker and Elliot Jay Stocks conducted quite a few interviews with some well-known folks (such as Mandy Brown, Jim Coudal, Jeffrey Zeldman, Tim Van Damme, Jon Hicks, Jason Santa Maria, and Tina Roth Eisenberg to name a few). It’s beautifully laid out, printed in full color, and is full of, well, insights from some of the best creative professionals in the web community.

What’s in my Queue?

What’s next for me? Here are a few of the books in my queue:

P.S. If you’ve got a suggestion that should be in that list, feel free to pass it along.

August Books for Creative Folks