Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

11 brilliant books for multimedia producers, journalists and entrepreneurs

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Online Video by Adam Westbrook on December 8, 2011

In 2011 I read more books than I probably did at any other time. I picked up The Catcher in the Rye for the first time, and thanks to the ease of downloading books via the Kindle app, I’ve been able to read more titles on a whim. 

My reading interests range from everything from journalism to design, to minimalism, stoicism, film making and business. I’ve picked out the best 10 for anyone making the most of the Age of the Online Publisher.

A quick note: all links to titles are affiliate links. Some titles are only available as Kindle downloads. The prices I’ve listed will probably change.

The best books I read in 2011

Steven Pressfield | War of Art: (£5.87/$9 Kindle Edition) I actually read this last year, but Steven’s follow up Do The Work, came out in 2011. If you work in any creative or business  endeavour, then you owe it to yourself to read War of Art, it is the best book I know on the battle you face to create something new. Anyone who’s launched a new website, made a film, published a book or started a business will know what I mean by the word ‘battle’: War of Art is an essential weapon.

Kurt Lancaster | DSLR Cinema: (£14.64/$22.57) This is one of the best books I know for anyone starting out using DSLR cameras (like the 5D, 7D or 550D) to shoot video. If you’ve been using these cameras for a while, it’s probably not an essential buy, but early chapters clear up any confusion you might have about frame-rates, codecs, and shutter speed.

Jonathan Field | Uncertainty: (£12.10/$14.46) Jonathan’s first book Career Renegade, was the book that made me quit my job and go freelance. About eight weeks after I finished it I was down in London starting a new life. His follow up, focuses on how to deal with uncertainty in life – if you’re self-employed, starting a new business, uncertainty is regular spectre.

Frank Rose | The Art of Immersion: (£12.92/$17.79) Frank’s book is so good, it sparked several blog posts here earlier this year. Frank examines how storytelling, journalism and even movies are being changed by new technology, chiefly by allowing audiences to participate in stories too. I can’t tell you how many ideas I had after reading Frank’s book – so give it a try.

Ira Glass | New Kings of Non-Fiction: (£8.34/$10.88) Speaking of great storytelling, it doesn’t come much better than Ira Glass. He’s compiled a collection of excellent long-form journalism, including Malcolm Gladwell and Jack Hitt. It never hurts to read journalism at its finest.

Derek Sivers | Anything You Want: (£5.73/$5) Another title that sparked a big blog post here in 2011, Derek Sivers has some of the best common sense (or as he would say ‘uncommon sense’) advice for starting a business in the digital world. It got me wondering how newspapers would fare if they were run this way – if you liked that post, then dig deeper with Derek’s book.

Brenda Ueland | If You Want To Write: (£7.99/$7.99)This one came recommended by future of photography expert Miki Johnson this year, and boy is it a game changer. Brenda offers the best no-nonsense advice for anyone wanting to write (fiction or non-fiction) and her style is addictive. A word of note, this book was published in the 1950s so comes with some rather old-school values. See past that and you get some gems.

Darrell Huff | How to Lie with Statistics: (£5.99/$6.83) And sticking with old school, here’s another mid-century treat for any journalist dealing with numbers – a skill very few excel at (if you’ll excuse the pun). Guardian data journalist James Ball recommended this book to me as a great primer for the tricks people try and play with numbers. If you’re into data, infographics or similar this is fun introduction.

Alison Bavistock | The Naked Author: (£10.42/$22.95) Alison’s new book is a beefy guide for anyone thinking of by-passing traditional publishers and joining the likes of John Locke as authors making a mint on Amazon. As well as practical advice, Alison takes a good hard look at where publishers fit in this new world. [Disclosure: Alison is a colleague at Kingston University’s Department of Journalism & Publishing].

Al Tompkins | Aim for the Heart (2nd Ed) (£18.99/$29.35) US TV news journalist Al Tompkins has updated his guide to video storytelling and has techniques on interviews, graphics and ethics. It’s aimed at the US local news reporter, so is a bit focused on quick soundbites and writing leads – but Al’s core message is an invaluable one: tell human stories.

Scott Belsky | Making Ideas Happen: (£6.06/$17.79) the founder of 37 Signals (one of the most successful web businesses out there) published this book early in 2010, but I had to wait patiently until this spring to get a copy in the UK. It’s worth the wait though: and guides you through the 99% of perspiration that goes into creating great stuff, with neat advice on time management and motivation.

What great books have you read in 2011?

11 Responses

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  1. amyjgardner said, on December 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Good shout on Aim for the Heart. My tutor recommended it to me last year and I often refer back to it for inspiration. It also has great interviewing advice.

  2. thebenhall said, on December 8, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I read ‘Rework’ by the guys at 37Signals and it’s fantastic.
    Tiny little chapters with some really good advice that can be applied to everything…or not. But really good platform for starting to think differently.

    Confession: I read it first in 2010, I think, but I re-read it in 2011, so that counts, right?

    • Adam Westbrook said, on December 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      I think ReWork is better than Making Ideas Happen – like you say bitesize chapters and packed with Wisdom. But I read it in 2010 too so didn’t put it in the list!🙂

  3. Brian Jones said, on December 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I just finished The New Kings of Nonfiction yesterday, but it was so good that I recommended it to my fellow second-year journalism students while I was only a two or three chapters deep. Seeing it on this list definitely gives me the reassurance to check out your other suggestions. Thanks!

    • Adam Westbrook said, on December 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      I thought Malcolm Gladwell’s piece was rad too. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Milo said, on December 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Excellent list Adam, I also read Do the Work, Uncertainty, Anything You Want and Making Ideas Happen this year and thought they were all great. I am going freelance at the end of January so I’m sure I’ll be referring back to all of them!

    The War of Art is also an absolute classic – and there are a few new ones that I look forward to checking out!

    • Adam Westbrook said, on December 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      They’re perfect pick-me-ups for those freelance low points definitely. Nothing quite beats War of Art though🙂

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  6. Thomas Ritchie said, on December 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I’ll throw in my pitch for “The Idea Writers,” which was published in 2010, and written by Teressa Iezzi. I just finally got around to reading it this year. Here’s my review. http://thomasritchie.com/archives/737

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  8. 1maryjane said, on August 22, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Reblogged this on 1maryjane and commented:
    11 books I plan to buy.🙂


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