Six Books That Helped Me Get the Career I Want

Throughout my career, I've always been a writer. Often unpaid, sometimes bordering on pornography, but always obsessively interested in which media is best for which writing.

Before I even knew how to write, I would dictate my days to my dad. I have more than fifty volumes of diaries from when writing with a pen was more common. As an entrepreneur I got a column in a national magazine and started spewing advice in places like Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the London Times. Then I got a six-figure book deal. Today, my column runs in more than 200 newspapers but my blog is where my heart is.

This is a list of books that were influential in helping me to know myself well enough to steer my career — and writing — effectively.

 

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

by Judy Blume

This was a transformative book for me when I read it as a ten-year-old, waiting for puberty. This book made me realize that I was going to learn a lot from books... I just had to find the right ones.

This book also appears on The Books of TV's Lost

 

The Sensuous Woman

by "J"

I read this book 400 times in seventh grade trying to understand how the world works. It took me a while to realize that the anonymous author was saying that if you can just be yourself, you'll be good in bed. I decided that probably this was true of life out of bed as well, and I started trying it.

 

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972

by Adrienne Cecile Rich

The title poem of this collection took me my whole freshman year of college to understand — and then I spent the rest of college using the poem as a road map for dumping everything that was expected of me and making a new road map for myself.

 

Self-Help

by Lorrie Moore

This book taught me to write short and direct sentences. I bought this book as a gift for everyone I knew because it's so fun to, and so short. Giving long books as gifts is so intrusive of a person's time. I had a boyfriend who gave me long books as gifts and in hindsight, I see it as controlling.

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by Gregory Rabassa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This book was not fun to read; it was very slow going for me. I had no idea what I was reading at the beginning. Every time the magical realism popped up, I skipped it, and got excited that I was closer to the end of the book. But somewhere, toward the end, I stopped skipping, and I realized that I was able to appreciate the weirdness of the story. This was when I realized I could process big ideas on my own, without a professor to guide me.

 

The Pleasure of the Text

by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Miller

Barthes taught me how to talk about the empty space on a page. Between sentences. Read this book to understand how to write a blank spot between paragraphs and then you will find a whole new meaning to the pause of a click on the Internet. Really.