Our 2013 Book Lists

Thirteen years ago, Greg turned me onto an idea that has become one of my favorite annual traditions. He and I (and anyone else we can convince to do it) keep reviews of every book we read. Then at the end of the year, we release a list of everything we read that year.

Here are our lists from 2013.

Greg’s 2013 Book List

Jim’s 2013 Book List

What great books did you read in 2013? The Best of Makin’ Ads? Anyone? Anyone? [crickets]


Source Materials for my Storytelling Class

This past quarter, I taught a storytelling class at Miami Ad School with some really talented, enthusiastic first-quarter writers. Here’s a list of some of the source materials I used as examples and sometimes just stole from to make myself sound like I knew what I was talking about:

On Teaching and Writing Fiction by Wallace Stegner

On Writing by Stephen King

 The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus

Improv Wisdom by Patricia Madson

The Handbook of Short Story Writing, Volumes I and II, by Writer’s Digest

Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon

The Moth Stories

This video from J.J. Abrams.

Various lists, such as this one by Elmore Leonard and this one by John Steinbeck

Writing samples from writers much better than myself, including Edward Abbey, James Agee, Sherwood Anderson, Donald Antrim, Roberto Bolaño, Richard Brautigan, Jon Clinch, Mark Costello, Patrick deWitt, A.M. Homes, Dan Kennedy, Chip Kidd, J Robert Lennon, Cormac McCarthy, David Mitchell, Tim O’Brien, Helen Oyeyemi, J.D. Salinger, Jim Shepard, Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace.

Suggested Reading: Business Stuff

Along with my regular diet of reading, I try to throw in some occasional work-related books. Sometimes my definition of “work-related” can be pretty broad. The pop idea books, like The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, and The Wisdom of Crowds can all be really interesting, and the ideas can be applied to what we do. Then there are the specifically advertising/marketing books, like Brand Hijack and Take a Stand For Your Brand (and, of course, the instructional books like Hey Whipple).

But every once in awhile I like to wander into the business section of the bookstore and see what the brand managers and CEOs and MBAs and all the other acronyms are reading. It’s not always fun reading, but it’s a good way to get a better understanding of how companies (including agencies) work. Last week, I read Good to Great, a study of companies that made dramatic transitions from goodness to greatnes.

My point is not to recommend this book specifically, though it is good. What I’m suggesting is that you every once in awhile read something about business, or management, or brand strategy. Because advertising is first and formost a business. And although your primary focus should be your portfolio, knowing about the business side (and understanding how your client thinks) can’t hurt. And if you ever aspire to management or even running an agency, you’ll have to know how to be a smart leader.