Arment Dietrich

The Top 10 Fiction Books Every PR and Marketing Pro Should Read

By: Arment Dietrich | February 29, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Molli Megasko.

A few weeks ago, Gini Dietrich wrote how reading fiction can stimulate your brain to think more creatively and help you in your career. The idea really stuck with me.

I’m in a couple book clubs and always push for fiction when it comes time to vote. It always improves my writing, storytelling, and inspires everyday creativity.

The following is a list of the top 10 fiction books I’ve read and how they can, and will, play a part in my professional life.

  1. Still AliceWritten from the voice of a women who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, author Lisa Genova takes us on a journey. The writing conveys the confusion and anxiety the protagonist feels so well, it makes me want to be a better storyteller.
  2. The Hunger GamesNeed I say more?  These easy reads are the definition of page turners. The trilogies, like the new Chemical Garden rage, provide lots of creativity.  Just the thought of someone creating these other worlds inspires the reader to push the boundaries.
  3. The Handmaid’s TaleThis is my sister’s favorite book of all time and I’ve read it twice now. Margaret Atwood mixes old eras with future scenarios giving you pause to ask yourself how you would have reacted in the different situations.
  4. The Paris WifeI’ve always been infatuated by Ernest Hemingway so when I heard about a book based on one of his lovers I just had to read it, and I’m glad I did. It’s interesting how in such a dynamic time of drugs, art, sex, and mixed culture, the imagery of the writing allows for any women to relate to the struggles of finding oneself.
  5. All the Dragon Tattoo books: If you have not read these yet, it’s not too late. I’ve never been into murder mysteries but somehow this story drew me in. I didn’t like the first book as much as I did the following two, but what struck me with the series is how well Stieg Larsson helps you visualize everything going on. It’s not the amount of detail as much as it is seeing things through the different character’s eyes.
  6. Little Bee: I like this book not just for the story line of survival, injustice, and bravery, but the way Chris Cleeve switches between different perspectives. Usually with those types of books I am dying to get back to the point-of-view from one of the characters, but in Little Bee, it’s done so eloquently you don’t even realize you’re jumping around.
  7. UnbrokenThis is by far the best book I have ever read (and yes, I know it’s not fiction). Laura Hillenbrand also wrote Seabiscuit, which I did not like, but this time she tells the fascinating story of a World War II prisoner of war. The character development is such that I have never before felt more close to a character. Not only is the story compelling, but it’s told in a way that is impossible to put down.
  8. Running with Scissors: Even though it’s been ages since I’ve read this, there is something troubling about the boy’s optimistic attitude that keeps coming back to me over the years. The way he turns his life into a learning session reminds me not to be so diluted and to let things go.
  9. Me Talk Pretty One Day. David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors and this has to be his best book. How is it that I can relate to him? I’m a young white woman raised normally in the suburbs of Detroit. I have nothing in common with his life, but I feel like I not only know him while reading his books, but that he is a long-time friend.  (I’m taking French classes and two weeks ago we were learning how to make nouns plural. I kept thinking of Me Talk Pretty One Day when he says he would always order things in bulk to avoid masculine and feminine and I’m totally doing that trick when I go to Paris this summer.)
  10. Are You There Vodka?  It’s me, Chelsea: Chelsea Handler writes in a way that makes you constantly laugh and snicker at the same time. Her stories bring me down to earth and remind me that compared to her, I am not funny and my life is dull.

I will carry these books with me for a long time. The memories of the detail of the stories might fade, but the ideas have longevity.

What are some of your favorite fiction books and how have they affected your professional life?

  • svenwennerstrom

    Unbroken is not fiction, but nevertheless a must read.

    • MolliMegasko

      You are correct.  I had a note in there that the last four books are non fiction…that must have gotten edited out, @lisagerber ?

      • @MolliMegasko You did have a note in there. I did not remove it.

        •  @Lisa Gerber  @MolliMegasko You can always blame Arment…

      • ginidietrich

         @MolliMegasko  @lisagerber I removed it…it didn’t really fit without creating a new section. 

  • MediaMavin

    @ginidietrich love this list! I’ve read three of them and am reading Hunger Games now, and having a hard time putting it down.

    • ginidietrich

      @MediaMavin I LOVED the Hunger Games!

  • As I told Gini, I’m still on withdrawal from reading (on her recommendation) the dragon tattoo series. Don’t think I’m likely to find quite as compelling a trilogy anytime soon.  
    I’m halfway through “Unbroken” (on my wife’s recommendation) and got waylaid by another EXCELLENT non-fiction book on the history of trade — something worth reading by anyone in ‘marketing’, etc.: “A Splendid Exchange”, by William Bernstein — I can’t recommend it enough. Amazing stories about “how-things-came-to-be-the-way-they-are” in this book. 
    By the way, a fiction series (used to be a trilogy, now reorganized I think) which goes very well with Bernstein’s book is Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” series. The heroine is an economic genius navigating the times of Sir Issac Newton; the hero a rogue who at one point navigates one of the most famous trade routes of the period.

    • MolliMegasko

      I love a good recommendation!  I will start reading A Splendid Exchange tonight!  (Stay with Unbroken, that I my “I can’t recommend it enough” book.)

  • jonbuscall

    Jane Eyre – because we are all unique and because beauty, in whatever form, comes to those that never settle for second best.

    Bright lights, big city – jay mcinerney’s 80s novel is a warning to all of us caught up in the zeitgeist of the moment

  • Hi Molly, thanks for sharing your reading list. I’ve read some of these books, but not all. I also love fiction and completely agree it helps improve writing. I also think reading fiction, and talking about it with others in a book club, can help develop critical thinking. We talked about The Help last night at our club and even though I really didn’t like the book (and maybe because I didn’t) it encouraged me to develop a clear opinion about why I didn’t like it and how I thought the book could be improved.

    • MolliMegasko

      Not only critical thinking, but creative thinking! 

  • I’ve loved reading since I was pretty young. Another thing reading helps with is to expand your vocabulary

    So I don’t have to use the word douche all the time!!!! Even though it’s may favorite word. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But seriously, I live the idea for the topic and now I h e a few books added to my reading list.

  • Well, I read four of them! I’d also suggest some of Douglas Coupland’s work, such as Generation X, Microserfs, and jPod.  Oh, and Christopher Buckley’s Thank You, For Smoking (much better than the movie, very funny), and then Freddy & Fredericka by Mark Helprin.

    • _AlexisAbel

       @KenMueller Big fan as well of Coupland as well, though his most recent novels have left me cold. I’m an older Gen Y, but I’ll always be a Gen Xer at heart. 🙂

  • Hi Molli… I love fiction so this post is close to my heart.  Laura Lippman is one of my favorite mystery authors.  Most of her books take place in Baltimore, and she does such a good job of painting a picture of the city that you feel like you’ve been there.  Years after finding her as an author, I visited Baltimore and everything seemed very familiar.
    As a video producer, I always like to give viewers a feel for the environment where the video is taking place.  Wonder where I got that? 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

  • The Neon Bible, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, Snow Crash, The Alienist, +1 Me Talk Pretty One Day, Winesburg, Ohio (collection of short stories that demonstrate methods of good writing and storytelling) and The Best American Non-Required Reading.

  • JacqueMadden

     @MolliMegasko Seems like a lot of PR pros look up to Hemingway for his direct and concise style. After reading a lot of Hemingway, I got really into Fitzgerald as well. If you loved The Paris Wife, I have to suggest Zelda by Nancy Milford.

  • ginidietrich

    Well, you know I love this blog post. HUGE proponent of fiction reading. I’d add anything by Ayn Rand, “My Name Is Asher Lev,” anything by John Irving, anything by Toni Morrison, “Middlemarch,” and Harry Potter.

    •  @ginidietrich Oh!!!! LOVED the Asher Lev books. I read two – I think there are even more. Chaim Potok. 
      And I think I read Owen Meany three times. 

      • ginidietrich

         @Lisa Gerber Loved Owen Meany. I’ve read it at least that many times, too!

  • Good post Molli! I think any fiction that takes you to a place you’re unfamiliar with is good, stretches the mind. For nonfiction, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer — many lessons if looked at through the lens of crisis management.

    • ginidietrich

       @adamtoporek OMG! I knew I liked you for a reason. I ALMOST added it to my list and then remembered we were talking fiction.

  • ginidietrich

    @arikhanson Loved Dragon!

    • Narciso17

      Hey @ginidietrich – Been Meaning to Say ‘Hi’ BackAtcha…So……HI 🙂

  • LOL I haven’t read any of these and I have read like a thousand books! Thanks for the referrals @MolliMegasko I will definitely read some. So glad Harry Potter wasn’t on the list! 8)

    • ginidietrich

       @HowieSPM  It’s on my list!

  • One perspective missing is the need for a few classics in your diet, mainly for the purpose of connecting with common culture.  I realize that “classics” and “common culture” are diverging wildly, but there are some images and archetypes that will be with us forever.  It’s too early for me to come u with a comprehensive list, but readers of mine will know that I am a fan of Don Quixote, a work everyone should know (and no, I am not the Don, I am Sancho Panza, but that is a long story).

    • ginidietrich

       @wabbitoid Wow. I’m really craving pizza because that’s what I thought your comment said.

  • startupbiztalk

    @tiffffanyhu Same here. Downloaded a sample of ‘Unbroken’ too.

  • DBMC

    @vanhoosear Todd, just so you know, these are not all fiction books. I am surprised they haven’t changed the title.

    • vanhoosear

      @DBMC True! cc @ginidietrich

  • Chris_Eh_Young

    I’m guilty of only reading non-fiction books but i’ve decided to change that up. Glad that you mentioned the Hunger Games Trilogy as my teenagers are really into it so I think my wife and I will read them too.
    Someone mentioned David Sedaris and I just recently picked up one of his books on a recommendation by someone I trust. I also plan to check out some Chuck Klosterman work as i’m told my writing style is similar to his.

    • ginidietrich

       @Chris_Eh_Young Read The Hunger Games. NOW!

  • _AlexisAbel

    I’d try a few more classic, for example, Moby Dick. As daunting as it is, it’s is a compelling story that mixes driving narrative with long, (sometimes dull) scientific passages that read like academic texts. But is there a better story about obsession, revenge, and man vs. nature? I think not.

  • _AlexisAbel

    This is a good list, and I’ve enjoyed many of them, especially the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Definitely try to read a few classics, such as my personal favorite, Moby Dick. As daunting of a read as it is, it’s a compelling story that mixes driving narrative with long, (sometimes dull) scientific passages that read like academic texts. But is there a better story about obsession, revenge, and man vs. nature? I think not.

    • ginidietrich

       @_AlexisAbel Moby Dick is a great addition! 

  • How about a nice little mystery, for only $2.99 (Kindle), Henry Wood Detective Agency?  Oh sure, this is shameless self promotion, but it seems there are a lot of readers commenting and though selling isn’t the fun part of creating a novel, it is a necessary step.
    I also love anything by Elmore Leonard and Rudyard Kipling.  Though, I still rather you consider my book first.

    • ginidietrich

       @ExtremelyAvg I meant to include Henry Wood in my list!

      •  @ginidietrich That is all I wanted to hear.  Hug.  🙂

  • lisagerber

    @geoffliving Yes! For sure!!! You doing a guest post for us?

    • geoffliving

      @lisagerber Top 10 books? sure give me a deadline.

      • lisagerber

        @geoffliving Cool! You have lots of time. April 24th. (we’re kind of a big deal, you know) Is that cool?

  • LaurenLicata

    @MolliMegasko Thx for the recommendations! I ordered Still Alice & I have the Hunger Games sitting on my Kindle! Can’t wait to read them!

  • Dadiooh

    “Far Bright Star” by Robert Olmstead–I don’t typically like to read westerns, but this one is amazing. It takes place in the early 20th century with a military posse going into Mexican territory on a recon mission while hunting for Panco Villa. What transpires is haunting and has stayed with me a long time. I can’t recommend it enough. I think anyone will like it, but Cormac McCarthy fans will really like it.

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