What I Read in July 2016

So July has been a bit on and off summer-wise here in the UK, but I’ve still had time to do some great summer reading! Here’s what the month of July has brought my way; from marketing to vignettes, it’s been another great month of books.

100 Great Copywriting Ideas by Andy Maslen

Great copywriting ideas for marketers from an experienced, dipped and dyed copywriter. These ‘100 Great’ books are a great series because you can dip in and out of them, never having to worry about picking up where you last left off from. A brilliant format for busy writers! Packed full of easy to digest copywriting tips, this book is a great source of inspiration when you are feeling a little low on copy ideas. But it’s also an evergreen copywriting manual showing you how to get back to the basics of convincing and selling. I love Maslen’s emphasis on selling and direct mail, many of his examples drawn from years of experience. Maslen doesn’t beat about the bush and tells you how it is. His book is practical and isn’t filled with bland metaphors. Maslen breaks each idea down into the core idea and then shows you how to implement it in practice. Here are some of my favourite insights:
  • #36 Long words don’t always make you sound more intelligent: it’s about engaging, not bamboozling your readers
  • #51 Find your customer’s pain point: conjure up their demons, and then tell them how you will make them go away
  • #54 Give your reader space to think: shoving a page full of sales copy isn’t always going to help you get your message across – give the reader space when they need it
  • #82 Get them nodding: get people to answer yes to your leading, opening questions to open a positive back and forth
Great if you want:
  • To read on the go, as you won’t have to worry about interruptions
  • To learn about selling and direct mail
  • Actionable marketing and sales writing tips
Get it on Amazon here.

A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble

Young women’s growing pains in the Swinging Sixties. A complete fluke, I picked this book up at a charity shop and was pleasantly surprised by its quality and narrative power. I love it when you randomly find a good book. This novel tells the story of two very different sisters navigating the wild world of 60s’ England. At first glance, the best bit about the book is its brilliant social satire that mocks the ‘smart set’ and the intellectual pretensions of young people. But it’s not all just witty satire – the book gets gritty in its exploration of post-university apathy and the impossible social position of women looking to establish themselves. Despite the themes of sisterhood, the books is not just a family drama about squabbling sisters, but an astute observation of the romantic and financial choices women had to make. Written by Drabble in 1963, the book is very much of its time, but it remains so in such a beautifully innocent way that it still feels fresh today. You can almost taste the excitement of the widening world of the 60s. Interestingly, the bitter feud between the two sisters in the book seems to be a reflection of a real world rift between Drabble and her famous writer sister A.S Byatt. Drabble has been open about it in the press (talking to The Telegraph in 2011), which just goes to show how fiction often mimics reality… Great if you want:
  • A beach read that’s not complete mush
  • To laugh at society’s ridiculousness
  • To indulge your nostalgia for the Swinging Sixties
  • To untangle painful family relationships
Get it on Amazon here.

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Heady summer reading at its best. The South of France, a sexual awakening, family dynamics and infidelity come together in this irreverent and bite-size summer read. Causing a scandal when it was first published by a 19 year old in the 1950s, the book was Sagan’s explosive debut. The book isn’t actually raunchy, only carrying a delicate whiff of sexuality and sensuality; and what you remember more is the human drama and the clever pacing of the narrative. Written from a teenager’s point of view, this tiny slip of a book unearths all the complex reasons for which people marry, stay together and cheat. Cécile, the protagonist of the story, is a a little enfant terrible, resenting and meddling in her father’s love life. As the sun beats down, feelings start to boil over… Slightly high-strung and veering on the implausible, the book is still a great read and will keep you turning pages till the very end. Great if you want:
  • To look back at early adulthood summers and family summer holidays
  • A bit of escapism
  • A quick read in-between summer fun
Get it on Amazon here.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Vignettes about a young Latina growing up in Chicago. This book is hauntingly special. I first came across it at school about ten years ago, and I enjoyed reading it again. Written in a series of self-contained vignettes, Cisneros manages to create a whole little world of her own. It’s all down to her extraordinary language; her language is always poetic and her metaphors surprising. There are so many moments of delight and ecstasy in the book, interspersed with dreariness and fear – perfect for those prepubescent teen years Cisneros is mapping. Often-times painful and searing, these stories about growing up, sexuality, domestic abuse and poverty are nevertheless full of hope. Get it on Amazon here. Great if you want:
  • Something you can dip in and out of
  • Poetic and deep moments
  • To go on a journey

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

My first Wharton, this book gripped me at once. The society belle who can’t settle down, a life full of social pleasantry and a search for an advantageous marriage – the book has echoes of other grand society novels and classics I’d read like The Great Gatsby. Morally and socially astute, this book is an absolutely damning condemnation of the hypocrisy and smugness of 20th century’s fashionable New York. Clever and unflinching, this novel takes no prisoners. Lily Bart’s complex personality and self-sabotage make for fascinating reading. You almost gasp and cringe as you watch her stumble from one bad decision to the next, failing to secure herself a rich man and all that that would bring. The complete inertia of a single woman’s life is poignant and tragic, but not in a saccharine way. Wharton herself was from this privileged set of people so her satire cuts deep. Witty and thought-provoking this book is hard-hitting with a plot that twists and turns towards its tragic end. Great if you want:
  • To get lost in an expansive narrative
  • To ease your way into the classics
  • To marvel at society’s hypocrisy
Get it on Amazon here. What have you been reading this summer? Have you got any favourite summer reads? **this post contains Amazon affiliate links which have not impacted the copy or the review given.

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Copywriter who specialises in all things digital, tech, and SEO for the Nordics. Also Finnish to English translation. Love B2B, tech and the arts.

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