A Copywriter’s Favorite Books

by Erin Sephel

Building the industry bookshelf one recommended read at a time.

I harbor so much appreciation for this stack of friends. In fact, I never let them out of my sight. In these pages, I fell in love with words, I learned invaluable lessons about process, and I got to see my world from the perspective of so many greats. Here’s to many more Sunday evenings together.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

I read this at the start of my quest to becoming a writer in advertising. It got me through every tough day, every imposter moment, and encouraged me to put pen to paper already and get on with it.

“There is no permanent truth you can corner in a poem that will satisfy you forever. Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black and white words. They are not you. They are a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.”

Salt, by Nayyirah Waheed

This book of poems was recommended to me by a writer friend. In it, I experienced for the first time the power of words, even delivered in small handfuls. Every page is a lesson in what it means to be human, to feel, to face diversity, to struggle, and to be alive. In the end, it gave me the biggest gift: a forever love for poetry.

“I don’t pay attention to the

world ending.

it has ended for me

many times

and began again in the morning.”

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

This is another one for those just starting out — when the whole endeavor feels too big and unwieldy and impossible. It’s geared more toward the novelist, but it’s packed with lessons for anyone who’s hopelessly devoted to words. Just take it bird by bird.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

The Art of Writing Advertising, by many greats

It’s rare that you get to sit in a room and learn from some of the greatest minds in your field. It’s even more rare when those minds are long dead. This is a book of interviews with Bernbach, Ogilvy, Reeves, and others. Sure, some of their lessons are dated. Sure, you’ve heard some of their stories many times before. What what a gift it is to hold their respected perspectives in your hands.

“But finding the magic things to say about a product that would interest people and evoke their interest and lead them by the hand to the conclusion that they should buy something — that was another art, really.” — Leo Burnett

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, by Pico Iyer

No, it’s not about writing. It’s a book about keeping sane along the way by seeking stillness in an age of constant motion and connectivity. It will change your entire life perspective for the better in 66 pages.

“”But what I discovered, almost instantly, was that as soon as I was in one place, undistracted, the world lit up and I was as happy as when I forgot about myself. Heaven is the place where you think of nowhere else.”

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