The book in 3 sentences

  • Nothing is truly original so don’t shackle yourself creatively in the pursuit of pure originality
  • Be inspired by the things around you and the work of others; Incorporate your influences and inspirations into your work in your own way
  • Don’t copy other people’s work; enhance it and make it your own


I read this book as a follow up to the first Austin Kleon book I read, ‘Show your work’, which is an excellent book about putting yourself out there and sharing your thoughts, ideas, and processes with people. What I like about Austin’s work is that it is really informative but at the same time is short and easy to read making it accessible for everyone.

‘Steal like an artist’ was a very interesting read for me personally. I have always wanted to be creative and make things and through my creative journey, short as it may be, I have come across the issue of originality a few times. No idea is completely new or original so how do you make things without stealing or plagiarising? For me the solution was to be influenced and inspired by different people and things and to incorporate those inspirations into my work in my own words while making sure to give credit to my sources. It can feel at times like you are simply copying and are not good enough to create anything new for yourself. I myself have fallen into this trap of hyper originality and have found myself demotivated and inconsistent with the things I want to create.

This book describes a similar process to the one I take when incorporating my influences into my work but breaks it down in a much more detailed and well thought out way. It also goes into the mentality behind this process and how you should see your inspirations and influences and what it means to incorporate them into the things you create. This book demystifies the idea of originality and makes it ok to use your influences in your work. It also gives you guidelines and practices to use when ‘stealing’ from the people you love that are very practical and useful pieces of advice.

Overall, this was a quick and easy read while still being incredibly informative. I would definitely recommend this if you are struggling with your own creativity or originality, and need a new perspective or mindset. This book is an excellent tool to help frame the way you research things and absorb information throughout your life and can help guide your thoughts when it comes to using that information to make your own things.

How I Discovered It

I discovered this book from a youtuber named Ali Abdaal; he has a great YouTube channel about productivity, study tips, and advice on how to be successful and the best version of yourself in general. I recommend his channel if you are looking for a new perspective on life and experiencing life or if you are trying to become more productive and learn more skills.

Who Should Read It?

If you are a creative person, or think you would like to do something creative in the future, then you should definitely give this book a read. It won’t tell you what to make or how to make it but it will give you tips and guidelines on how to find inspiration and make the best work possible.

You should also read it if you are suffering with imposter syndrome or the idea that your work is not original or unique enough to keep working on or share with people. Nothing is original and this book does a great job of breaking this down so that you can feel comfortable leaning on your heroes and inspirations to guide your work and your actions.

My Top 3 Quotes

  1. What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.
  2. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influence.
  3. Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by. You have to be curious about the world in which you live. Look things up. Chase down every reference. Go deeper than anybody else—that’s how you’ll get ahead.

If you would like to read the book for free before purchasing then sign up for Kindle Unlimited and try their free trial. The Kindle Unlimited Free Trial is a great way to try over 1 million books, thousands of audiobooks, and popular magazines on any device. Audible also have free trials you can take advantage of!

Categories: Book reviews