CreativeMornings Book Lists

10 Books on Bravery

Designers & Books has partnered with CreativeMornings on its theme for November: “Bravery”

November 15, 2013

Designers & Books has partnered with CreativeMornings, a themed “breakfast lecture series for creative people” taking place in multiple global locations each month, to provide book lists on each month’s theme. The theme for November is “Bravery.”

Illustration by Stewart Scott-Curran

In the spirit of the diverse way that bravery will be portrayed in the November CreativeMornings presentations around the world, we have a list of ten books that are equally wide-ranging in how they acknowledge “courageous actions and bold examples of heroism.”

From the internationally recognized artist Ai Weiwei we have writings that document his struggle as an individual against a central government that has relentlessly tried to quiet him (Ai Wewei’s Blog). Contrasted with that is the diary of a persecuted adolescent Jewish girl secreted in an Amsterdam annex (The Diary of a Young Girl).

The story of man’s confrontation with Nature and inner demons in Moby Dick has attracted the recommendation of eight Designers & Books contributors. And Harry Pearce (from Pentagram’s London office) recommends Gandhi’s autobiography as “one of the most sincere and inspiring books you’ll ever read.” The reason he feels this way is perhaps reflected in the book’s subtitle: The Story of My Experiments with Truth.

We hope you’ll enjoy these books we’ve gathered for you on the theme of bravery. If you have books on this theme that are important to you, and that you would like to note and recommend to the CreativeMornings community, you can do so by going to our Community Book Lists and adding your recommendation to the special CreativeMornings book list devoted to bravery.

Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006–2009 Ai Weiwei

Amanda Dameron comments on Ai Wewei’s Blog:

“I picked this one up at the Monterey Design Conference last year, knowing that the architect and artist Ai Weiwei had maintained an important online diary that had contained his musings on art, politics, design, furniture, people, and a great deal many other things. I knew that the Chinese government had shut the blog down on several occasions but had done little to dampen the author’s influence both in his own country and abroad. The way that it’s written and printed, with many entries, some short, some longer, make it possible to open this book at any page and get sucked in immediately. I just opened it, and I landed on this: “Writing one’s feelings is simple, but can also be a difficult thing, for at least the following reasons: You can’t be sure this is really what you are thinking; If you write something down, it will never be anything else.”

The Bald Mermaid Sheila Bridges

Sheila Bridges writes in The Bald Mermaid about coping with alopecia:

“It had reached the point when the locks I was losing were calling all the shots. So instead of trying to hide or deny my hair loss, I decided I would literally face it head on.”

Ball Four Jim Bouton

Michael Bierut comments on Ball Four:

“My favorite book as a kid, not so much about baseball as about the loneliness and absurdity of practicing a skill under pressure and in front of an audience.”


Beauty Is in the Street Johan Kugelberg Editor
Philippe Vermès Editor

Rick Poynor comments on Beauty Is in the Street:

“As the ‘Occupy’ protests spread around the world, this high-impact record of the May 1968 uprising against the French government in the streets of Paris couldn’t be timelier.”


The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank

Margaret McCurry comments on The Diary of a Young Girl:

“To understand the persecutor and the persecuted and the absurdity of war, I read Remarque’s poignant antiwar story of a furloughed German soldier along with Anne Frank’s evermore poignant diary of a Jewish adolescent secreted in an Amsterdam annex. Neither survives the war.”

Flying Without a Net Thomas J. DeLong

Debbie Millman comments on Flying Without a Net:

“Harvard Business School Professor Tom DeLong has written an insightful motivational primer based on extensive research and consulting work with high corporate achievers. He analyzes the forces that escalate anxiety in “need-for-achievement” personalities and presents new models for professionals who want to live a life based on courage as opposed to fear.”

Gandhi, An Autobiography Mohandas K. Gandhi

— Harry Pearce comments on Gandhi, An Autobiography:

“One of the most sincere and inspiring books you’ll ever read. It’s as much about all the mistakes and the lessons learned along the way as it is about anything one would normally view as success. A humbling read.”

Moby Dick Herman Melville

— On 8 Designers & Books lists: Steven Holl, Phyllis Lambert, Greg Lynn, Margaret McCurry, Eric Own Moss, Jaquelin Robertson, Michael Rock, and Tod Williams

— Greg Lynn comments on Moby Dick:

“I first read this book when I was 14 years old while a volunteer first mate on a concrete sailboat in Lake Erie taking at-risk teens offshore for three to five days at a time.”

Speak, Memory Vladimir Nabokov

— Maira Kalman comments on Speak, Memory:

“Nabokov’s memoir—from his early childhood in privileged Russian high society to his refugee days in Paris. Nabokov is my favorite writer. There is both rigorous precision and strange melancholy. And joy. And beauty. And humor.”

Vindication: A Novel Frances Sherwood

— Lisa Jenks comments on Vindication:

“I read this novel what seems to me ages ago, yet it still sticks in my head. It is a fairly historically accurate, novelized biography of Mary Wollstonecraft. She was a champion of the rights of women in the 18th century—quite an early feminist. The book left a deep impression on me because it is such a juicy story with many details of what it was like to live as a woman during that time. It is a compelling portrait of a remarkable woman—what she had to do to survive and what she accomplished despite all that. She is known for having written A Vindication of the Rights of Women in addition to giving birth to author Mary Shelley.”

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