Exploring Your Creative Side: 7 Playful Activity Books for Adults

By Maria Popova

The intersection of childhood and adulthood is a frequent area of curiosity around here, from beloved children's books with timeless philosophy for adults to quirky coloring books for the eternal kid. Today, we turn to seven wonderful activity books for grown-ups that inject a little more whimsy and playfulness into your daily grind.

1. CHEERFUL IN 3 ½ MONTHS

"The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results," Einstein famously proclaimed. In Cheerful In 3 ½ Months, spotted last week at the NY Art Book Fair, author Gerard Jansen invites you to do precisely the opposite, finding your sanity by doing things a bit differently than you're used to. The utterly delightful pocket-sized volume, with gorgeous illustrations by Dutch designer Sue Doeksen, offers one offbeat daily task each day to put some cheer in your life.

Here's a sneak peek at the Dutch version, subsequently translated in English:

2. THE OPEN DAY BOOK

You might recall The Open Day Book by LA-based writer and artist David P. Earle and our friends at Mark Batty -- a wonderful interactive perpetual calendar with artwork by 365 of today's most exciting visual artists, one for each day of the year. Each dated page allows you to fill in your schedule or jot down a creative response to the artwork, turning it into a weird and wonderful hybrid of datebook, sketchbook, and daily art journal. Featured in the book are favorite artists like Chuck Jones, Miranda July, Dallas Clayton (), Stefanie Posavec ( ), and Christoph Niemann ( ).

Christoph Niemann

Dallas Clayton

Miranda July

Chuck Jones

Stefanie Posavec

Catch our full review, with more images, here.

3. EVERYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN IN A DAY

Also from our friends at Mark Batty comes Everything That Can Happen in a Day -- a playful activity journal by artist David Horvitz, who every day over the course of 2009 posted a different exercise on his blog, encouraging readers to follow along and insert some art into daily life. From poetry readings in ATM kiosks to tagging along with the mailman on his route, this compendium collects Horvitz's favorite ideas for injecting art and humor into the ordinary, with plenty of negative space for you to doodle and take notes on your own experience.

4.WRECK THIS BOX

Author, illustrator, and guerrilla artist Keri Smith is a masterful and prolific creator of the interactive journals. Wreck This Box is a wonderful box set of her three masterpieces: Wreck This Journal, a lovely illustrated journal inviting you to conjure your best mistake-making skills and indulge your destructivist demons as part of the creative process, This Is Not a Book, which rethinks the purpose and function of a book and invites you along for the journey, and Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, a potent antidote for your lifelong conditioning for overthinking and fear of being wrong. Even the box set itself comes with instructions for how to wreck it and ample encouragement to "make a mess."

Originally featured here.

5. WALLS NOTEBOOK

If you've ever fostered fantasies of tagging a downtown facade but never gotten past ogling the spray cans at Home Depot, then you're in luck. Enter Walls Notebook, which you might recall from earlier this year. The brainchild of NYC-based photographer and designer Sherwood Forlee, this charming activity book invites you, armed with a Sharpie, to unleash your inner graffiti artist on irresistibly inviting blank-slate urban walls from around New York City.

6. ASTONISH YOURSELF

Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by French philosopher and Le Monde columnist Roger-Pol Droit is based on the premise that "the starting point for astonishment gives rise to philosophy." Each of the simple exercises peels away at a corner of existence, at once a comforting reassurance of our aliveness and a magical gateway to discovering the invisible whimsy in the mundane. From inhabiting the planet of small gestures to saying your name out loud in a quiet room to looking for a blue blood, these micro-meditations on the practice of being human will infuse your everyday with a little more serendipity and charm, and help you understand your fellow human beings a little more in the process.

To sum up, the purpose of this entertainment could be contained in this brief exchange:

- Where are you headed? -- Wherever you get to!

7. 344 QUESTIONS

In there mere three weeks since we first featured the delightful 344 Questions: The Creative Person's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment by ever-inventive designer Stefan G. Bucher (of You Deserve a Medal and Daily Monster fame), it has quickly become the most popular book in Brain Pickings' entire five-year history. The lovely pocket-sized gem, illustrated in Bucher's unmistakable style, helps you flowchart your way to personal and professional happiness and figure out life's big answers.

Besides Bucher's own questions, the tiny but potent handbook features contributions from 36 beloved cross-disciplinary creators, including Brain Pickings favorites Christoph Niemann, Stefan Sagmeister, Marian Bantjes, Doyald Young, and Jakob Trollbäck.

Let's be clear: I want this book to be useful to you. There are many great how-to books and biographies out there, and even more gorgeous collections of current and classic work to awe and inspire. But looking at catalogs of artistic success won't make you a better artist any more than looking at photos of healthy people will cure your cold. You've got to take action! --Stefan G. Bucher

We are all different people, but we face a lot of the same questions. The point of this book is to give you lots of questions you can use to look at your life -- in a new way, with a different perspective, or maybe just in more detail than you have before -- so you can find out how you work, what you want to do, and how you can get it done in a way that works for you. Specifically. --Stefan G. Bucher

Our full review, with more images, here.

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/10/exploring-your-creative-side-7-playful-activity-books-for-adults/246036/