Monday, December 28, 2009

Six, great books (plus one) to read on your week off

1. If you're interested in advertising, read Rob Walker's book, Buying In, now available in paperback. I love Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, but Walker's book is probably the best look at the modern world of advertising and marketing (make that "murketing") I've read. 

2. If you're interested in the ever-eroding broadcast business, read Bill Carter's Desperate Networks, also now available in paperback. 

Every TV show that actually makes it to air and becomes a hit is a little miracle. As this book proves, the stories behind Desperate Housewives, Lost, and American Idol are more fascinating than the shows themselves.

3. If you're interested in journalism, read Norman Mailer's the Executioner's Song - a reminder of what well-researched journalism and great storytelling look like, lest we forget. 

One thousand and seventy two gripping pages about Gary Gilmore, who in 1977 became the first person executed (by firing squad) after the reinstitution of the death penalty, struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972. 

4. For more-recent, but equally great, journalism, read Columbine by Dave Cullen. 

I read and reviewed the book (here) in May. Cullen's book dissects the psychology behind the Columbine killings, corrects the many commonly held misconceptions about what happened that terrible day in Colorado, and holds broadcast media accountable for much of the confusion. 

As I said in May, it's a must-read for any student enrolled in a communications or media course.

5. If you're interested in great creative writing and fiction, read One Day by David Nicholls. 

I reviewed this book in October here, and it's stuck with me ever since. Inspiring for being a breezy read with a cool big idea (each chapter advances the story by one year), it knocks you senseless with its devastating postscript, asking and and answering some very hard questions about the true nature of love, loneliness, chemistry, and fate. 

I gave out three copies of this book as Christmas presents this year, and I'll probably give out more for birthdays in 2010. When's yours? 

6. If you're interested in PR, read Leonard Saffir's Power Public Relations.

I was a little hesitant to recommend this book, since it came out in 1999, and doesn't talk about new media. 

Nonetheless, I constantly refer to this book throughout the school year, and think it's the best one-stop shop for folks looking for a quick and easy-to-read guide that effectively covers the broad areas of the PR industry: media relations, crisis communications, issues management, news conferences, running a PR firm, and building and evaluating a successful PR program. 

7. If you're Amanda Lefley, read this book, so you can answer the most pressing question of our times: "Who the hell is Dick Francis?!"


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Cullen , who first reported on the story for the online magazine Salon, acknowledges in the book's source notes that thoughts he attributes to Klebold and Harris are conjecture gleaned from the record the pair left behind.

    Jeff Kass takes a more straightforward approach in "Columbine: A True Crime Story," working backward from the events of the fateful day.
    The Denver Post

    Mr. Cullen insists that the killers enjoyed "far more friends than the average adolescent," with Harris in particular being a regular Casanova who "on the ultimate high school scorecard . . . outscored much of the football team." The author's footnotes do not reveal how he knows this; when I asked him about it while preparing this review, Mr. Cullen said he did not necessarily mean to imply that Harris was sexually active. But what else would such words mean?

    "Eric and Dylan never had any girlfriends," the more sober Mr. Kass writes, and were "probably virgins upon death."
    Wall Street Journal

  3. i imagine these aren't available on the kindle, kenton? LOL

  4. Some, in fact, are on the Kindle! I checked this morning. I read them all the old-school way, though, pre-Kindle.

    Wait 'til next year's list!

  5. Matt, my book (Columbine) is on the kindle.

    FYI, GM above is the local publisher of the book he is pimping. I have never spoken to him, and he is badly mischaracterizing my author notes.

    Here's what my note on sources actually says (page ix): "The same convention was applied to quotations from the killers, who wrote and taped themselves extensively. Their writings are reproduced here as written, with most of their idiosyncrasies intact. Passages of this book suggesting their thoughts come primarily from their journals and videos. A multitude of corroborating sources were employed, including school assignments; conversations with friends, family members, and teachers; journals kept by key figures; and a slew of police records compiled before the murders, particularly summaries of their counseling sessions. I often used the killers' thoughts verbatim from their journals, without quotation marks. other feelings are summarized or paraphrased, but all originated with them. The killers left a few significant gaps in their thinking. I have attempted to fill them with the help of experts in criminal psychology who have spent years on the case. All conjecture about the killers' thinking are labeled as such."

    Does the characterization in the comment sound accurate?

    As for the footnotes revealing how I knew Eric had a lot of friends and an active social life, I would refer you to the above paragraph.

  6. Thanks, Dave.

    I've read your book twice, and there's no question that it's well written and researched, and that your methodology is clear from the outset.

    As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best pieces of journalism I've read in the last decade, which is why I'm recommending it here.

    Thanks for the background on the above comment - it explains a lot.




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