The 27 books you should read this year.
I read a lot.
In part, because I adore reading, it’s a lovely way to learn, to explore and to get lost for an afternoon.
But, in addition to this, reading and writing go hand in hand.
Reading good writers makes writers better writers. In fact, I’d argue it’s nearly impossible to become a great or even a good writer if you’re not willing to set aside some time each day to read.
For writers, reading is like honey — it’s impossible to touch without walking away with some of its stickiness stuck to you and your pen and your mind and your subconscious.
At Honey Copy, my creative writing shop that grows brands with pretty words, I put to paper somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 words each week.
The only way to keep my pen full of ink is to read. Period.
Now, in addition to writers, I think the same goes for marketers, entrepreneurs, snow cone vendors and really anyone who makes a living creatively.
Reading gifts us ideas, it enhances creativity, it sharpens critical thinking, it lowers anxiety (God knows we need that) and it teaches us things we previously did not know.
Bottom line — read.
The list you’ll find below is not finished. It will never be finished.
It’s a living breathing list of the books I read each year, summed up in one sentence. My favorite sentence I read in the book.
Unlike other lists littering the internet, you won’t strictly find best-selling business books on mine.
You will, however, find books about poetry, writing, creativity, the Hell’s Angels… and, yes, the occasional business book.
Regardless, most (if not all) of the books on this list have lessons that can be applied to life, love, creativity and doing work that matters. Both myself and Honey Copy are a living breathing culmination of these books. Enjoy.
The 27 books you should read this year in one sentence.
If you want to learn how to take better photographs and gawk at some of the most brilliant photographs ever taken, read…
Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll.
“The magic of photography, the bit that can’t be explained, is you.”
If you want to read about the most feared biker gang to ever tear through America’s highways and fall in love with Gonzo journalism, read…
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson.
“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
If you want to get a peek inside how the great Stephen King was shaped as a writer and pick up a few writing gems along the way, read…
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
If you want to devour some poetry and prose and feel something pretty along the way, read…
One Minute, Please? by Cole Schafer.
“I’ve grown to love the cracks in my porcelain.”
If you want to step inside the shoes of what it’s like to be a first-generation immigrant in the United States, read…
Citizen Illegal by Jose Olivarez.
“My mom still loved me so I invented her sadness and asked her to hold it like a bouquet of fake flowers.”
If you’ve lost someone or are in the process of losing someone, stop what you’re doing and read…
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
“I don’t want you to go.”
If you want to read one of the most imaginative poets to ever sling poetry, read…
Hidden Water by Frank Stanford.
“He was crazy, he was a dreamer, lovely and dark, like a chinaberry tree, a pond, a stump with a jar of lightning.”
If you’ve got a few scars from childhood or simply want to get lost in a damn good autobiography by a damn good writer, read…
This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff.
“It was like fishing a swamp, where you feel the tug of something that at first seems promising and then resistant and finally hopeless as you realize that you’ve snagged the bottom, that you have the whole planet on the other end of your line.”
If you want to learn just about everything you could ever dream to know about advertising, read…
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy.
“It isn’t the whiskey they choose, it’s the image.”
If you want to discover what real, raw, unconditional love is, read…
Insomniac City by Billy Hayes.
“In the middle of the night: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could dream together?” Oliver whispers.”
If you’re a creative looking for a kick-in-the-ass like you’ve never felt before, read…
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
If you want a massive advantage in the world of marketing and a break from all the growth-hacker bullshit littering the web today, read…
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout.
“Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.”
If like me, you have a strange obsession with the ancient Spartans, and wouldn’t mind learning a thing or two from these long-extinct ancient warriors, read…
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.
“Nothing fires the warrior’s heart more with courage than to find himself and his comrades at the point of annihilation, at the brink of being routed and overrun, and then to dredge not merely from one’s own bowels or guts but from one’s discipline and training the presence of mind not to panic, not to yield to the possession of despair, but instead to complete those homely acts of order which Dienekes had ever declared the supreme accomplishment of the warrior: to perform the commonplace under far-from-commonplace conditions.”
If you loved On writing by Stephen King and would like to dive into another beautiful book on writing, read…
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.
“It’s not unlike finding a mate, where little by little you begin to feel that you’ve stepped into a shape that was waiting there all along.”
If you want to learn how to make love with your mouth, read…
She Comes First by William Morrow.
“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.”
If you want a thrilling fairytale without a happy ending, read…
The Laws of the Skies by Courtois Gregoire.
“You don’t learn to fly, you are either made to fly or you aren’t.”
If you want to learn how to structure your day for optimal productivity, read…
When by Daniel Pink.
“Breaks are not a sign of sloth but a sign of strength.”
If you want to get your feet wet in the tumultuous brilliantly-written world of poet and novelist Charles Bukowski, read…
Post Office by Charles Bukowski.
“I wanted the whole world or nothing.”
And then read…
Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski.
“They were beautiful nothings.”
If you want to learn how one of the greatest advertising agencies was built from the horse’s mouth, read…
Hegarty on Advertising by Thames & Hudson.
“If I want to make you think I’m funny, I don’t tell you I’m really funny; I tell you a joke.”
If you want to read a conversation on writing between two literary greats, read…
Like shaking hands with God by Kurt Vonnegut & Lee Stringer.
“I went to a good high school, and everything was noise after that.”
If you’ve ever struggled with any sort of mental illness, read…
SUPERMARKET by Bobby Hall.
“The blood from his lips stained the butt of the cigarette, like a single mother driving an Astro van in the early 1990s, picking up her fifth grade son from soccer practice with that poufy hair and shoulder-pad look, you know the one.”
If you adored the larger-than-life figure that was the late great Anthony Bourdain and want to be pleasantly surprised at his uncanny way of stringing together stunning prose, read…
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
“And with every dime you’ve got tied up in your new place suddenly the drains in your prep kitchen are backing up with raw sewage, pushing hundreds of gallons of impacted crap into your dining room; your coke-addled chef just called that Asian waitress who’s working her way through law school a chink, which ensures your presence in court for the next six months; your bartender is giving the bar to underage girls from Wantagh, any one of which could then crash Daddy’s Buick into a busload of divinity students, putting your liquor license in peril, to say the least; the ANSUL System could go off, shutting down your kitchen in the middle of a ten-thousand-dollar night; there’s the ongoing struggle with rodents and cockroaches, any one of which could crawl across the Tina Brown four-top in the middle of the dessert course; you just bought ten thousand dollars worth of shrimp when the market was low, but the walk-in freezer just went on the fritz and naturally it’s a holiday weekend, so good luck getting a service call in time; the dishwasher just walked out after arguing with the busboy, and they need glasses now on table seven; immigration is at the door for a surprise inspection of your kitchen’s green cards; the produce guy wants a certified check or he’s taking back the delivery; you didn’t order enough napkins for the weekend — and is that New York Times reviewer waiting for your hostess to stop flirting and notice her?”
If you want to explore the godmother of Instagram poetry, read…
Love Looks Pretty on You by Lang Leav.
“You turn him into poetry because you can’t have him any other way.”
Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav.
“It should be my right to mourn someone that has yet to leave this world but no longer wants to be part of mine.”
If you want to read one of the best business autobiographies ever written and gain a behind the scenes look at how Nike was built, brick by brick, read…
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight.
“I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in.”
If you liked Ham on Rye and Post Office and want to explore Bukowski’s poetry, read…
On Drinking by Charles Bukowski.
“Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live.”
If you want a business book (that reads nothing like a business book) that can change your life and whatever you’re building in an afternoon, read…
Anything you want by Derek Sivers.
“It’s counterintuitive, but the way your grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers — just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.”
If you’ve ever struggled to take the road less traveled by, read…
The Baron in the trees by Italo Calvino.
“Maybe there was a tree so high that if he climbed it he would touch another world, the moon.”
These were the books I read in 2019, there will be many more to come… in the mean time, sign up for Sticky Notes , my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to write pretty words and sell like hell.
By Cole Schafer.