Below is a list of books I have actually read cover-to-cover and have found to be worthwhile for one purpose or another. Eventually I’ll include excerpts and a brief review of each of them. Also feel free to suggest books for me to read in the ‘reply’ section at the bottom.
1. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker
“The hero or heroine is he or she who is born to inherit; who is worthy to succeed; who must grow up as fit to take on the torch of life from those who went before. Such is the essence of the task laid on each of us as we come into this world. That is what stories are trying to tell us.” (p. 702)
One of the most insightful, profound, and widely applicable books I’ve ever read, The Seven Basic Plots is an investigation into the archetypes of stories and what they tell us about life, human nature, and social change. Advertising centers around stories and ultimately how a product/service can fit into and enhance an individual’s life story (or chapter therefrom). This book informs us about the big picture of stories and where our true ending is aimed. Knowing this, advertisers can better strategize and more effectively persuade individuals to want to buy their product/service.
2. Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words by John Man
“Now the possibility existed of addressing directly anyone, anywhere — in theory, everyone who could read — if only they could be reached and spoken to persuasively.” (p. 256)
Man’s hypothesis in this book (and its companion, Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World) is that written communication has had four major “turning-points,” where it “flicked to a new level of speed and outreach.” The four turning-points are 1. the invention of writing itself, 2. the invention of the alphabet, 3. the invention of printing with movable type, 4. the coming of the Internet. In reading these books I started seeing parallels between the turning-points and realized that a solid predictor of the outcome of our current turning-point (the coming of the Internet) would be to study the outcomes of the others. The general pattern that emerged was an increase in individual empowerment — writing empowered the elites who had time to master the craft; the alphabet empowered ordinary people by simplifying the craft; movable type empowered more people to publish their thoughts to a wider audience; and the Internet is empowering anyone with the courage to launch into cyber space.
3. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
“Instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.” (p. 18)
An opposing, differing, or unique perspective is usually worthwhile to seek and consider. Thoreau provides such with humor, wisdom, and matter-of-factness — to the point that you’d prefer saving time by walking across the country rather than wasting time working for a few months to pay for the train ticket. His nature descriptions are also poetic and beautiful and provide a nice mental escape from urbania any season of the year.
4. The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton
“Generalities would have been soon forgotten. But the story that had its roots in every-day human experience and need, lives and will live forever. It condenses the philosophy of Christianity into a half dozen unforgetable paragraphs. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the greatest advertisement of all time.” (p. 143)
Whatever your views of religion, the growth and staying power of the world’s great religions is nothing short of impressive. Bruce Barton, one of the founders of BBDO, examines the attributes and life of Jesus from a business/advertising perspective and discovers techniques and methods worth emulating in the modern business world. The ability to create buzz, the skill of connecting with an audience, and the use of condensed, simple, and sincere language are just a few of the building blocks of advertising that Jesus mastered.
5. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
“A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest — but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.” (pp. 1-2)
A level-headed attempt at recalibrating the environmental movement that has become increasingly political over the past several decades. This book, which was recommended to me by the assistant director of a wildlife refuge in Texas, informed my Master’s Report and my general approach to green advertising.
6. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill
7. Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker
8. The Advertised Mind: Ground-Breaking Insights into How Our Brains Respond to Advertising by Erik Du Plessis
9. Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy and the New Science of Desire by Martin Lindstrom
10. What Kids Buy and Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids by Dan S. Acuff
11. In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age by Patricia Cohen
12. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi