Every aspiring actor knows how important imagination is to practice the craft, and many successful actors recommend not just reading, but reading proper books to expand your imagination.
An actor with poor imagination is like an accountant with poor math skills. But what trains imagination? There are many things that will help you expand it, but one of the surest ways is reading. Here we’ll list top 10 best books to expand your imagination and inspire creativity.
There was previously a list published on top best creativity books that actors can benefit from, and many creative types have praised that reading material as freeing them from the creative blocks. Best books on imagination work a little different in a way that you don’t try to understand how to stretch your imagination muscles, but actually do so as you read these books. Try some of them, and you will soon see the result and probably get hooked on reading more of the same.
In addition to imagination, CreativeMarket has published a good short article on why reading daily is worth it. According to the article, reading a lot of certain types of books will make you a more creative artist in general, it will exercise your brain, expand knowledge base and give you more confidence.
Reading will train your focus and concentration (which is essential for an actor), it will help you reduce amounts of stress and have a better night’s sleep. Reading a lot will turn you into a better communicator which is a skill that every actor on a stage or a film set can use.
Another, more scientific article from NPR.org has concluded how creativity can be expanded through reading a specific type of books as well as partaking in certain daily activities which will help to expand your imagination. Some of those interesting yet so simple activities for imagination can be found in a few of these books listed below.
Top 10 Best Books to Expand Your Imagination
by Edwin A. Abbott
The first on the list of best books to expand imagination of any aspiring actor is a classical sci-fi satirical novella which is a must-read for anybody. In Flatland: Romance of Many Dimensions, using the world of Flatland, author makes observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. Abbot’s two-dimensional world is occupied by geometric figures, women are simple lines as men are polygons.
“Flatland is recommended to all those who seek to enlighten their view of the universe and of potential universes. It is especially recommended to those seeking higher knowledge of any type. Flatland is truly a multi-dimensional experience and worth every minute.”
by Edward de Bono
This is one of the first, most applicable, well composed scientific and practical explanations of how creative mind works and what makes a person to become more imaginative. The famous collection of studies and explanations, de Bono’s famous Lateral Thinking: A Textbook of Creativity is a results-oriented bestseller that will train readers to move beyond a “vertical” mode of thought to tap the potential of lateral thinking.
“‘Do not limit your mind, don’t assume’ could be a brief summary of the book. The author has made quite a good start, explanining how new ideas could be formed and how the best looking idea may not be the best to pick up. The book would be useful for people who have been in a stable environment, a place where improvements are seen as threats so you couldn’t improve most of the things.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
Did you know that most imaginative and creative people love to read a lot, and they particularly focus on very well crafted fantasy stories that expand their own imagination? Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane would be the first book you should turn to for this sort of thing. A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Times bestseller Anansi Boys.
“Indeed, I was very impressed. For me, this work is, without doubt, first-rate fantasy and escapist fiction… and very fine literature, as well. It delivers a highly imaginative, fabulous and fascinating fable that envelops, and attempts to explain, everything in the space-time continuum. Yes, it’s that ambitious! It had me hooked from the first to the last page. Simply put: it is an incredible gem of a novel.”
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
by Chris Van Allsburg
Yes, it’s for kids, and yes, you can use it too. Trust me when I say that very few books will engage and train your imagination and creative muscles as much as this one. The question is: how far will you go to recreate a story for each of these pictures? The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is comprised of 14 black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, which will entice any actor reading it to make up his or her own story.
“Picture books have a wide range of purposes in this world. They can teach and inform. They can amuse and entertain. Sometimes, though, I think that the most impressive picture books are the ones that inspire. And not in a gosh-doesn’t-that-drawing-of-a-sunset-make-you-want-to-draw-a-sunset-too type mentality. I mean true inspiration. The kind you might find, for example, in Chris Van Allsburg’s incredibly entertaining and mysterious picture book, “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick”.”
The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Numbers
by David Wells
How about something different for a change? Switch up your pace, engage your left side of the brain now, change the direction and challenge the brain to work in different patterns, thereby expanding your imagination and engaging your creative self when breaking down the texts in this book. The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers (Penguin Press Science) is a dictionary of numbers, arranged in order of magnitude, that exposes the fascinating facts about certain numbers and number sequences. The aim of the book is to entertain and enthral the reader, which it certainly does.
“Usually it takes a great deal of insight as well as considerable mathematical training to discover a yet unknown properties of some number. Only recognizing the beauty of a number pattern is much easier, though, especially with a friendly book like this one on hand. Wells, a long-time mathematics popularizer, has collected over 1000 numbers he considers interesting. Each of them is given a short explanation, often accompanied with a bibliographic reference.”
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be
by Paul Arden
With a title like that, this book has to carry something valuable for any person who dedicates themselves to reading it. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be: The world’s best-selling book by Paul Arden is a handbook of how to succeed in the world – a pocket ‘bible’ for the talented and timid to make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible. The world’s top advertising guru, Paul Arden, offers up his wisdom on issues as diverse as problem solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes and creativity, all notions that can be applied to aspects of modern life.
“There’s a lot of very good advice in this book, presented in a very easy to digest format. I come back to this book again and again whenever I need a pep talk, and every time it works. How are being unafraid of failure, having ambition, and being open to new ideas not relevant to your life?”
Gödel, Escher, Bach
by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Another book for your left-side of the brain will enlighten you and provide means and pathways for your creativity and imagination to travel. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (20th anniversary edition with a new preface by the author) is a book about the nature of “maps” or links between formal systems, and a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence.
“As the book introduces the reader to cognitive science, the author draws heavily from the world of art to illustrate the finer points of mathematics. The works of M.C. Escher and J.S. Bach are discussed as well as other works in the world of art and music. Topics presented range from mathematics and meta-mathematics to programming, recursion, formal systems, multilevel systems, self-reference, self-representation and others.”
The Book of Doing
by Allison Arden
This book will be your guide towards becoming a child again – finding ways to enjoy yourself in the most simplest, interesting, funnies and childish activities of your daily life. The Book of Doing: Everyday Activities to Unlock Your Creativity and Joy by Arden, Allison (2012) Paperback will provide you with a collection of ideas and activities that encourage you to use your life as a canvas and explore your creativity through everything you do-to create and make, to explore and experiment, to play and build, to paint and cook-to do. Go ahead. Roll up your sleeves and get to it. It’s time to do the things that make you happiest.
“The creative juices make all the other parts of our day – work and play – more inspired, joyful, and productive. I appreciated the author’s creativity in describing activities we can do alone, with friends, or with family, and I am happy to enthusiastically recommend this book!”
by Roger L. Martin
Another well researched and science-based book on how to expand imagination and use the results to enhance your own creativity. While primarily written for business people, actors will also find this book of great help, since Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking by Martin, Roger L. published by Harvard Business Review Press (2009) teaches how to focus on what exceptional leaders do, and how to understand and emulate what they think, and how they do it. Successful businesspeople engage in what Martin calls integrative thinking creatively resolving the tension in opposing models by forming entirely new and superior ones.
“Some of the most interesting and most valuable material is provided in Chapter 7 as Martin explains how integrative thinkers “connect the dots.” He cites Taddy Blecher as one example. I think the details are best revealed within their context. Suffice to say now that for Blecher, “existing models are to his mind just models, each with something useful to offer.”
by Jorge Luis Borges
This book is something unique in a way that it’s a collection of essays, articles and short stories that will introduce you to one of the most imaginative writers that ever walked the Earth. Use this time to learn from him. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (Penguin Modern Classics) is full of many author’s stories, including the celebrated “Library of Babel”, whose infinite shelves contain every book that could ever exist, ‘Funes the Memorious’ the tale of a man fated never to forget a single detail of his life, and ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the “Quixote”‘, in which a French poet makes it his life’s work to create an identical copy of “Don Quixote”.
“‘Death And The Compass,’ which blends Borges’ vast knowledge of global histories and religions with his love of pulp and genre conventions; the end results are a metaphysical mystery like no others. Or “The Sect Of The Phoenix,” which – in the most simplistic analysis – is a birds-and-bees discourse undertaken with unusual originality, and enhanced with anthropological allegories.”