If you asked me what’s the best way to become a better writer, I’d say three things:
Read, write, and read about writing—in that order.
The idea that reading books on writing will help you become better at the task seems a bit strange at first. But after you start writing every day—professionally, that is—you will see that you will face some hard problems that will haunt you every time you sit down to write.
The simplest way to overcome these issues and adopt a philosophy of writing that will make you a more professional, resilient, and wiser writer is to read the books about writing that masters of the craft have published.
Learn from the best, and guess what? You will become the best writer you can be.
I love reading about writing because that's how I've become a pretty good writer over time, despite the fact English isn't my native tongue.
Because I've been blessed with the wisdom of so many great writers who have come before me, I want to share my favorite ten books on writing so you can benefit as much as I have.
Let’s get started.
10 Writing Books Every Writer Should Read
Author: Stephen King
A writing book from the world’s leading horror writer that will help you understand what it takes to write consistently, find your muse, and master your writing toolbox.
Let me start by saying I’ve never read a book from Stephen King.
If there was ever a bad Stephen King fan, it’s me.
Yet, when confronted with the idea of listening to his audiobook (narrated by the author himself), I decided to buy it and see what this bestselling author has to say about the craft. I don’t really know why I bought it; it just caught my eye.
To my delight, listening to this book was incredibly pleasurable; Mr. King did a terrific job of sharing his philosophy of writing and his attitude towards it.
More importantly, his rather geeky voice conveyed the important parts of the book; the ones that he clearly cared about.
One of the most important writing lessons I took was the whole idea of finding the muse (see the quote below).
King also talks about grammar, sentence structure, adverbs (hint: he hates them), dialogues and conversations, draft development, and the craft of writing.
I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did from his book. If you’ve read some of my articles on this site, you will have surely seen I quote him every two articles. On Writing is that good.
On Writing has been a highly influential book for me, and it’s one any writer — regardless of whether you’re a fan of his or not — will benefit from reading.
Best Quotes from On Writing
Where Good Ideas Come From
Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
How to Wake Up the Muse
There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.
What to Write About
Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth.
Perfect For: Any type of writer—fiction or nonfiction—who’s struggling to find their muse, who wants to know what it feels like to be a writer, and who wants to master the writing skills to become better at their craft.
The Elements of Style
Authors: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
A classic book on grammar, style, and punctuation. If you feel like you need to improve any of those three aspects of your writing, then this book is a great start.
When I was first getting started writing as a professional content writer, I remember other writers wouldn’t stop mentioning The Elements of Style.
“What is all the fuzz about?” I thought to myself.
So I picked a copy. With 85 pages, it’s a short read.
But don’t let the size fool you. Concise as it is, you will learn so much from this book that you’d feel like a different writer after you read it.
Originally written by William Strunk Jr. in 1918 (yes, over one hundred years ago!), and edited in 1959 by E.B. White, this book is as useful today as it was back in the analog days of writing.
The book starts with “The Elementary Rules of Usage,” where the authors explain some of the basic concepts of grammar and style like:
- Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause (chapter #4)
- Do not join independent clauses with a comma (chapter #5)
- Use a dash to set up an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary (chapter #8)
If you read often and like to analyze what you read—that is, if you’re a nerd like me—then these rules are pretty basic.
The second section, “Elementary Principles of Composition,” talks about more complex and advanced rules of composition, such as:
- Use the active voice (chapter #14)
- Omit needless words (chapter #17)
- Keep related words together (chapter #20)
These rules continue to be pretty basic, but since they relate to the style of composition, they affect the way you write with more power than the previous grammar rules from the first section.
Coming from an era where writing wasn’t as simple as opening a laptop and writing anything you like knowing that you can erase what you write in one swoop, the authors emphasize the importance of clarity.
The following two sections—“A Few Matters of Form” and “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused”—focus on specific parts of the writing toolbox.
In the first section of the two mentioned, the authors talk about how to use parentheses, hyphens, and references—all highly technical concepts but still useful for anyone who wants to know the “standard” way of using those elements of writing.
In the second of the two, one of the largest of the book, the authors take a dictionary-like approach, talking about common homophones, homographs, and other commonly misused expressions. This section is meant to be used mostly as a reference point than as a tool for learning.
The final section, “An Approach to Style (with A List of Reminders)” minds itself on different writing style recommendations. I’ve found this section to be the most useful as it focuses on the actual elements of style.
The advice, while basic and obvious as it may look, is incredibly refreshing. Some of these “reminders” they mention include:
- Do not overwrite
- Avoid fancy words
- Be clear
In a world where people often avoid studying grammar and style, this last section is the fastest and easiest way to improve both elements at the same time.
Most books about writing, like “On Writing Well” and which is mentioned next, are the children of The Elements of Style; an extension, if you will.
Named by Time as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923, there’s hardly any better book to start working on your writing skills than with The Elements of Style. Do yourself — and your readers — a favor, and pick a copy.
Best Quotes from The Elements of Style
Imitate Other Writers
The use of language begins with imitation. […] Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead of admiring what is good. Then when you write in a way that comes naturally, you will echo the halloos that bear repeating.
Do Not Overwrite
Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. When writing with a computer, you must guard against wordiness. The click and flow of a word processor can be seductive, and you may find yourself adding a few unnecessary words or even a whole passage just to experience the pleasure of running your fingers over the keyboard and watching your words appear on the screen. It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess.
Avoid Fancy Words
Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.
Perfect For: Anyone who wants to improve his or her writing without having to take a course or read a complex book on the subject.
On Writing Well
Author: William Zinsser
Another classic for writers who want to learn what it means to be a professional writer, how to find one’s style, and how to write with it.
After The Elements of Style, I often saw writers recommend On Writing Well as their favorite book on writing.
Puzzled as I was to see why it was recommended so much, I bought it and read it. Soon afterward, I realized why it is so famous.
If I had to summarize this book in a sentence, I’d say it’s a book that teaches you the best ways to find your writing style, develop it, and then polish it.
I think the reason why this book has been a classic for writers, just like The Elements of Style, is that the author doesn’t get too philosophical or cutesy in his concepts, neither he gets too technical. In a way, it provides the right balance between The Elements of Style and Bird by Bird (see next), which is what I like about it.
The book is separated into four sections:
- Principles: Where the author explains seven basic concepts for any writer to grasp, including avoiding clutter and understanding style
- Methods: Where the author explains three key writing methods, including how to start and end a piece
- Forms: Where the author explains nine ways to structure different writing forms, including nonfiction, biographies, and sports
- Attitudes: Where the author explains six different concepts around the psychology of writing
On Writing Well feels like a book a coach or a friendly writing professor would write. The author, William Zinsser, goes over each of the 25 chapters as if he was giving you personal advice.
Reading the book feels like you're being mentored by a wise, highly experienced writer. And you'll be a much better writer thanks to it.
Best Quotes from On Writing Well
What a Writer Really Writes About
Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.
There is no style store; style is organic to the person doing the writing, as much a part of him as his hair, or, if he is bald, his lack of it. Trying to add style is like adding a toupee.
This is the problem of writers who set out deliberately to garnish their prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique. The reader will notice if you are putting on airs. Readers want the person who is talking to them to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself.
How to Engage an Audience
First, work hard to master the tools. Simplify, prune and strive for order. Think of this as a mechanical act, and soon your sentences will become cleaner. The act will never become as mechanical as, say, shaving or shampooing; you will always have to think about the various ways in which the tools can be used. But at least your sentences will be grounded in solid principles, and your chances of losing the reader will be smaller.
Think of the other as a creative act: the expressing of who you are. Relax and say what you want to say.
Never say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation. If you’re not a person who says “indeed” or “moreover,” or who calls someone an individual (“he’s a fine individual”), please don’t write it.
Perfect For: Writers who want to learn the philosophy of writing, who want to discover their own style, and who want to improve its output quality.
Bird by Bird
Author: Anne Lamott
The most touching, poetic, and psychological book I’ve ever read about writing.
All the writing books mentioned in this list are incredible on their own right. Written by expert writers, they go over the many details of writing — grammar, style, storytelling — but any one of them takes the road on which Bird by Bird chooses to stroll.
I’ll be the first one to tell you I hate clichés, poetic phraseology for the sake of poetry, and silly sensitivity (think most self-help books). Bird by Bird doesn’t fall for any of these traps, yet it manages to be poetic and sensitive without being too fragile for confronting the reality of writing.
The first part of the book lays around the life of Anne Lamott, a relatively popular fiction writer, who happens to have had a quite interesting life.
Before reading Bird by Bird, I didn't know who she was. But just like On Writing (the first book mentioned in here), the author manages to share enough of her life to enlighten the story and thesis of the book.
In the later stages of the book, Ms. Lamott lays her philosophy of writing. Why should you care to read the philosophy of this particular writer, you may ask? Because it’s crafted with the detail and poetry of a fiction book without losing its essence.
The author explains what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be one, and how you can develop a narrative for a fiction book or story.
It’s hard to explain what it makes this book so pleasurable to read (I actually heard it as an audiobook, another great experience which the author herself reads), but it’s still a wonderful experience that will help you understand how you can overcome your own fears, doubts, and pains of writing.
Meant mostly for fiction writers, the author spends some time explaining the different aspects of developing a plot, a story, and the characters of one.
Even though I don’t read fiction and I don’t plan to write fiction anytime soon, it’s still a must-read for any professional content writer.
Whether you want to write fiction or nonfiction, Bird by Bird provides a beautiful reading experience that will teach you what it takes to be a writer and how to find your demons.
Best Quotes from Bird by Bird
Shitty First Drafts
Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.
Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled.
The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.
Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein.
Bird by Bird
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.
Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.
Perfect For: Writers who suffer from impostor’s syndrome, who fear the blank page, or who fight to develop a first draft.
Author: Roy Peter Clark
A summary of writing tools that any writer needs to master.
I like to think of writing as art made up of hundreds upon hundreds of techniques all intertwined together. You can’t use one without—directly or indirectly—using another one.
What’s more, there’s a blurry line between actual grammar rules with stylistic concepts that make a given era. For example, the whole idea of writing colloquially is a relatively new concept, yet there are no hard rules that tell you to use that manner of writing. You write colloquially because that's what you are used to.
Mastering the art of wordsmithing is hard. You can’t really study it; you only need to practice it and let it mature. But if you don’t know what actual writing techniques you can use, then the entire process gets messy. A catch-22, indeed.
Writing Tools is the first book I’ve ever read that tackles this dilemma. Roy Peter Clark, a writer and famous writing coach, dissects 50 of the most common writing tools and explains them clearly for anyone to understand and use.
The author doesn’t analyze each tool abstractly; rather, he goes back and forth between the theory and the application of it. Such a structure makes it not only easy to read and highly engaging but also much easier to understand.
Books on writing often get too technical and dull for the common reader. Clark, instead, takes a more practical approach that I enjoyed throughout the book.
Some of the tools he analyzes include:
- Adverbs usage
- Inflection usage
- Word and sentence pace
- Dialogue usage
Whether you use the writing tools he shared in his book, the fact you're aware of their existence will help you craft better content.
Ever since I read Writing Tools, it became a favorite of mine—in my opinion, the best book Clark has ever written.
Best Quotes from Writing Tools
Let Punctuation Control Pace and Space
Most punctuation is required, but some is optional, leaving the writer with many choices. My modest goal is to highlight those choices, to transform the formal rules of punctuation into useful tools.
If a period is a stop sign, then what kind of traffic flow is created by other marks? The comma is a speed bump; the semicolon is what a driver education teacher calls a “rolling stop”; the parenthetical expression is a detour; the colon is a flashing yellow light that announces something important up ahead; the dash is a tree branch in the road.
Cut Big, Then Small
When writers fall in love with their words, it is a good feeling that can lead to a bad effect. When we fall in love with all our quotes, characters, anecdotes, and metaphors, we cannot bear to kill any of them. But kill we must. In 1914 British author Arthur Quiller-Couch wrote it bluntly: “Murder your darlings.”
Get the Name of the Dog
When details of character and setting appeal to the senses, they create an experience for the reader that leads to understanding. […] Inexperienced writers may choose the obvious detail, the man puffing on the cigarette, the young woman chewing on what’s left of her fingernails. Those details fail to tell — unless the man is dying of lung cancer or the woman is anorexic.
At the St. Petersburg Times, editors and writing coaches warn reporters not to return to the office without “the name of the dog.” That reporting task does not require the writer to use the detail in the story, but it reminds the reporter to keep her eyes and ears opened.
The good writer uses telling details, not only to inform, but to persuade.
Perfect For: Writers who know that they need to improve their writing but can’t figure out what it is that they have to improve.
The Art of X-Ray Reading
Author: Roy Peter Clark
A deep analysis of the writing styles of famous writers.
I’m not a fan of fiction. It’s strange, because I love reading, and I appreciate a good story, but fiction isn’t the type of writing I enjoy. I like facts and abstractions that only a non-fiction book can provide.
Sadly, this inclination for non-fiction ends up leaving me from enjoying some of the best writers, including people as diverse as Anton Chekhov, William Burroughs, and even William Shakespeare.
Fortunately, however, Roy Peter Clark wrote The Art of X-Ray Reading to analyze the writing styles of such writers with the goal to uncover the elements that make their writing so good.
Analyzing content is always hard because you can’t measure it quantitively. The same happens with any type of art, including painting and cinema. You can measure a writer’s use of grammar and language, but only when they mess something up, not when they amaze you with their technique.
Roy Peter Clark is a master at analyzing content (it’s no coincidence he wrote Writing Tools), so he made this book a pretty good attempt at quantifying the actual techniques of 25 of the best writers of all time, including:
- Scott J. Fitzgerald (chapter #1)
- Sylvia Plath (chapter #5)
- Gabriel García Márquez (chapter #11)
- Charles Dickens (chapter #25)
The book doesn’t analyze their entire production; it doesn’t even analyze an entire book. Clark focuses on small pieces of their most famous books, uncovering specific excerpts that shine a light on their unique qualities.
I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I thought I would. Actually, I didn’t like Help for Writers! (which I don't feature in this list) or even The Glamour of Grammar (featured next) as much I liked this one.
I remember I read this book while I was in New York City, reading most of it in my long daily subway rides. The book, the thesis, and the narrative Clark developed caught me entirely. I ignored my surroundings entirely. When that happens, you know that's a sign that the book is amazing.
While it does fall short in analyzing the entire technique box of the writers—something that’d take an entire book on its own for each author—it still helps you understand with more clarity what makes a great writer achieve such masterful use of the language.
Best Quotes from The Art of X-Ray Reading
Here is a big writing move: study the moves of writers you admire (and some you don’t). Without plagiarizing, look for ways to imitate that work. Be attentive to the way your own writing begins to show this influence and then moves beyond it.
Repetition vs. Redundancy
Embrace the distinction between repetition and redundancy. Use the first to establish a pattern in the work, whether of language or imagery. Redundancy is not always a bad thing. (Redundant systems on an airplane keep it in the air, even if one system breaks down.)
When you repeat a word, phrase, or other element of language or narrative, make sure it is worth repeating. Make sure that each repetition advances the story in some way. Ineffective repetition slows down a narrative. Effective repetition helps it gain traction. Each reappearance of a character or repetition of a phrase can add meaning, suspense, mystery, or energy to a story.
In human experience, motivation is a cracked mirror, never providing a pure reflection. Avoid, in both fiction and nonfiction, any simple explanation for why characters make important choices.
Perfect For: Writers who have read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Shakespeare and think “how could I ever write like them?”
The Glamour of Grammar
Author: Roy Peter Clark
A book on the beauty of grammar, without the boring technicalities of it.
Grammar is the most important element of a writer’s toolbox. If you don’t master grammar, you can’t write; it’s that simple.
Grammar explains why and how we use punctuation, word classes (i.e., nouns, adjectives, etc.), and sentence structures, among other things.
Sad as it may be, an understanding of grammar is paramount for any writer, but at the same time, it can be boring as hell. What’s more, grammar can cause a “paralysis by analysis” situation where you spend too much time thinking on how to write a sentence correctly instead of just writing it and letting your style dictate your ideas.
In “The Glamour of Grammar,” Roy Peter Clark makes the whole process of mastering grammar a pleasurable experience. He separates the entire grammar world into five parts:
Made up of 50 chapters, each one talking about a different aspect of grammar, Clark explains how to understand grammar in basic terms, without getting too technical or abstract.
The author clearly wanted to distribute his 50 lessons equally among the five sections, something that makes some chapters a bit redundant or boring (e.g. “Chapter #6: Take a class on how to cross-dress the parts of speech”).
The best parts, I believe, hover around the use of the different punctuation marks (section #2: Points), the use of grammar rules (section #3: Standards), and the construction of meaning within sentences (section #4: Meaning).
If you’re new to grammar, or if you want to go over some rules that you forgot, The Glamour of Grammar will be an easy introduction to the world of grammar.
There are many other books on the subject of grammar (some of which I haven’t read and, as far as I know, are much more technical) which you should consider reading.
The Best Punctuation Book, Period, by June Casagrande, is a good book, similar to The Art of Grammar.
Some of the books that I've not read and which have great reviews include:
- Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences, by June Casagrande
- The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment, by Susan Thruman
- Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, by Patricia T. O’Conner
Best Quotes from The Glamour of Grammar
The Short-word Economy of English
When a story is powerful, keep the language spare. In English, spare language depends on short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs at the points of highest emotion.
Try saying the most important thing using short words in short sentences.
Emphasis and Space
To build suspense, writers slow down the pace of the story. The best way to do this is with a series of short sentences. The more periods—the more full stops—the slower the reader will go.
From now on think of the period as a full stop, and begin to look at the place right before the full stop as a hot spot, a point of emphasis.
The Best Sentences
The best sentences, even the most serious ones, are fun to write, coming from creative drafting and revision, not from some diagrammatic calculation.
Perfect For: Writers who want to discover the beautiful aspects of grammar and how to master it without falling for all its technicalities.
Author: Drew Eric Whitman
A psychology-driven copywriting book that will show you how you can craft copy that works.
I love reading about copywriting—actually, I like reading about the topic more than I like actually writing copy.
Copywriting never felt right for me; I like the art of writing copy and promoting it than trying to make a sale right away from my content. It’s strange, but it’s just a personal predilection.
The reason why I’m attracted to copywriting, even if it is from a theoretical perspective, is that it has something that content marketing lacks.
In the simplest terms, copywriting is the art of writing copy to sell.
To make a sale, in contrast to what most people think, the copywriter must have a deep understanding of the audience’s needs and desires. More importantly, copywriting requires a deep understanding of human psychology.
Cashvertising was one of the first copywriting books I’ve ever read, and it's still up to this day one of the books that had the most impact on my writing career.
In contrast to what most copywriting books do, which is to focus on the copywriting techniques, the words to use, and other specific aspects of the craft, this book spends more time talking about the psychology of human behavior than anything else.
In this book, Drew Eric Whitman starts with an explanation of the “Life-Force 8”—the eight desires for which humans are biologically programmed—and the “9 secondary human wants.”
Any successful advertising or marketing campaign works thanks to the leverage of any of these forces and wants.
Then, he moves on to explaining 17 foundational principles of human psychology, which is one of the most interesting parts of the entire book.
This section could be a book on its own, and as it stands, it’s a summary of the most famous and useful psychology principles that exist. This includes Cialdini’s six principles of influence, Kahneman’s study of heuristics, and many more psychological models.
As I said before, copywriting works because of psychology, and Whitman talks a lot about the different psychological principles that make advertising work.
Finally, the author goes through 41 copywriting techniques. While this last section is closer to the typical technique-rich copywriting book you read, it doesn't downgrade the quality of the book.
All in all, whether you’re new to copywriting or not, Cashvertising is one of the best books you can read on the subject.
Best Quotes from Cashvertising
The Formula for Desire
So here’s the simple formula for desire, and the result it sets in motion:
Tension → Desire → Action to Satisfy the Desire
In short, when you appeal to people’s LF8 desires, you create a drive that motivates them to take an action that will fulfill that desire as soon as possible.
People buy from you when they believe what you are selling is of greater value than the dollars they need to exchange for it.
Crank up the Scarcity
As advertisers, we need to motivate people to take action right now. We don’t want them to wait, or think about it, or put off the decision until the “later” that never comes. You want them to whip out their credit cards and order now. And it’s not simply a matter of asking for the order—any good salesperson knows to do that. It’s a matter of getting your prospect to take action when the offer is presented to them. And you do it by creating the perception of scarcity with powerful deadlines.
Perfect For: Anyone who wants to learn the basics of copywriting without any fluff.
Author: Luke Sullivan
A book on the philosophy of advertising and copywriting.
As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of philosophy. It’s not that I’m that good at understanding theoretical philosophy—I struggle a lot with its abstract concepts—it’s just that I like the fact philosophy teaches you how to think.
It’s great to learn techniques and tactics—whether that's on writing, advertising, marketing, or any other interesting topic—but if you don’t know how to use them, if you don’t know they fit within the larger strategy, then it’s pointless to use them.
I want to be able to think like an advertiser so I don’t have to rely on other people’s techniques but to create my own. That’s how you truly succeed at anything—and advertising is no exception.
Luke Sullivan, the author of “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This,” takes a philosophical approach to advertising, going over the way it has historically worked, why people hate it, and how you can learn to master the skills to become a successful advertiser.
Unlike Cashvertising or other copywriting books that eventually get down onto the details of advertising techniques, Sullivan talks about broader aspects of the subject.
The book is filled with golden nuggets that will help you get a deeper understanding of how advertising and marketing works. From copywriting to TV ads, the author talks about what it takes to create something that people want to consume — that is, your ads.
“Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” is an interesting, smart, and rich book that will help you understand more about the art of advertising.
Best Quotes from Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This
The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.
What’s a Brand
A brand isn’t just the name on the box. It isn’t the thing in the box, either. A brand is the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities, and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.
The Three Types of Copywriter You Can Be
Steve Hayden, most famous for penning Apple’s “1984” commercial, said: “If you want to be a well-paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award-winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.”
Perfect For: Copywriters who’re getting started or anyone who wants to learn how to write great copy.
Trust Me, I’m Lying
Author: Ryan Holiday
A book on the dark art of PR and media manipulation in the current world of blogging and fake news.
When you see big media publications, you are likely to think of them as professional, forward-looking companies with high standards and ethics.
It turns out it’s all a lie. Media companies are desperate for attention; they make money with ads, which means they need as many eyeballs as possible. That leaves space for a man like Ryan Holiday, who he calls himself a “media manipulator.”
Holiday’s job is to get press for his clients. He doesn’t have a big team behind him or a lot of fame around him either. He simply knows how to leverage the loopholes the media business model has and get a lot of press without much effort.
Throughout the book, the author presents a dark overview of the media landscape. With analytical precision and a bit of philosophical pondering (I couldn’t like this book as much if it wasn’t a bit philosophical), Holiday explains that the media world isn’t made for the reader, but for the media company to profit.
That fact wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t that media companies can easily manipulate people’s perception of reality, something that has eventually landed us in a world of “fake news” and “post-truth.”
Any content marketer who wants to understand how the press really works and how to use the weaknesses of the media model to his advantage should read this book, a complete eye-opener that will change your perception of your profession.
Best Quotes from Trust Me, I’m Lying
The Blog Con
Blogs are not intended to be profitable and independent businesses. The tools they use to build traffic and revenue are part of a larger play.
The Manipulator’s Job
Bloggers eager to build names and publishers eager to sell their blogs are like two crooked businessmen colluding to create interest in a bogus investment opportunity—building up buzz and clearing town before anyone gets wise. In this world, where the rules and ethics are lax, a third player can exert massive influence. Enter: the media manipulator.
The assumptions of blogging and their owners present obvious vulnerabilities that people like me exploit. They allow us to control what is in the media, because the media is too busy chasing profits to bother trying to stop us. They are not motivated to care. Their loyalty is not to their audience but to themselves and their con.
The Problem with Journalism
The problem of journalism, says Edward Jay Epstein in his book Between Fact and Fiction, is simple. Journalists are rarely in a position to establish the truth of an issue themselves, since they didn’t witness it personally. They are “entirely dependent on self-interested ‘sources’” to supply their facts. Every part of the news-making process is defined by this relationship; everything is colored by this reality.
Who are these self-interested sources? Well, anyone selling a product, a message, or an agenda. People like me.
Perfect For: Anyone who wants to learn how the world of blogging works and how you can hack it to your advantage.
Time to Start Reading These Writing Books
So here you have it, the best ten books on writing.
Take the time to read them carefully, sipping each lesson slowly, because these lessons will take months or years to take root. But once they do, they will transform your writing in ways you would never imagine.