Viral Literature: A Self-Isolation Reading List



First of all, let me applaud you for staying home and helping to flatten the curve. It’s heartening to see so many agencies taking brave steps to protect staff and by extension, the vulnerable members of our community. 

That said, I’m using the extra time at home to build my knowledge with a fat stack of books and audiobooks. As a self-confessed student of the industry, I thought I’d share my favourites in this exclusive list. Pop the kettle on, would ya?

Mad Women, Jane Maas This book was given to me by a mentor when I was first starting out and I loved it. Maas writes with sass and humour, depicting the sensational world of Madison Avenue in the sixties, warts and all. Sadly, it remains the only book on this list by a female author, because there just aren’t many out there. You (yes you), will you write one?

Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy It’s true that this book was penned in 1963 when the world was a different (sexist…?) place. I don’t believe Ogilvy was a chauvinist. I think he was visionary for his time, and many of his observations of the ad world are timeless: ‘Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.’

It seems not everything has changed.

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads, Luke Sullivan It’s 1998 and copywriter Luke Sullivan is trying to figure out how an annoying, unpopular ad sold truckloads of toilet paper for decades. It seems he does not really know the answer, nor does he find it. But he shares some damn good insights trying to figure it out.

D&AD The Copy Book, Various This book is the definitive anthology of long copy print ads. It’s jam packed with classics like Volkswagen ‘Think small’ and Tripp (‘The expandable suitcase. Now you can steal the bathrobe as well as the toiletries.’). Besides the ads, there are essays by 53 legendary copywriters like Dan Wieden and Barbara Nokes.

The Advertising Effect, Adam Ferrier Ferrier has carved out a reputation as the psychological wizard of adland. And listening to this as an audiobook, I can’t help but buy in. Not only is it filled with compelling, recent case studies, it’s candidly funny. Sidenote: if you’ve already read this bad boy, I’m halfway through Ferrier’s new book ‘Stop Listening To The Customer’. It’s shaping up to be a worthy sequel.

Alchemy, Rory Sutherland Like Ferrier, Sutherland has made a lot of money understanding how behavioural science and creative advertising can work together to solve problems. His position as the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK has allowed him to work on many interesting campaigns, which he articulates in this (very English) audiobook. Note: If you’ve never heard of the guy, start by watching his TED talk, ‘Perspective is everything.’  

Phew, that’s a lot of reading! Now go wash your hands.


Got a recommendation? Please share in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.

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