by Robert McKee
Considered the bible for screenwriters, McKee argues we’ve forgotten how great stories are told, and provides a compelling anatomy of storytelling, including structure, character and genre. It’s witty and practical, full of diagrams of narrative arcs which are otherwise hard to find.
THE WRITER'S JOURNEY
by Christopher Vogler
Second to McKee comes Vogler's modern reworking of Joseph Campbell's famous investigation of storytelling. He focuses on the Classical Narrative - the Hero's Quest - and looks at its use in great detail. A highlight is his step-by-step dissection of films such as Star Wars and The Lion King.
ON DIRECTING FILM
by David Mamet
A short but biting read, Mamet pulls no punches in explaining that film is about pictures not dialogue. This book, plus Hitchcock's explanation of montage finally helped me grasp what visual storytelling really is.
HITCHCOCK ON HITCHCOCK
by Sidney Gottlieb
Crowned the 'master of suspense' Hitchcock was really a master of the visual form. This book is made up of personal essays, articles, lectures and interviews where he shares the secrets of making great film. You appreciate him and the craft much more after reading.
by Jennifer Van Sijll
Dive into visual storytelling further with this book, which lays out one-hundred different shots, movements, transitions and other camera techniques which add meaning to storytelling.
THE ART OF IMMERSION
by Frank Rose
Frank Rose explores how storytelling is being changed by technology, and how audiences now want to get involved in stories. This book sparked a dozen cool ideas for my own work.
THE WARRIOR ETHOS
by Steven Pressfield
The first of three Pressfield titles in my library, this short, unique work should really be filed somewhere else, but within his analogies for hard work and perseverance lie some fundamental archetypes for storytelling.
MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING
by Viktor Frankl
This book should be read by everyone before they're 18. Part gruelling account of life in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl's famous book is ultimately an inspiring treatise on finding meaning in your own life, by helping others.
by Julian Smith
It's short and it's free but it really packs a punch. A life-changing read for anyone who wants to do big things but feels frustrated for whatever reason.
LETTERS FROM A STOIC
The Stoic philosophy makes a lot of sense to me personally: it's a simple, no nonsense attitude to life which accepts that it's hard and that it's supposed to be hard. In my opinion Seneca's (4BC-65AD) Letters are a better introduction than Marcus Aurealius's Meditations.
THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY
by Chris Guillebeau
Chris' first book makes the case for living a remarkable life on your own terms - and tells you how to do it. It's a small book with some big unconventional ideas.
FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK
by Timothy Ferris
Many people would file this book under business but for me it had more of a philosophical impact. Chief among the 'oh shit!' realisations: that the unrealistic goals in life are easier to achieve than the realistic ones. You'll have to read to find out why.
THE WAR OF ART
by Steven Pressfield
Read this, take lots of notes, read it again. This is the ultimate manifesto for anyone creative. Pressfield's writing is beautiful but his message pulls no punches: art is hard, and there's no way around it. So be a professional and "shut up and keep humping." His follow-up Turning Pro is a good supplement.
IF YOU WANT TO WRITE
by Brenda Ueland
Look past the 1950s attitudes (particularly to what women should be doing with their day) and you have one of the finest books on the creative lifestyle I've read. Brenda gracefully argues for what she calls 'creative idleness': space for your mind to relax and think.
by Stephen King
King's semi-autobiography probably graces more writers shelves than his horror novels and you can see why. His attitude to getting stuff done is well honed, and this book is full of solid advice, chief among it: write every day.
THE CREATIVE HABIT: LEARN IT AND USE IT FOR LIFE
by Twyla Tharp
Get the paperback version of this one if you can, it's beautifully laid out. Twyla, a renowned dancer and choreographer in New York City puts a lot of her creativity down to solid routines, a tough pill to swallow for most artists, but ultimately the only way to work.
STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST
by Austin Kleon
A mini-manifesto and assortment of short ideas, Austin's book convincingly argues that nothing is original, and that all great artists start by stealing from others. It's a great attitude to your own work which stops you running out of inspiration.
HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY
by Stan Lee
Stan Lee never really taught me how to draw (not very well anyway) but he sure as hell taught me how to write. I stumbled across this book at the age of 14 and until then had never seen English written so conversationally. My own writing changed almost immediately.
by Jonathan Fields
The book that started it off for me. I read this in the summer of 2009 and two months later I had quit my job and become self-employed. There's some great advice too about overcoming the fear of failure.
by Jason Fried
If any book has affected how I think about business it's this one. The man behind 37Signals - one of the most successful software companies - convincingly argues for starting small, simple businesses, focusing on fast prototyping and iteration, with quality at its heart.
START WITH WHY
by Simon Sinek
Why do Apple have loyal fans when Dell just make computers? It's because Apple knows why it exists. Sinek's idea that every business should know its core mission from the outset is a must read for any entrepreneur.
TRIBES: WE NEED YOU TO LEAD US
by Seth Godin
Seth has written so many go-to books for creatives, entrepreneurs and marketers they'd fill up the whole bookshelf. This one makes the case for more people to become leaders to create change.
MAKE SOMETHING PEOPLE LOVE: LESSONS FROM A STARTUP GUY
by Alexis O'Hanian
The Reddit founder's startup spirit is all over the pages of his short guide to starting a business. As the title suggests it's down to making something people love. His advice about user experience is also very important.
ANYTHING YOU WANT
by Derek Sivers
Another hugely successful founder with the right attitude is Derek Sivers, former owner of CDBaby. He built a business in his bedroom into a company worth $20 million and did it while rejecting advertisers, lawyers and bad customers.
by Sir Ken Robinson
I picked up Sir Ken's book after seeing his now famous TED talk on education and creativity. The Element pursues this line of enquiry further and argues that if we don't teach kids that it is OK to be wrong, they'll never come up with anything original.
STOP STEALING DREAMS
by Seth Godin
A free collection of ideas from Web 2.0's chief philosopher, it's a bit repetitive in places but Seth passionately makes the case for a changing world, and the desperate need for an entirely new way of teaching. It's not about sharpening the pencil we already have, he says.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
by J.R.R. Tolkien
A clichéd choice I know, but I first read this when I was 12 and I've read it twice since, so the love is real. I recently re-read The Hobbit too, which is such a fun book.
CATCHER IN THE RYE
by JD Salinger
I only read this a couple of years ago and it is utterly marvellous. Salinger's style and dialogue transcends generations.
THE SECRET HISTORY
by Donna Tartt
Tartt doesn't write very often but when she does it's electric. The Secret History had a 17 year old boy hooked for two weeks and I haven't forgotten it since.
TRUST ME I'M LYING: CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIA MANIPULATOR
MR PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE
THE IMPACT EQUATION
Chris Brogan & Julien Smith
THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL: HOW STORIES MAKE US HUMAN
WINNING THE STORY WARS
Can you recommend any good reads? Then please get in touch to let me know!