The best books on creativity – creative books for your bookshelf

By Sam Steele & Jamie Bell, 4 March 2021 | 10 mins read

Ever wondered where creatives get their ideas from? We did, so we went straight to the source. Our ECD, Jamie Bell, has more won awards than you can shake a stick at – and has even more books on creative ideas and advertising in his personal library than he does gongs on his shelves. We asked him for his top five books for creative thinkers – and, as usual, he overdelivered. So, as well as his five favourites, there’s a MASSIVE list of other titles to sink your teeth into and unleash your creative potential.

Let’s see what made the cut…


1. A technique for producing ideas by James Webb Young

Since its publication in 1965, A Technique for Producing Ideas has helped thousands of advertising copywriters smash through internal barriers to unleash their creativity and ramp up their creative confidence.

2. Changing the World is the only fit work for a grown man by Steve Harrison

Ever heard of the man they called the Socrates of San Francisco? This is the story of a sixties adman who harnessed the big ideas of his age and set out to reinvent advertising – and then change the world. In doing so he introduced interactive, PR-generating stunts, and social media – way back in the 1960s. Written by Steve Harrison, industry legend, entrepreneur and mentor to our own ECD, this is of the most inspiring books on creativity ever written.

3. Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott

Predatory Thinking is a masterclass in how to outwit the competition – in ordinary life, as well as in business. If you don’t extract some creative wisdom from this book, then you are frankly dead inside (just sayin’).

4. The Advertising Concept Book Vol3 by Pete Barry

Fifty years’ worth of international, award-winning ad campaigns, in the form of over 500 ‘roughs’ specially sketched by the author, reinforce the book’s core lesson – that a great idea will last forever. Pete Barry goes straight to the essence of how to write a great ad. Work out what you want to say, who you are saying it to, and how you want to say it.

5. Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent) by George Lois

Put simply, an encyclopedia of inspiration for creativity, design thinking and success. Presenting iconic lessons from America’s ‘Master Communicator’, this book is a bible of breakthrough thinking.


The Power of Ignorance: How creative solutions emerge when we admit what we don’t know by Dave Trott

In this latest collection of real-life stories, Dave Trott provides lessons about problem solving and finding a creative habit that can be applied in advertising, business, and the wider world. With his trademark wit, wisdom and critical eye, he shows how great problem solvers and creative thinkers are those who are not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’.

Blah! Blah! Blah! by Dave Buonaguidi

Understanding what motivates creative people is half the battle. This book is a fun, abrasive, and rambling journey through Dave Buonaguidi’s diverse career, from small London ad agencies to top multinationals. Along the way he co-founded four creative agencies, found success as a print artist, and now works as a public speaker and business adviser to start-ups. His story shows that working your arse off pays dividends, that if you’re nice and good, interesting projects will come your way, that everything gets better when you’re having fun, and that doing great work is f**king hard. A brilliant and inspiring read.

Creative Mischief by Dave Trott

A classic from the bookshelf, Creative Mischief collects together all of the highlights from Dave Trott’s online blog about advertising. Part autobiography, part short story, part how-to advice, each of the entries will refresh your thinking about any creative process, whether it belongs to advertising, writing a book, or managing a team of employees.

Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

Rory Sutherland is the ad industry legend and consummate creative mind whose TED Talks have been viewed nearly 7 million times. In his first book, he blends cutting-edge behavioural science, jaw-dropping stories and a touch of branding magic, on his mission to turn us all into idea alchemists. The big problems we face every day, whether as an individual or in society, could very well be solved by letting go of logic and embracing the irrational.

Hoopla by Crispin Porter, Alex Bogusky & Warren Berger

They’ve been called ‘the ad world’s most talked-about agency’. They did it with bold publicity stunts, infectious viral marketing strategies, funny masks, folding paper, outrageous Internet hoaxes, and a weird, garter belt-wearing chicken who became a cultural sensation. And this random madness has a very sound method to it – Hoopla.

Laughing@Advertising by Bob Hoffman

In Laughing@Advertising, Bob Hoffman has collected his most irresponsible and inappropriate blog posts, essays, and cave drawings. 200 pages of insults, wise cracks, cheap shots, and dirty words. In other words, fun for the whole family! At last, we can all laugh at ourselves.

Well Written and Red by Alfredo Marcantonio

It is now over 30 years since The Economist ran the first of its eye-catching ‘White out of Red’ posters. This 256-page volume features almost 200 of the advertisements that have helped The Economist increase its UK circulation from just over 80,000 in 1987, to almost a quarter of a million today.

Guerilla Advertising 1 & 2 by Gavin Lucas & Michael Dorrian

Featuring some of the work above, these books show the best international examples of the varied and inventive tactics that are being used today by big-name brands, non-profit organizations, and individuals to promote themselves, their ideas, and their products. Over 150 international campaigns are featured and grouped according to their approach – Stunts, Street Propaganda, Sneaky Tactics, Site-Specific Campaigns and Multi-Fronted Attacks.

Hegarty On Creativity: There Are No Rules by John Hegarty

Hegarty’s message is always crystal clear and promotes the benefits of simplifying, thinking boldly and being undaunted by challenges. With this book, when a challenge confronts them, readers will find that one of the great minds in advertising is there to guide them and help them solve problems of the creative kind.

Baked In by Alex Bogusky & John Winsor

If there is one thing in design thinking to remember, it’s that brands must build a new relationship with their customers, and the culture they participate in. Baked In gives a step-by-step guide on how to adapt and succeed in this brave new world, where the product is not separate from the message but is the message.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

A handbook of how to succeed in the world – and a pocket guide for the talented and timid alike to help make the unthinkable thinkable, and the impossible possible.

Hegarty On Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic by John Hegarty

This is a book that no creative professional should be without. A masterclass in original thinking.

One Plus One Equals Three by Dave Trott

How do you make something out of nothing? The stories in this book are a rallying cry for anyone who wants to think differently, stand out, and truly innovate.

How To Write Better Copy by Steve Harrison

Whether you’re an agency writer in need of inspiration, a one-woman band drumming up work from new clients off Google, an established business trying to get more from that mysterious thing called ‘content’, or you simply want to persuade your colleagues to adopt your point of view, How To Write better Copy by Steve Harrison will help you write better copy.

Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity by Laura Jordan Bambach, Mark Earls and Scott Robinson

This is a book that Twitter VP Bruce Daisley described as ‘A book that made my brain fizz’. And I agree.

The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

This is the ultimate guide to visual awareness, a magical compilation that will entertain and inspire all those who enjoy the interplay between word and image, and who relish the odd and the unexpected.

Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign by Randall Rothenburg

Rothenberg’s book is a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the brief – and very troubled – marriage between a beleaguered automobile company and Wieden & Kennedy, an aggressively hip ad agency whose creative director despised cars. An absolutely BRILLIANT read!

Gig Poster by Clay Hayes

Since 2001, has been the internet’s first and best resource for rock-show poster art. Packaged in an oversized 11×14” paperback, Gig Posters Volume I is a spectacular compilation of rock show art (and one hell of a cheap way to decorate a dorm room or apartment).

The Copy Book by D&AD & Taschen

First Published in 1995, the D&AD copy book is the bible for copy craft. So, if you’re looking for the clues to well-written, effective, and compelling stories that make great advertising, look no further. I ‘recommend’ that you buy and read this book. Take that as you will…

Creativity by John Cleese

Creativity is usually regarded as a mysterious, rare gift that only a few possess. John Cleese begs to differ, and in this short, immensely practical, and often very amusing guide about creativity he shows it’s a skill that anyone can acquire.

The Packaging Design Book by Taschen

Featuring a selection of hundreds of works, this book brings together Pentawards winners from 2008 to 2016, providing a vivid demonstration of creativity in every form of packaging.

Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon

In one of the most original books of its kind ever written, Patrick Hanlon explains how the most powerful brands create a community of believers.

How to Have Great Ideas by John Ingledew

A brilliant read that will make even the most ardent cynic feel a love for all things ideas.

Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell by Steve Harrison

The advertising industry has lost interest in selling. We’re now so left-leaning, we’re no longer willing to stoke capitalism’s engine of growth. Steve Harrison digs deep into the question of whether or not advertising will rediscover its commercial purpose, or double down on social purpose and drift further to the margins. Another great book from the smartest man in the business.

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. by Luke Sullivan

Today’s consumer has seen it all, and they’re less likely than ever to even notice your masterpiece of art and copy, let alone internalise it. Your job is to craft a piece that rises out of the noise to make an impact. Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. provides the knowledge to create impressive, compelling work.

How to Do Better Creative Work by Steve Harrison

Effective creative work is not a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity – and it’s the only way you’ll stand out in a fiercely competitive marketplace. Whether you’re in digital, direct, or advertising, the CEO of an agency or just starting out, How to Do Better Creative Work has been written for you.

So, there you have it. A pretty impressive list, if we do say so ourselves. Although if you do have any other recommendations, get in touch with us here, as we’d love to hear from you…

We’re off to find our reading glasses, there’s learning to be done.