Books to Read

Throughout my journey as a budding artist there’s one phrase that was said to me over and over: Photography is 90% business and 10% creativity. I went to school (and then later dropped out) for Biological Sciences and Applied Mathematics. When I left to pursue photography full-time I had underestimated the amount of uncreative work that was involved to:

a) Keep your business growing
b) Keep yourself growing

Let me tell you the road to making it looks a lot like this:


See that big tangle in the middle? I’m probably somewhere lost in there. After I left school I was completely dumbfounded on how I would survive doing something creative. I grew up in the public school system  where they spoon feed you a linear path of what the “right” decision is. You’re rarely put into a position in which you have to think on your feet. This was the first time I found myself in completely free to carve my own destiny (excuse the cheese.) Having a broad open road in front of you is both a very exciting and very scary moment.  A few things were clear to me at the time:

1. I knew how to take a decent photo, but not a great photo.
2. I was broke and had a limited amount of time to make photography work
3. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing

I knew if I could find a general solution to these points I’d have a chance at doing something I loved for a living. I found guidance* and motivation via hoarding knowledge from various books. Below is a list of books to read that have helped shape my perspectives.

*I use the word “guidance” specifically because you’ll never find a direct solution through someone else’s life experience. No matter how hard you look.

Straight Up Hustlin’ 

Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

This book is all about the 10,000 hours of focused and dedicated practice you put into developing and honing a craft. Specifically the book gets really nerdy and discusses what happens to us biologically with myelin when we practice a skill over and over. It also makes room for the discussion of whether pure talent is something that you’re born with or something that you can grow. [quote]“The sweet spot: that productive, uncomfortable terrain located just beyond our current abilities, where our reach exceeds our grasp. Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.” – Daniel Coyle[/quote]

Get it here.

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Green

Yes, this is a book about rapper, former gangster, and entrepreneur 50 Cent’s life. What I really enjoyed from this book was how relatable 50 Cent’s struggles were. Starting from literally the bottom and then using street smarts to rise in the music scene is no easy task. The book contains an overarching theme of overcoming the fear of being great.

Get it here.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

If you’re going to be straight up hustlin’ and grindin’ to make your dreams a reality you better structure your lifestyle in a way that will let you find balance with work and play at ease. Tim shares some great ideas and concepts for keep his life focused on his goals.

Get it here.

Asian Efficiency by Aaron Lynn and Thanh Pham

Alright this one is not a book, but it’s an amazing blog that I visit often and complements “The 4-Hour Workweek” nicely. Tim’s book is about ideas and concepts to restructure your life, AE has great articles to help apply these ideas and increase daily productivity. Personally I’ve pimped out my iPhone to do a lot of my work thanks to them.

Read them now:


Business & Networking

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm (who I’d love to photograph sometime in the future *hint hint hit me up!*)  examines trends/social epidemics and tries to explain how and why they occur. If you love processes and looking for patterns, then you’ll like this read.

Get it here.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Oh look another Gladwell book! This time around Malcolm breaks down how and why exceptionally successful people are successful and unravels the logic behind who can succeed and who can’t. Throughout the book he look at how specific elements such as family, culture, friendship, etc each work to shape an individual’s success.

Get it here.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

No matter where you go you’ll always be building relationships along the way. Keith’s book helped me find clarity with building and maintaining meaningful relationships. [quote]”Ping” constantly: The Ins and Outs of reaching out to those in your circle of contacts all the time — not just when you need something. – Keith Ferrazzi[/quote]

Get it here.

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone

What is a difficult conversation? Whenever you and another person do not and perhaps cannot agree. Like “Never Eat Alone” no matter where you go you’ll have to engage and work with people. You can also bet that not everyone you work will agree or even like you. This is a good read to shape how we can communicate and understand each other when there’s a discourse.

Get it here.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kawasaki

Probably one of the best reads (or rather audiobook’d during traffic) I’ve had this year. Robert shares a perspective and understanding of how to make money work for you, rather than having to work for money. As much as I’d like to say that being an artist for a living is all about being creative a good portion of it is business. Learning to understand cash flow will help you design a lifestyle towards financial freedom. 

Get it here.

Books to Get to Re-Motivate Your Butt to Create

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

That little feeling and energy that is the world working against us is embodied as resistance. This is a great pick-me-up when your feeling down.

Get it here.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Austin outlines his book with blunt creative advice. This is a fun, quick read that is a direct manifesto on being a creative.

Get it here.



Creative Theory & Process

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

If you don’t know already: I love, love, love graphic novels! For me they’re the best combination of narrative story telling and still images. This is pretty much a comic book that breaks down comic books under the umbrella of art.

Get it here.

On Photography by Susan Sontag

This collection of essays written by the late Susan Sontag between 1973-1977. If you want to go deep into the rabbit hole of what a photograph is and what it means as representation of its subject matter and as a physical object read this.

Get it here.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Out of this entire list of books, “Blink” was the first one I read. It’s a fun read about how we mentally process information and how our minds can rapidly adapt to various situations.

Get it here.


Technical Reads

Light Science & Magic by Fil Hunter

You need to understand light, therefore you need to read this. The End.

Get it here.

Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen by Steven D. Katz

I’m starting to read more film books these days. Since I set up and conceptualize shoots as narratives I wanted to learn more about camera position, movement, and motivation. Steven’s book discusses storyboarding and pulls from classic examples like Hitchcock’s Birds. 

Get it here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.