6 Books To Read In 2020

The winter break is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and prepare for the challenges of 2020. It’s also a time of frantic Christmas gift buying, where the stresses of inspiration, finances and expectations collide; leaving us clueless on what to get people.

To kill two birds with one stone, I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve enjoyed, which will spark creative minds to develop their craft and inspire those around them.

Powers of Two

“Powers of Two” by Joshua Wolf Shenk

Understanding how success is crafted in the creative industries is complex. Yet, there is a hidden thread which is often present. It is the reason the Beatles, Van Gogh, JRR Tolken and the creators of South Park succeeded in creating works that became timeless.

It often takes two people to drive innovation. Powers of Two delves deep into the relationships of successful creators and how working together unlocked their creative strengths.

Fantastic examples of how working in creative pairs allows us to succeed.

Business for Bohemians

Business for Bohemians” by Tom Hodgkinson

The word business is often seen as “dirty” within the creative industries. It’s associated to making money and the many pointless abbreviations people use when trying to persuade you that starting your own company is complicated. Cast those aside immediately. Making money puts food on the table and allows you to scale your ambitions; and business doesn’t need to be complicated.

But business does need to be structured. Business for Bohemians is a brilliant introduction on what to watch out for when creating a business.

A no nonsense guide to creating a business, with some funny anecdotes thrown in for good measure.

Madam & Eve

“Madam & Eve” by Kathleen Soriano

Unable to name a woman artist as readily as a male one? You’re not the only one. As a society we’ve been skewed towards celebrating the men in our fields and cast a long shadow over the works of incredibly talented women artists. Time to change that!

Madam & Eve is the perfect antidote to a societal bias; shining a light on the incredible women artists who have enriched our lives through their craft. It’s a work of beauty which should be read fully and placed ceremoniously on your coffee table to share with everyone.

A beautiful compendium of female artists expertly put together by Kathleen Soriano.

The Empathy Instinct

“The Empathy Instinct” by Peter Bazalgette

The value of the creative industries is not easy to make a case for. Our government struggles to understand it, cutting back on the funding that we depend on. This trickles down into our education and upbringing. It’s likely you’ve come across this bias in conversations that contain any of the following words: “real jobs”, “no money in it”, “oh, that’s nice”.

The Empathy Instinct, written by the former Chair of Arts Council, Sir Peter Bazalgette – is a brilliant take on why creativity matters and its financial and societal impact on us. Sir Peter makes a clear and thrilling case made all the better by accessible language and real-world examples.

Make a case for why creativity matters and is valuable to the UK.

If you really wanted to hammer the point home, you could include the Arts Dividend by Darren Henley, the current CEO of the Arts Council. Which develops the subject further and is an equally thrilling read.

Start with Why

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

Getting people to understand what you do quickly is no mean feat. The arts are a brilliant form of self-expression, but this doesn’t mean you won’t face moments where explaining your thoughts on a project don’t translate well into conversations and pitches.

If you’ve ever struggled to get your work understood by people around you, Start with Why is a brilliant summary on how to create narratives people will care about. Here’s a teaser of what to expect with Simon Sineks TED talk which inspired the book.

Having trouble getting people to understand and care about what you do – this will help.

Curve Ball

Being Mortal

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

Death isn’t the first thing that comes to mind during the Christmas season; actually, it’s a subject we like to ignore and cast aside. Yet, knowing there is an end can inspire us to make the most of the time we have been given.

Being Mortal is in no way related to the creative industries; but is a necessary insight into our mortality by a surgeon who enriches his thoughts with personal stories. It helps define what matters most to you by reminding us all that time is finite and should be respected.

Remind yourself that time is finite and should be spent doing what you love.

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About the author


Guy Armitage founded Zealous to simplify access to opportunities in the creative sector. He was voted Guardian’s Creative Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, has discussed the world-changing potential of creativity at TED and in Forbes; and is a proud trustee of Firstsite (Colchester) and Arebyte (London). Prior to Zealous, Guy kept the London Stock Exchange open during the 7/7 bombings and founded a creative startup in Cairo. Contact Guy