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Book List No. 10: Failure

Titlecard image provided by Shutterstock.

This August’s theme is Failure, chosen by our Singapore chapter. In her Great Discontent interview, past CreativeMornings/New York speaker Debbie Millman speaks on failure saying:

I was really ashamed of all my failures for a long time. Now, I feel it’s important to share these experiences. I am hopeful that it can give other people hope and context to see things a bit differently. It’s not a failure until you stop trying.

From epic disasters to minor stumbles, this month’s speakers are opening up some past wounds and baring scars their own failures. We picked out ten books on the topic to get you thinking about failure in a new way—maybe not even as a failure at all!

So, if at first you don’t succeed, pick up one of these reads and in the words of talented artist Aaliyah: “dust yourself off and try again.”


The Top Ten:

  1. Design Disasters, by Steven Heller
    This one was recommended by our favorite folks at Designers & Books. How do you turn disaster into a triumph? Heller delves into some of the most public design failures and features essays by past CreativeMornings speakers such as Alissa Walker, Allan Chocinov and Debbie Millman.

  2. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, by Tim Harford
    As the world evolves and changes, we can’t tackle today’s problems with yesterday’s solution. Hartford explains that concept in Adapt, offering up solutions on how to turn failure into successing by—you guessed it—adapting.

  3. The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery, by Sarah Lewis
    We uncovered this gem of a read over on Brainpickings (where all good things come from). Art historian, curator and art advocate Sarah Lewis shares how “discoveries, innovations, and creative endeavors often, perhaps even only, come from uncommon ground.” She tells stories of failures throughout history, making the case how how they have paved the way for some of the world’s greatest achievements.

  4. To Forgive Design, by Henry Petroski
    Another recommendation from Designers & Books, this book is a survey of some of the most infamous (and mostly avoidable) failures of our time, digging into the interconnectedness of technology and culture to learn from history. Petroski’s book is like your future self coming back to tell you how to avoid making that big mistake that will destroy the world.

  5. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance, by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman
    Katty Kay & Claire Shipman teach us the secret to being confidenct, and the impact of what failing to do so can impact our leadership, success, and fulfillment. Focusing on women (but applicable to all genders), The Confidence Code encourages more risk-taking and fast failure.

  6. Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull
    By far the most recommended book to us by our community, Creativity, Inc. tells the story of Pixar Animation and the strategies and techniques they used to merge creativity with business, written by Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull himself.

  7. Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath
    What makes an idea stick? The Heaths tackle this concept and the six traits that make concepts spread in this read. They cover success and failure in this book recommended by Tom Kelley.

  8. Pie #04 - Failure
    We stumbled upon this one when we made our call out to our community. Based in Auckland, Pie Paper is a creative publication. Their fourth edition was on failure as an intrinsic part of experimentation, creativity and, perhaps inconveniently, life.

  9. Good to Great, by Jim Collins
    Collins uses a team of researchers to identify benchmarks of 28 companies that take a company from good to great. He shares their findings, saying, “Some of the key concepts discerned in the study fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

  10. To Engineer Is Human, by Henry Petroski
    Petroski is at it again, really digging into some of the most epic design failures and why they happened. Full of unpredictable risk and actual failure, this book tells us about the inevitable risk and danger that come with our rapid evolution. Bummer, dude.

If you’re a winner and already read these titles, check out our Pinterest Board, Theme 21: Failure, which includes even more failure reads. Read on.

Follow CreativeMornings’s board Theme 21: Failure on Pinterest.

Have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments below.

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