Tom Kelley

Writer; Lecturer; Executive / Product Design / United States / IDEO

Tom Kelley’s Book List

I have always been in love with books, and currently have more than a thousand at home, with bookshelves in nearly every room of the house (including the kitchen). It was fun—but very challenging—to narrow the field to a manageable list of the most relevant or influential. All the books on my “favorites” list are about inspiring creative work, but only one actually has the word “design” in the title.

6 books
Steven Pressfield

Pressfield never suggests that creative work will be easy. In fact, he explains why it is hard. And then he declares war on the inertia, procrastination, self-doubt, and what he calls “Resistance” that stands between us and our creative best. I know from first-hand experience that recognizing Resistance can help you beat it—at least some of the time.

Carol Dweck , Ph.D.

Psychologist Carol Dweck makes a compelling case for a simple but potentially life-changing idea: that neither your skills nor your talent nor even your intelligence are set in stone. Dweck says that once you embrace a “growth mindset” you fundamentally believe that your fullest abilities are “unknown and unknowable.” I have looked at the world differently since meeting Carol Dweck and reading her book.

Ken Robinson
With Lou Aronica

What Sir Ken Robinson calls “The Element” is something we all might hope to find: a vocation or a craft so engaging that it fuels our passions, so intrinsically rewarding that it blurs the line between work and play. He puts into words what many of us have long felt about the deep satisfaction that comes from living a creative life.

Emily Pilloton

Emily Pilloton is my design hero. Thirty years from now, people will be calling her a national treasure, and they will point to this book as an early milestone in her journey. The book’s collection of 100 social-innovation/design projects was just the jumping off point for Emily’s subsequent ventures: a cross-country Design Revolution Road Show, a hands-on design thinking curriculum for high school kids, a design-and-build summer camp for tween girls, and a documentary film on the power of design thinking. It’s not just a book. It’s the harbinger of a bright future.

Chip Heath
Dan Heath

Storytelling is an essential tool for all creative endeavors, and the Heath brothers show us how it’s done. I have read a lot (and written a bit) on the craft of storytelling, and this is the best book I have seen on how to make your ideas come alive. Chip and Dan explore the essential ingredients of urban myths that seem to instantly go viral. Not stopping there, they show how to blend those ingredients into our own stories to make them “stickier.”

Steven Johnson

Examining the sweep of human history, the ever-brilliant Steven Johnson identifies the fundamental principles of innovation and spells them out in this insightful book. He demonstrates how one idea builds on another, sparking creative breakthroughs all the way from the printing press to the World Wide Web. By explaining the complex interactions that nurtured innovations of the past, Johnson helps point us toward the future.

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