When somebody asks, “What are the best books on strategy?” feel free to play this Jedi mind-trick on them: “Books on writing.”
There are beautiful books on strategy and I’ll list them soon. They’ll help you get to what researchers call the “edge of your domain” and understand the zeitgeist of the strategy world.
However, an account planner’s job is very close to a writer’s reason for existence. A writer must notice new things about the world and express what she notices in compelling ways to stand a chance of her writing reaching a reader.
So, feel free to get as clever as your ego requires with books on strategy, behavioral economics, neuroscience, psychology, history, and everything in the social sciences. These are useful and important. But always keep one eye on the writing world because, when all is said and done, that is also your world.
1. On Writing by Stephen King
This is part-autobiography and part-advice on the craft of writing. The ideas that stuck with me, which are common in many books on writing are these:
- Writing is rewriting - get it out and make it better as if you were solving a series of puzzles.
- Write with the door shut - it’s dangerous to let people into your words before you have them. Obviously, ready-ness is a subjective notion.
- Read, write, read, write - Mr King follows a habit of input and output and tends to write every day.
2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
In school, many of us heard about the idea of putting one idea into every paragraph. The way William Zinsser talks about this idea in the context of non-fiction writing glued to my brain an idea that was loosely there but flailing in the wind.
3. The Artful Edit by Susan Bell
If writing is rewriting as many writers write, then it makes sense to investigate how artists edit themselves. Often there is an outpouring of expression, an attempt to get mental distance from it, and a more neutral reapproach. This book shares different techniques that artists of various kind use to do these things.
4. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
If you want to improve your presentations, read this book. It shares different types of movie genres and breaks movies down into acts and beats. It would be a challenge to mimic this structure for most business presentations but the idea of having a structure and borrowing what works for you will help you make more memorable presentations.
5. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
As with all of the books here, this is a book you can return to and will need to return to as you focus on improving your words. It’s fastidious, which is makes it beautiful.