I read 50+ books so you wouldn’t have to.
Though some of them, you should read, because they’re great!
When you want to read a book on storytelling, and are at a loss for which one to read next, sometimes it helps to know someone who read the book too. I’m promoting all these books because if you decide to buy one, Story Luck gets a commission.
This article is a comprehensive list of books I’ve read. If I loved the book, I’ll be writing comprehensive reviews and twitter threads about the books. But I know that sometimes people just want to know… “I wonder what other people are reading?”
Well, now you know.
If you are interested in discussing any of these books, book a hang out session with me.
Books on Therapy
The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients
This book got me thinking about how dreams are important to me.
Using them as prompts for stories, and realizing that the dream space is where you learn… was a small part of this reflection on the life of a therapist, but it was the part most impactful for me personally.
Maps of Narrative Practice: Norton Professional Books
This book got me thinking about how subtle shifts in narrative structure can open up empathy, for others as well as one’s self.
There is a practice described that’s very much part of the 5L1K Method, where you have another party share their own story.
It’s good to see smart people think alike.
Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People
I remember liking this book.
But I don’t remember the hard core takeaways. Some of the books straddle genera.
Books on Storytelling
Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And How Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.)
There was so much jam packed into this book! I’ve read it twice.
Failed jokes that are deemed socially appropriate win you friends and influence. That was a mind blow moment for me.
No wonder dad jokes are killing it.
Story or Die: How to Use Brain Science to Engage, Persuade, and Change Minds in Business and in Life
All the reviews of this book were, “This is what I wanted Stories that Stick to be!”
Here, Lisa Cron talks about various ad campaigns and how they use story to ignite a passionate userbase.
Delves into the science and her extensive case study knowledge.
The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction
This is not a genera I practice.
My main takeaway? Most mystery writers are pantsers. They don’t know who did it until the end. Then they go back and shore it up in the editing process.
Storytelling and the Sciences of Mind: MIT Press
This book was hot garbage.
He uses the terms wording the story and storying the world to mean two distinct things but gets them confused several times.
Also adds story world, world story, and story worlding without defining them.
Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator
The craziest thing was an anecdote about a teacher who adopted her favorite 5th grade students for the weekend and hearing the testimonials of how that was a life changing positive experience.
Wish I lived in a world where I thought that was okay.
Screenwriting 101: Mastering the Art of Story
Looked at reverse engineering the screenwriting process.
Wanted you to look at the emotional weight of the story. Ask yourself, what is the big feeling you leave the theater with? Then, where did you start? Where in the film did it increase the stakes?
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
I reference this book in my classes a lot.
George Saunders has a gentle touch and a love for the rough draft… as well as the polished narrative and provides room for an expansive umbrella of what a GOOD short story can be.
Replace good with effective and intentional.
The Writing Life: Annie Dillard
I bought this book but didn’t read it.
Annie Dillard’s in Time Being had a major effect on my thinking regarding travel writing and memoir. Picked up on sale but haven’t actually picked up yet!
She is a master of scene setting that grounds the read in a physical space.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading
This is a love letter to the digital format.
The book is filled with rational optimist style stats. More readers, more book buyers, better books, more varied genres. On a large time scale, everything is better than before, let’s keep pushing forward.
Who Knew! Some people don’t think reading’s great. (There’s a series called read like a professor, and it has a similar vibe but I liked it better.)
Takeaway, it’s okay to read for fun, but you can also find fun in exploring themes and repeating motifs.
Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
I’m regularly amazed at how many people have read this niche book.
But it makes sense, it is the best treatiese on assembly line storytelling you will find. If you have to make a Moth Style Story. There’s no better place to look. Read it multiple times.
Bird by Bird
Have you read Stephen King’s On Writing? This is in a similar vein but better.
It delves into the moods and mindsets of the writer’s life in ways that other books didn’t dare to go. Speaks directly to the heart of jealous in particular.
So many of my friend’s Favorite book of all time.
Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative
This book is the best anti Assembly Line Storytelling book out there.
If you feel constrained, break through with new frame works. Not only does this detail ones other’s have tried, but it also gives you license to find your own.
Look for the hidden patterns, and you’ll start to see them everywhere. Then leverage those patterns in your own writing.
Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything
This is a 101 essay writing class.
But done with a best in class lecturer. I found new things to think about. And hadn’t played around with terms like, pathos, logos and ethos for a long time.
Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors
Everyone does it a little differently.
Everyone does a couple of things the same way.
Pick up tips and tricks from your favorites. And reduce your learning curve.
Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling
I have never read any of this person’s fiction, and I hadn’t seen the movie adaptations.
He has an anecdote about talking with his nephew about the internal logic of how a fantasy world works. Sometimes you have to bounce ideas off other people because you don’t realize what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense.
Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need
They say the truth hurts, but what about lies?
If you are looking for the most basic intro into storytelling, this is maybe a good place to start.
Some books just don’t do it for you. This one wasn’t for me.
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
This is another Assembly Line Storytelling book.
One of the interesting things about writing for TV and Movies is that selling a script that never gets made is a career. It’s talked about here, but I know so many working writers who sell scripts that will never see the light of day.
There’s always the feeling it’s your best work.
The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better
Will Storr is working on a new book that looks like it will blow this one out of the water.
He attacks the problem of illustrating the link between science and story the way a marketing guru would.
This book is built to increase his personal brand and is a condensing of his consulting lectures.
How to Write Best-Selling Fiction
This dude loves pop fiction.
And what that means for you, is that you get a teacher who is aware of all the unlocks that snobbier critics will be bias blind to.
This has some good lectures on how to deal with research.
It talks about the ethics of going into the mind of 3rd parties and language that will help signpost to the reader that you don’t know for certain what they were thinking.
The Art and Business of Online Writing: How to Beat the Game of Capturing and Keeping Attention
This is an assembly line storytelling style book. Hyper Focused on the Buzzfeed Style of writing. Looking past it’s flaws and dissecting clearly why it works so well.
After reading the book, you can Join Ship30 and learn from the man directly.
Books on the Science of the Mind
How Stella Learned to Talk: The Groundbreaking Story of the World’s First Talking Dog
This might be a stretch!
But it also helped ground me in how we think.
My dog uses this method to speak. But the real takeaway is this… don’t always make people adapt to your way of thinking… if people have other coping/communication methods, try adapting to theirs.
The Compound Effect: Multiply Your Success One Simple Step at a Time
This a book on rational optimism.
The basic premise is that the world is ebbing towards better and that’s because we get 1% better all the time. It is very similar to Atomic Habits.
The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self
This is a book that changed my life and I use it extensively in my 6 week course on Advanced Storytelling.
George Saunders, in his book, A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, talks about how short stories beg interesting questions… and that’s enough.
Buy this book.
American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
I haven’t finished this book yet.
There are stories that just bum me out. I know, it’s important to take a look at how human beings treat each other… but it’s hard to do that kind of self reflection.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
Political and social essays become dated quickly.
This was a book club pick for a friend.
We didn’t end up talking about it. My main takeaway was that it’s hard to talk about feminism without talking about the other.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
This is a life changing book.
If you master habit stacking you become that superman you always thought you could be. It’s not about your will power, it’s about your systems.
I write about it extensively in this twitter thread.
I loved this Great Course.
There’s a bunch of hot takeaways for min maxing your learning potential. But eventually the lecturer levels with everyone.
Best productivity hack? Eat Right, Get Enough Sleep, and Exercise.
Surviving AI: The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence
I was thoroughly convinced.
We aren’t going to survive.
Eventually Ai will mean our mutual destruction. Ai is likely not as close as the main people think it is.
The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal
There were some dark sides of negotiating that I hadn’t contemplated. But the best takeaway was, brainstorm alternative gives and gets. Maybe they can’t budge on price… but there’s stuff they can give that you value as much as price.
The Art of Conflict Management: Achieving Solutions for Life, Work, and Beyond
This seems like it’d be a lot like Negotiating tactics but it absolutely had 100% new material.
Biggest takeaway; the full mechanics of Win Win.
I use this course in my lectures all the time.
It has a lot of overlap with the Learning Brain. Offers insight into how learning styles differ by custom and region as well as the stages of how you teach over time.
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
Gladwell Grinds my gears.
Anderson takes him to task and that made me sooo happy.
I use anecdotes for this work in my storytelling classes all the time. No one is naturally good at a skill in a way that matters. If you spend 200hrs of dedicated and focused practice at a skill, you will blow anyone who is naturally gifted out of the water.
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator
This is probably better categorized as a marketing book.
But Ryan Holiday is a famous writer on Stoicism. In this book he talks about seeding the rumor mill to get your message out into the world.
He relies on examples from his career as a copywriter and marketing agent for the book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
Books on Marketing
Dotcom secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online with Sales Funnels
Richard Brunson created Clickfunnels and this is an advertisement for Clickfunnels.
What you get is his story of inventing his first funnel. And while he talks about it for free in podcasts it’s nice to have it condensed in one place here.
Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step StoryBrand Guide for Any Business
I’ve read two of Donald Millar’s books. This and Story Brand.
This work is much more actionable. The basic premise of his idea, is rather than start with WHY, it’s to focus on the client’s hero’s journey. If you are selling a product, you want to be the wizard who says, “It’s dangerous to go it alone. Here’s some help.”
The Psychology of Selling: The Art of Closing Sales
This is another 1% better every day book.
The main takeaway is that you need to set your expectations properly and that it’s easy to stand out in a crowded marketplace because so many people won’t go an extra inch, let alone an extra mile.
Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skill
This has great example cases.
Goes into influence through various means. Complements a number of the other courses on negotiation in general.
Promotes Win-Win ideology.
The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue
This is Gary Vee 101.
There’s a better book called wiki economy that I read a few years ago.
Not mentioned the moral issues inherent in crowdsourcing labor.
Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media
An look into the mind of an Influencer’s Agent.
You get to see what it’s like to be an agent and run an agency for influencers. Influencers are some of the hardest working people out there.
Nitty gritty details on how to write query letters. How to ask for more money, and how to get out of contracts you don’t like without blowing up the relationship.
The Workshop Survival Guide: How to design and teach educational workshops that work every time
If you have to create a course, this is a gold standard framework.
It’s not afraid to be definitive with it’s advice. This is block by block class building. How long should your lecture be? How many questions should be on the slide when you put people into break out rooms? This book has the answers.
Write Useful Books: A modern approach to designing and refining recommendable nonfiction
I liked the above book, I bought a second one.
Rob Fitzpatrick is all about rate of revelation. He wants to hit you as quickly as possible with thought reversals, a-ha moments, and unlocks. This makes for a very fast read.
He uses tight, concrete examples.
Books on YT and Video Editing
Edit Better: Hollywood-Tested Strategies for Powerful Video Editing
This was fast paced and practical.
Top level, workflow, editing advice. No specific programs mentioned.
Takeaway: with only a small amount of practice, you can be a good sound editor. But if you have money, pay for a specialist.
In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, 2nd Edition
Walter Murch works with the best.
This is his love letter to editing.
The main takeaway, I fear some might miss is the importance of finding your tribe. Movie making isn’t a place for churn.
How to Edit Videos That People Want to Watch
This book is a fast listen!
My main basic point that helped me… was that when editing think about line of sight.
Focuses on creating tutorial and informational videos.
Go Big: Make Your Shot Count in the Connected World
This book was recommended to me by another YouTuber as the best book he’s ever read on the game.
The hidden takeaway was that you can’t go viral without a hitmaker. You must have someone big trumpet your work.
While they focused on authenticity and great videos. Breaks only came because they found megapohones.
YouTube Secrets: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Following and Making Money as a Video Influencer
Sean Cannel has a repeatable system for growing on YouTube.
While he doesn’t go into the nitty gritty details of how to upload, he does get granular regarding the ways you can promote and secure your YouTube lane.
His method works best if you’re doing product reviews. He goes into various ways to monetize video. Your videos should connect to a product.
More Books on Storytelling to Come
Over time I will be writing full reviews and contemplations on each of these books and courses.
I will also be updating this as I read more extensively in the subjects that interest me.
I write daily essays on the writing life on twitter.