Reading About Writing

Reading is important. It’s therapeutic. It’s how you learn that you can disregard almost all those arbitrary rules you had to follow in English class.

Ah, the warm embrace of freedom.

But there’s something funny about reading a book about writing (and there’s something meta about writing a book about writing). Every writing book preaches creating something that engages an audience, while they themselves are not all that engaging. So I thought I’d share a few of the books that I’ve found most useful:

  • The Copywriter’s Handbook – First published in 1985, the Book of Bly covers copywriting best practices across all media. Sometimes it feels a little dated, or maybe too Old Guard, but there isn’t a more comprehensive guide to copy on the market.

    Plus, it really outlines all the rules I want to break.

  • The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice  – Written by Todd Henry, host of The Accidental Creative podcast, this book’s goal is to keep you fresh and insightful, helping you achieve sustained creativity.

    No matter what your job description is, if you develop your Creative Rhythm, you’ll feel the benefits of on-demand creativity.

  • Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity – This book is like creative bootcamp, or if you’re feeling burnt out, creative rehab. It was written by Dr. Keith Sawyer, who is a doctor, so he’s smart.

    Zig Zag defines eight steps to creative problem solving. It has you take a Personal Creativity Assessment which helps identify which steps you might want to focus on.

These are the three books that occupy my creative “Break Out In Case of Emergency” box. What’s in yours?

My cat, Picard, likes to get in on the reading, too.
Photo of Ryan's cat, Picard, with a book

  • Carey Jernigan

    You may be interested to know that Ryan gave me “The Official Dictionary of SARCASM for Christmas. Author: Napoli

    • Ryan Gast

      James Napoli is actually my pen name. I wrote the book on sarcasm.

  • There is one book everyone who writes sales copy should read: Tom Sant’s The Language of Success.

    Unlike most books on how to write well, Tom doesn’t focus on rules, grammar or sentence structure – at first.

    Rather, Tom points out that the form of the message is the most important thing to get right -before you start re-writing your sentences.

    The form for persuading is different from the form for informing, again different from the form for inspiring.

    Great handbook.

    • Ryan Gast

      Sounds like an interesting read. There can never been enough books about concise messaging. I feel like too many Marketing books contain fluff, rather than cut through it.

      Thanks for the suggestion, I can’t wait to check it out.