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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Penelope Trunk
Penelope Trunk is CEO of Brazen Careerist, which helps companies connect to employees using social media. Trunk has talked about career issues for media such as CNN, the Boston Globe and Time magazine, and her blog about career advice receives more than 300,000 page views per month.
Newest book lists
All our categories