Following my guest post in John Forde’s excellent Copywriter’s Roundtable, I received an email from a fellow copywriter called Tony.
He was interested in my idea of fuelling your brain by reading books that aren’t typically associated with copywriting.
Don’t get me wrong, each month I make sure I read at least one book that touches directly on copywriting or marketing theory…
I just don’t limit myself to such books.
The idea struck a chord with Tony and agreeing with my theory (which you can read more about here), he wondered how to go about choosing which non-copywriting books to read.
As I explained to him, there’s not really a strict science to it, but most books do tend to reference another book at some point. So, it usually makes sense to read that one next.
I guess it’s a kind of continuous inter-textual loop i.e. Paul Auster might reference Philip Roth who might reference Saul Bellow who influenced Charles Bukowski and so on.
Anyhow, my discussion with Tony gave me an idea…
Well, actually, it gave my girlfriend an idea, which she then suggested to me…
Why not tell you about the books I’m reading and why?
It sounded like a good idea. I know that I’ve always been eager to have reading recommendations given to me, so I figured you might feel the same – hopefully.
And so here we are…
Each month I’ll post my planned reading for the following month and you can choose to join me or – if you’ve read one of the books I mention – you can add your thoughts on them in the comments below.
It might give you some good ideas…
It might throw up some interesting discussions…
But more than anything, I think it might be useful.
So, without further ado, here are this month’s books…
Dave Eggers – What is the What
They have something in their style that skips you from page to page without you realising you’re reading at all.
Dave Eggers is one of those writers.
The book I intend to read this month is What is the What, the ‘slightly’ fictionalised account of a young boy who managed to escape the war in Sudan and flee to America.
From a copywriting point of view, I have two reasons to read this book:
The first reason is Eggers’ ability to find a tone of voice that is both authentic and readable.
As any tone of voice copy-specialist will tell you, this is a key factor in successful copywriting. So, it pays to regularly read any author who excels in this area.
My second reason is that though this is a somewhat fictionalised version of events, the book does essentially fall into the non-fiction category and covers an event that I’m not familiar with.
Though I might never need to draw directly on this event in my copy, I believe a good (and emotionally-based) understanding of things going on in the world is essential for any copywriter.
Robert Cialdini – Influence
But this month I’ll read it again.
Well, the truth is there aren’t many ‘theory’ books about copywriting and marketing that are actually worth reading.
And frankly, it’s often better to re-read a book like Influence than flick through the pages of the latest waffle that’s got a funky front cover and a clever pun for a title.
I mean, be honest: do you remember everything you read the first time you go through a book? No.
And more importantly… do you ever ACTION everything you read? Of course not. That’s why it pays to re-read undeniably insightful classics like this.
Don’t get me wrong, now and again you should try one of these new theory books (Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy comes to mind), but this month I’m going back to this indispensable industry standard.
Peter Mayle – The Marseille Caper
But whenever he’s got a new book, I still read it.
In fact, I think Peter Mayle writes a certain type of book that can be very useful to copywriters – the ‘aspirational lifestyle’ book.
You see, Mayle always seems to write about characters that are living a lifestyle everyone thinks they want. This was certainly the case in his early journal books (A Year in Provence, for example) and it’s continued in his more recent novels.
Why is that useful?
Well, regardless of the product or service you’re writing copy for, being able to create a picture of a better lifestyle is a key skill.
So, sit back and enjoy what will likely be a flawed book…
But remember that the aspirational imagery that is inherent in Mayle’s writing is helping you fine-tune the lifestyle pictures you’ll create in your copy.
That’s the main books for this month.
There may be more. It depends how much time I have. If so, I’ll add any others in the comments below.
Otherwise, if you do choose to join me in one or all of the books I mention, please do share your thoughts below and let others know how you think they may have helped your copywriting.
And if you’ve already read one of the books I mentioned, please do share with people what you thought of them and how they helped your copywriting.