4 books that will make you a better storyteller

Your job as a communicator may require you to keep up with the latest technology news and industry bestsellers, but only fiction can help your storytelling skills.

I didn’t read fiction for a long time because I thought I should read all the new marketing and business books coming out instead.

I needed to stay on top of the latest reads on technology and its effect on marketing, as well as books on being a leader and entrepreneur. There was Steve Jobs’ biography, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book-all books I want to read, but haven’t yet.

But as a marketer, I also need to be able to tell great stories. The best way to learn to do that is by reading great storytellers.

With that, here are a few ideas for your reading list that will further you professionally and be enjoyable to read.

1. Beautiful Ruins

Jess Walter is a new author to me. “Beautiful Ruins” teaches that stories are not linear. You don’t have to start at year one and end chronologically.

This story begins in Italy in the 1960s, and bounces around to present day Los Angeles, World War II, back to the 1960s, and present day Sandpoint, Idaho. The character development was so rich that I missed the hero and heroine when I was done.

Lesson: Make your brand’s story as entertaining and inviting as you can without lying. Using the characters that make up your company is a great way to get prospects emotionally involved with your brand.

2. Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Steve Martin’s autobiography is beautifully written. Martin tells his story in a spare, matter-of-fact way that is sometimes funny but never dramatized.

Lesson: Successful content uses an authentic voice. Work hard to keep readers engaged with short, active copy. It takes work to be economical with words, but it makes your copy more compelling.

3. Born to Run

This national bestselling book started a running revolution; it touts the benefits of running without expensive running shoes. It also calls out big shoe brands out for causing more running injuries than they prevent.

Author Christopher McDougall gives you even more to think about in this book. Whether you run or not, the great stories and history here will inspire you to be better at whatever you do through discipline and practice.

Lesson: The best content shakes the foundation of existing thought. Invest in thought leadership to help your brand stand out.

4. Man’s Search for Meaning

Beyond helping us with our content, Viktor Frankl’s book gives us perspective. It will change the way you react in day-to-day situations.

Frankl is a psychologist. His style is academic, but his themes are important. He speaks of horrors and how people did or did not survive them in a way that doesn’t belabor details or sacrifice the story.

Lesson: We can choose how we react to situations. Beyond marketing, this is a life-changing lesson.

I turned to my Facebook community for a fifth book. Mana Ionescu suggests Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which teaches the tools that separate great writers from the rest. David Kilmer is inspired by the sense of place conveyed by New West authors like Ivan Doig and Thomas McGuane. Erin Feldman says “The Princess Bride” will teach you to keep things fascinating.

Go ahead and indulge yourself. Good stories are more than great escapes—they inspire us to be better storytellers.

What would you add to this list?

Lisa Gerber is the founder of Big Leap Creative and a contributor to the Vocus blog, where a version of this article originally appeared. You can read more of her work here.

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