Expanding Your Library: Books Every Creative Should Read

    Unfortunately, the country-wide COVID19 quarantine has forced all (some) of us to board up our homes and get in tune with our creative endeavors, unlike any time we’ve ever experienced. Fortunately, however, many of us have been waiting for a chance like this—where the world stops whatever it’s doing and that painting of Gucci Mane holding a baby Goku you’ve been holding out on can finally see the light of day. The brain begins to remember the hundreds of forgotten drafts and half-written down ideas stowed away in some lost jeans, but the energy to bring these projects to life is nowhere near as powerful than it was the first time. The creativity spins, and yet the inspiration is lost…. But not for long.

    Inspiration isn’t something you have with you all your life; you lose it and find it again like car keys. You might not need it at that very moment but to get wherever you plan on going, you’re gonna feel useless without it. And before you can even appropriate your inspiration to make something work, you must locate the origin through another medium. In shorter words, we all watch TV and become inspired by the things we see, but it’s the sight of it all that sparks the inspiration. Seeing the object formed in the “physical” on television brings a heart-warming feeling of creation towards your inspired idea. Now, what if instead of watching or seeing your inspiration, you read it in words?

    At this point, you guessed it! We’re talking about books. As much as I love to speak on the inspiration that comes from television & movies, I always encourage my creative friends to begin building the library of their favorite works and inspired pieces—because, at the end of the day, everything we see must be written down before being brought to life. To help a few of my creative friends through this horrifyingly boring quarantine I have suggested a few books and different genres for them to research through and gain inspiration from. Those recommendations helped me write this list of genres that I personally believe every creative should have. So no more waiting—and a lot less writing—let’s look at 10 genres of books every creative should have.

    Genres/Types of Books

    Fantasy & Fiction Books: Starting off, I think we should speak about the importance of fiction/fantasy novels and the inspiration that comes from them. When looking at these works as a whole, we see wondrous worlds of powerful characters. We see events played out and resolved with such humanity and understanding you’d think it happened in real life. These lessons we gain from such characters inspire us to be better people in the real world. That inspiration to configure a personality is also applied to the creative ideas that we have.

    A good fantasy/fiction novel could ultimately lead you to write an entirely new idea from scratch. The energy that comes from studying such world-building and character creation will no doubt leave someone in the mood to write their own short story, script, or storyboard. For those looking for an expansion of rhetorical meaning & creative immersion, I would undoubtedly suggest a fantasy/fiction novel for your research.

    • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    • His Dark Material by Phillip Pullman
    • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    Nonfiction/Biographies: Here’s some advice that at least 12 people in your life will tell you once; learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. If I’m trying out something new for the first time, prior to me even beginning to create I research the experiments that came before me. Sometimes you must go beyond just studying the art itself by also studying the artist that created it—here’s where I make my transition into nonfiction books. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Nonfiction books are frightfully boring if you’re not interested in history.” Which is a bit true if you’re reading a historical fiction text irrelevant to your topic at hand. But when you have a piece of work that speaks to the piece, the artist & the time you may have to bit the boring bullet.

    My personal favorite autobiography is the story of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Yes, I’ve seen all the documentaries, short films & adaptations, but there’s something about the text-to-brain exchange that makes it even more meaningful. Whether read in the autobiographical style of a diary to the biographical style of someone retelling someone’s life, what you perceive and analyze in your head gives it definition in your daily life. The visual imagination that allows you to put yourself in someone’s shoes is beyond inspirational, allowing you to learn from the experiences of those before you to better your own. Anyone interested in studying what it takes to enter their career path and what comes with it would probably want to grab something nonfiction-like.

    • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    • Hurricanes: A Memoir by Rick Ross
    • Changing the Subject by Sven Birkerts
    • The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol

    Science Fiction stories: Science fiction is often written in the reflection of the world the author currently lives in. The idea that society has become so advanced that either technological advancements—or political decisions—have transformed society into something more than its previous template. However, this does not absolve any current problems we may have in society—such as class or racial discrimination—and very well may show how even in the future, that these ideals that keep the evil in a society constantly circulating won’t go away just because we have hover cars. Science fiction isn’t the easiest genre to walk into with eyes closed and hands open. You may grab something that takes you a few years to completely understand or it has already been adapted for film/television. What matters most is the world-building that goes into the story and the advancements that make the synopsis of the story. But do we ever think about the creative practices that one must work through to create a science fiction piece of work?

    What I think we should all take away from the creativity that goes into science fiction novels is how these authors think about the world and the way they choose to express their opinions. An example of this is one of my favorite science fiction novels, Dune by Frank Herbert—soon to be adapted into a new movie. This book’s over-arching theme is the struggle of global politics but envisioned in the struggles of politics of a space government and how those planets within their reign are policed. I don’t know about you, but my personal brainpower would not be able to connect the experiences that the global powers of the planet with that of a space coalition that protects multiple sectors of a galaxy. After a couple of reads, however, you come to see how this same strategic method of control is in this science fiction novel is an example of what our leaders do in our home—sectoring the planet off and creating new rules for each space. If you were ever wondering how you could speak about the world in an enigmatic fashion yet still hold a candle of certain problems in the world, science fiction might be the place for you.

    • Kindred by Octavia Butler
    • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
    • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

    Drama/Suspense: Honestly who doesn’t love a good mystery? Whether embedded in the fear or curiosity of the reader, Drama & Suspense pushes our audience into constantly wondering what’s going to happen next. We see it happen almost every day; you watch something one Sunday and are sitting on the edge of your seat for the rest of the week until the next episode arrives. A believe a good book example of this would be “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. This book has everything from unrelenting fear to genuine compassion to unheard of sorrow, yet every chapter leaves you in cold curiosity as to what could possibly happen next. Forcing the reader to infer on the possibilities of every character they’ve seen so far and every action they haven’t yet.

    Suspense drives us in our everyday life whether we realize it or not, and it is a valuable tool for creatives looking to open the eyes of their audience. Not everyone can just blatantly say “Hey, come and buy this from me. You’ll love it!” Nowadays people want their curiosity to be triggered more than ever.  And what better way to figure out how to make people want to delve deeper into a mystery than a small lesson in suspense. This isn’t telling you to directly copy the serial killer-like styles of suspense coming from these books, but making you think about being a little more creative when trying to walk someone in a dark room they’ve never seen before. Sometimes you might have to walk in front of them or tease them to trigger the suspense in them. Anyone looking to expand their audience by a generous amount would likely want to check out a few mystery books, study some techniques.

    • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
    • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
    • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    Let’s talk about some books we can discuss with…. less words…..

    Business Research: As much as I dislike business/marketing books, they’re more important to the creative process than we realize. The beginning stages of launching your entrepreneur-based career are learning lessons from certain losses. They will always tell you “You’re supposed to start your first two years in the red.” But they will never tell you how to slowly rise from the red, that alone is your process to learn. But who was it that said we can’t learn from the mistakes and lessons of others? Who was it that said I can’t grab a book on investing the help me benefit from the money I receive from my product now & in the future? Nobody. Not one person in the world would turn you away from reading more into marketing, business relations, product management, and other big business categories I would like to stay away from. If anything, these are the books you should have in your library no matter the profession. There are lessons in these business books that extend beyond our personal career and very well may be the keys we need to share amongst those looking to us for information on where to start and how to start. If you have no interest in looking towards these business books for your creative methods, then I would consider something to benefit your financial plans for the near future. All are lessons that can be found in the genre and should be found in your home.

    • Broke Millennial Series by Erin Lowry (I’m serious, tap in with this)

    Identity/Personal Health/Mental Health:

    Nowadays there is nothing more important than clocking your mental health. Making sure that your well-oiled machine is well…. Well-oiled. And this is something we all go through whether we admit it out loud or not. Sometimes even I find myself stuck in between the lines of who I am and what it is that I’m doing, and I always find that picking books directly related to the struggle of the individual is very helpful in my search for solidifying my identity and making sure I’m not losing myself in the process of creating something else. The book I’ve picked to focus on isn’t an essential mental health book, but an example of something I used to help me understand what it is I’m looking for and how I will find it. That book is “Native Son” by Richard Wright; without explaining too much, the story is a tale of a black man in 1930’s Chicago facing the trials and tribulations that many black men at this time faced. When looked at through the eyes of an all-white society, the main character reminds the judgmental eyes that he is a product of the environment they created for him. And that everything he has done wrong was because of the way he was treated, almost as inhuman.

    This scene brought me to an understanding that no matter how hard I work, I will always be seen in the same light, but that should never stop me from continuing my work. The story inspired me so much that I decided to tattoo its name on my writing arm, allowing me to never forget what I stand for and why I write. The purpose of finding a book that relates to your identity is for this exact reason, to always be a reminder of how the world will treat you, but also a reminder that you will overcome it no matter the cost. Anyone looking for true personal inspiration would likely want to grab something where they can stand in the character’s shoes.

    • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
    • Native Son by Richard Wright
    • The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky

    Magazines & Catalogs: As a collage artist, I find myself always reading magazines and catalogs of all sorts of different genres, not only to cut them out for my own pieces but to give inspiration for any other ideas I may have in the future. I remember reading an old Neptunes interview in an issue of FADER magazine. Before I even felt the urge to put an X-acto knife into a piece of paper I knew that I had a passion for reading and writing interviews. The designs that came with each editorial only pushed that passion even further as I began to study design and imagine what my own articles would look like. Recently I have gifted an issue of Another Magazine from last year where they interviewed Lupita Nyong’o after her most recent box office hit, US. In the interview, Lupita spoke on working with Jordan Peele onset, the process of preparing for her role, and a few other things that relate to her film career personally. Before cutting up this issue I took a step back to understand the importance of that interview and how it motivated me to change the entire outlook of how I would work my art out of respect for Lupita and her hard work. There’s more to magazines than we understand; although they are cut down trees filled with advertisements they also hold powerful pieces of insight that could last years if not decades. To any creative at least 3 magazines at home, you’re doing great.

    Poetry: I’m one of those people who believe poetry to be a very serious art; not just in the terms of making something rhyme beautifully, but also using the combination of words and their meaning to invoke thoughts and feelings normal words would not have. The Japanese used the poetry form of haikus to honor their predecessors and reflect on the world around them. Langston Hughes used his poetic voice to shine a light on the hardships and achievements that blacks dealt with during the early Harlem Renaissance of Amerikkka. Edgar Allen Poe used his gothic, sorrowful style of poetry to voice his personal feelings of the world and the inner ruminations of his mind. Language altogether is an art form, and being able to decipher other styles of language and communication may just help your own style progress—whether it be writing or drawing, understanding how someone uses tools such as words to convey such beautiful or melancholic pieces can go a very long way towards your inspiration. If you’re looking for quick, understandable inspiration that can always keep your motivated towards completing your works I would tear out some poetry pages and paste them to your walls—or you could simply add them to your library.  

    • Anything Shel Silverstein has ever written
    • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
    • HER by Pierre A Jeanty

    Comics & Manga: I’m sure MOST of us understand the importance that graphic novels have on the creative; they themselves are examples of inspired creations brought to life and yet they too work to inspire others. This isn’t just some “I read a Batman comic and it made me wanna be a detective” type of discussion, but a more in-depth look at how graphic novels reflect and inspire us the more we read them. Before I go any further, I want to make something known about what I’m going to say. I am not saying that comics are confined to their own genre ad that all comics are the same. (Honestly, that may be the exact opposite of what I’m saying.) Graphic novels are at their purest form a medium—just like how a TV or a radio is a medium for entertainment—a way to convey a message like all mediums are but created with the idea that you will literally read and see all of what is happening. This medium can extend to all the genres I have mentioned previously and some I may have forgotten to mention. Graphic novels help bring some of the boring page-to-page reading of words more comprehensive to those who truly just want to visualize what’s going on; and even still it relays the same messages that any regular book would say to you. In fact, I believe it to inspire more than just any book. The amount of films and television adaptations that have come from graphic novels is enough to televise a family of 5 for almost a decade (theoretically speaking), I can only imagine what influence that has on a creative looking for artistic inspiration… At this point, if there are no graphic novels in your library you should stop by Barnes & Noble while you can.

    • The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way
    • Maus by Art Spiegelman
    • Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

    These different mediums and genres of books will keep your inspiration meter at full capacity, and whenever you, unfortunately, feel your meter decreasing you can always return to your personal library of inspiration to refuel on the necessary energy needed for your work. And don’t stop at your own library, take this knowledge to those of your friends and families who need it. These books and genres were demonstrated to inspire the creative, but are not only limited to the creative—these books may very well inspire someone to become creative, and that is the whole purpose. Reading is more than sitting and looking at words, sometimes reading is absorbing knowledge that you never knew you needed.


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