When I want to cleanse myself of all the bad sentences I’ve read or written, I go back to the same, reliable tonics: the books and stories written by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Whether you’re a PR professional or a journalist, you deal, essentially, in sentences, and you probably have your own writing masters or beautifully told stories that you turn to time and again to rid yourself of your own bad habits and reconnect with the inspiration that put you on your career path.
At PR News’ Writing Boot Camp in Chicago this month, we asked our attendees what literature they love and turn to for inspiration. Here’s a list of some of their true loves. It’s an eclectic list (presented in no particular order), but many of them have one thing in common—a magical allure that demands repeat readings.
1. “The Purpose-Driven Life,” by Rick Warren. Though based in Christian scripture, this book appeals to readers who yearn to find their true direction in life, and who find the search itself to be a spiritual endeavor.
2. “True Compass, A Memoir,” by Edward M. Kennedy. American royalty, the Kennedy clan continues to fascinate. Ted Kennedy could have been the source of a series of plays by Shakespeare.
3. “Jackie After O,” by Tina Cassidy. See above.
4. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. Smalltown America, Southern-style, seen through the eyes of a young girl.
5. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. The Young Adult genre comes of age for all ages.
6. “Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center,” by Daniel Okrent. Money, power, creativity and master planning converge in midtown Manhattan during the Great Depression.
7. “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” by Hunter S. Thompson. The apotheosis of HST’s reporting skills, deep compassion, savage political point of view and humor. Thompson had the gift for writing sentences that sing.
8. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams. The sci-fi novel even sci-fi haters love.
9. “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett. A character-driven tale of the civil rights movement in the South.
10. “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. If you want to be a great leader, you might as well learn from masters who’ve been given the historian’s seal of approval.
11. Marvel Comics. Victor von Doom’s thwarted love of Sue Storm turns him into a vengeful, ultimately self-destructive monster. Who hasn’t been there? Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and their colleagues combined soap opera, saturated images and a spirit of adventure decades before David Lynch conceived “Twin Peaks.”
What’s on your nightstand, or in your e-reader?
Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI