Good Minds Suggest: Elizabeth Gilbert's Favorite Books About Creative InspirationSeptember, 2015
Elizabeth Gilbert's fame as a soul searcher is immortalized in her bestselling spiritual quest memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. Researching that book took her around the world from Italy to India to Bali, but this writer and journalist knows that "finding yourself" doesn't always involve frequent-flyer miles. For those of us who still seek inspiration even as we live our everyday lives, Gilbert has written Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. This self-help guide breaks down the creative process while addressing the doubts and fears many artists face as they attempt to make space in their lives for their passions. Gilbert herself has produced an eclectic body of work that ranges from a biography of an Appalachian naturalist, The Last American Man, to a historical novel about a female botanist in the 19th century, The Signature of All Things. The New Jersey-based writer shares the five books that have encouraged and cajoled her into creating her best work.
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
"This book has been around for a long time, and I hope it sticks around forever. It offers a spiritual (yet pragmatic) program of creative exploration that works like a dream. I've used Cameron's simple, playful, and often profound exercises many times in my life—usually between projects—when I'm trying to figure out what to create next. In fact, it was my explorations through The Artist's Way that led me to embark on my Eat, Pray, Love journey (I had never before realized how badly I wanted to learn Italian!), and for that gift alone I am forever grateful."
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
"The original and the best. Rilke's compassionate letters of encouragement to an aspiring young poet have provided inspiration and comfort to artists for many generations. A kind English teacher gave me this book when I was a sophomore in high school, and that gesture alone (an adult taking my dreams seriously by giving me a book about another adult who took someone's dreams seriously) was a seminal moment in my creative life. It made me think: This is possible."
Life Work by Donald Hall
"Another poet offers up wisdom, encouragement, and grace! I adore the way Hall talks about his life of writing. Refusing to play the tired old role of 'tormented artist,' he proves that it's possible to ground your creative existence in a lifetime of pleasure, wonder, and joy. Why should we not enjoy our creativity, he asks, and why should we not be grateful for it? 'Work is my obsession,' he writes, 'but it is also my devotion.' Amen."
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
"This tiny, obscure memoir was originally published in 1943 but recently came back into print. I wish every woman in the world would read it. In candid and brilliant prose, Hathaway tells how her life of pain and physical restriction (she suffered from severe spinal tuberculosis) burst into limitless expansion because of her brave creative endeavors. Through her art, she transformed herself from helpless invalid to fiery goddess. Her simple rule of existence? Always choose curiosity over fear."
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön
"Speaking of fear...if you're going to live a creative life, you're going to need to deal with the subject of fear at some point. (Creativity, after all, always triggers our fear—since creativity asks us to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and our fear really hates uncertain outcomes!) Therefore, all creators need tools to help them through their own valleys of anxiety. This book, written by my favorite Buddhist teacher, belongs in the studio of anyone who longs to create—and who longs to walk that unpredictable path with courage and dignity rather than panic and paralysis."
Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books on Creative Life