Book Reviews

The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

When I was in college, it was sometimes a challenge to find the real text in my textbooks. Some sections were highlighted. Others might be underlined in black, green or red as well--depending upon their relative degree of importance. And the margins were filled with my own notes, arrows and stars. As distracting as that sounds, these visual cues helped me find what I needed when studying for exams. And the process of marking up the pages helped me remember and visualize facts or concepts. It was just my way of learning.

Every once in awhile, I still come across a book that is packed with so much great information that it gets that same treatment. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is one of those books. My copy features not only highlights, underlining and notes in the margin, but a bevy of yellow sticky notes compelling me to return to specific pages on a regular basis. Written by Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, this book can help anyone--not just dancers or choreographers--better tap their creative energy and lead a successful and productive creative life. In particular, Tharp emphasizes, "Being creative is not a once-in-a-while sort of thing. Being creative is an everyday thing, a job with its own routines." Then she proceeds to lay out her own routines, with suggestions for writers, painters, photographers and other creative souls as well. The book is filled with great advice, wonderful examples and even a good dose of exercises.

The bottom line of the book is that creativity is a habit or routine, something that must be practiced--day in and day out. It requires developing and practicing skills--not just the dancing or painting, but the approach to creativity itself. So today I'll leave you with a quote from the book, and urge you to pick up a copy for yourself.

"Without passion, all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life." --Twyla Tharp

Favorite Bookstores

Every book lover has a favorite bookstore. For years, I made special pilgrimages to Oxford Books in Atlanta, which unfortunately closed its doors during the great consolidation--that period when the big chains forced so many independent booksellers out of business. But fortunately, there are still some great independents scattered about the country, and when I travel, I seek them out like I would a favorite restaurant.

For instance, I never visit Asheville, North Carolina, without stopping by Malaprop's Books and The Captain's Bookshelf. In Connecticut, there is Reid & Wright Gallery in New Preston. And a trip to Rockport, Maine, wouldn't be complete without browsing the shelves of photography books at Timothy Whelan Books.

The biggest of all the independent bookstores is Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. I once shipped my dirty laundry home via UPS so that I could fill my rolling suitcase with used books from Powell's. And perhaps my favorite book town and most frequent destination is Berkeley, California. I suppose it's the ultimate college town, so that means good bookstores. There are almost too many to mention, but my favorites are Black Oak Books, Moe's Books, Builder's Booksource and Mrs. Dalloway's Books.

And finally, there is Santa Fe. Right next to Garcia Street Books, a worthy browsing spot, is Photo-Eye Books. Admittedly, the inventory in the Photo-Eye store is a bit limited, but the staff is incredibly helpful and there is nothing quite like their online bookstore. If you want the latest and greatest photobooks, hard-to-find photobooks and signed photobooks, this is the place to go. They have a wonderful newsletter that I always look forward to receiving and that, quite often, gets me into trouble with my accountant. Oh, but I do love my books!

New photo-eye Site Launched

The undisputed best source for photobooks,, just introduced a completely revamped website, which features a redesigned bookstore, gallery, auctions, and newsletters. It also includes Visual Server (a website creator and content manager) and a new USA Photography Guide with links to galleries, associations, festivals/events, schools, workshops, grants, book publishers, periodicals and more. The design is more dynamic and interactive, with larger photos and much improved navigation--especially in the gallery section.

But best of all is the relaunch of the much missed photo-eye Booklist magazine, now simply called photo-eye Magazine, which has become an e-zine. This issue celebrates the 50th anniversary of Robert Frank's The Americans, which ranks among the most influential photography books ever published. The magazine includes features, articles and reviews (this time, all focused on Frank), along with a blog and article archive. Admittedly, I miss the printed copy of Booklist, but I'm thrilled to have this new online resource--which is free and available via RSS subscription.