A 12-step plan to recovering your creativity, fun brain training exercises, a glimpse into the messy minds of creative people and a reason to embrace what makes you unique. 

This month’s book roundup features ways to train your brain, unleash your creativity and reach your potential. As we get older, we exercise our bodies and our opinions, but we often forget to exercise our brains. Some say that creativity and intelligence are use-it-or-lose-it skills, and keeping our mind active can contribute to a happier, fuller life. In that spirit, we present a 12-step program to recovering your creative spirit, embracing what makes you different, a glimpse inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people, fun brain training exercises to enhance your intelligence, ways to turn the things that bring you down into things that fuel your life, give you a virtual whack on the side of your head, and offer ways to create a mind/body balance to help you thrive.


The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

A personal favorite, I turn to The Artist’s Way when I am looking to get back in touch with my own creativity. Cameron has created a literal 12-step program that mirrors other recovery programs to get back in touch with your own creativity. The exercises in the book are presented as a prescription that must be followed, but as you embark on your personal journey, it is up to you to decide whether you will follow the instructions to the letter or use it as a guidepost to choose your activities. Starting with a commitment to free writing for just a few minutes every day, to taking yourself on a solo “artist’s date” for an hour a week, even a glance at the introduction and a reading of each chapter can bring you more in touch with your creative side if you open yourself up to the possibilities.



Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant

Throughout history, the movers and the shakers of the world have overwhelmingly been categorized as non-conformists. In Originals, Grant explores the similarities among noted “oddballs” – they tend to be expert procrastinators; are often late bloomers and late adopters; usually have only moderate expertise in their given field but a wide range of outside interests; produce a few good ideas culled from excessive brainstorming; and are actually more cautious than their colleagues. He notes that they are just as filled with self-doubt as the rest of us, but the difference lies in that they’ve learned how to move forward in spite of or because of those fears. In Originals, Grant shows us how we can use those same skills to encourage our children to become free-thinkers, how and when to speak up and be a non-conformist at work, and how to keep our originality throughout our lives. Overall, Originals presents a new perspective on our potential to find our place in the world and make a unique and lasting impact by rejecting conformity and marching to our own drums.


Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. and Carolyn Gregoire

Inspired by their viral Huffington Post article “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently,” the authors set out to shine a light on the practices and habits of mind that promote creative thinking. In Wired to Create, we are granted a rare peek inside the “messy minds” of highly creative people, as the authors encourage all of us to embrace our innate drive to create at any age. “It is not so much that we lose our creativity as it is that we tell ourselves that we are not creative, and stop allowing ourselves to use our imagination,” the authors explained in a recent interview. “The good news is that the creativity is not lost — we can tap into it as soon as we make the decision to give ourselves permission to create.”


The Ultimate Brain Trainer, by Abhinav Verma

Just as you train your body, get on-the-job training and train your resolve to resist eating that last piece of cake, your mind needs a good workout as well. In The Ultimate Brain Trainer, Verma provides a plethora of mental exercises to train and strengthen various areas of your brain to keep it agile and versatile. The exercises focus on brain-fitness aspects such as logical/mathematical ability, lateral thinking, spatial intelligence, observation skills, memory, and linguistic intelligence, and they are as fun as they are helpful. Learn more and download the introduction and sample exercises on GooglePlay.


Insanely Gifted: Turn Your Creative Demons into Creative Rocket Fuel, by Jamie Catto (coming July 14)

We all try hard to present a strong appearance that we’re fine and confident, but is the energy we spend worrying and crafting our outward persona helping or hurting us? Catto interviewed musicians, writers, criminals and kids on the street to discover that the anxiety, panic and worry we all experience can actually fuel our lives and propel us in more positive directions. He likens it to superhero training, asserting, in a way, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. But, he cautions, you need to put yourself into the right mindset to use these powers for good and not for self-harm. In letting yourself be vulnerable and embracing what scares and challenges you, you can unlock an inner potential that far exceeds anything you have imagined for yourself, Catto asserts. Pick up the book for the inspiring and fascinating stories and it may just leave you with the fuel to empower your own transformation.


A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger Von Oech

From the fellow who brought us “The Creative Whack Pack” deck of cards and App comes a fun way to turn problems on their ears and see challenges in a whole new light. Von Oech provides insightful problem-solving strategies through anecdotes and fables, puzzles, exercises and illustrations that help readers break through mental blocks and unlock the mind. Whether you’re stuck on a particularly sticky problem, are at a turning point in your life, or you’re simply looking for inspiration, this light, fun read will fit the bill.


Thrive: An Environmentally Conscious Lifestyle Guide to Better Health and True Wealth, by Kamea Chang

What would you be capable of if you open your mind and five senses to live in the moment? What if you take care of your mind, body and environment to thrive in the future? In Thrive, Chang provides a simple guidebook for conducting your life in a mindful, harmonious way. From ways to approach travel and meeting new people to suggestions for holistically balanced diets and an environmentally-friendly, non-toxic product guide, the author’s gentle suggestions provide a solid reference you can refer to again and again whether you want to bring more mindfulness to your life or live a more harmonious life.


Up next month: Summer beach reads for every mood and occasion, from romance to mystery and beyond.