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9 great books for content writers

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 21st July , 2021 in The Write Fit
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One of my favourite activities as a kid was going to the library. Reading was the thing I enjoyed more than just about anything else. Between my mom and the librarian, I could rely on their recommendations to keep me occupied. Thanks to my early network of book experts, it was ages before I realised not every book was a page-turner.

I remember devouring whole series like Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder books. When I was 12, my mother handed me Gone With the Wind to keep me busy reading for longer than a day or two. I never looked at children’s literature again – not until Harry Potter.

I soon learned most books were average or even boring. As I matured – and as school assignments started dictating my reading – I learned a great character or a fast-paced story wasn’t the only reason to pick up a book. Now, most of my reading is non-fiction and related to work. Trawling through business books looking for a great read is even harder.

What makes a book worth recommending?

While the criteria for this kind of reading is different, I still want a book to keep me turning pages and to provide memorable information. Let me save you from your own sleuthing and tell you which books I wouldn’t be without. To get on this list, at least two of the following criteria have been met:

  • It’s less than an arm’s length from my office chair
  • I buy a new edition when it’s updated
  • I own the book in more than one format (i.e., digital, hardcover, paperback)
  • I give copies to other writers and content creators
  • The book has been stolen borrowed and not returned, multiple times
  • I reference it in my writing workshop


Master list of essential books for content writers

My list is in no particular order, because each of these is a masterpiece in their own right.

Writing White Papers: How to capture readers and keep them engaged – Michael A. Stelzner
Before he started the Social Media Examiner, Mike Stelzner made a very good living writing white papers. This book covers everything you need to write a truly useful piece of content.

Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers Into Your Most Powerful Sales and Marketing Asset – Casey Hibbard
Casey Hibbard is a former journalist who now makes her living writing case studies. Chapter 5 has great info on the tricky issue of securing customer permission. Chapter 6 is worth the price of the book for the interview questions alone.

Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing – Andy Crestodina
If anyone understands the science behind writing effective content, it’s Andy Crestodina. This book is a content marketer’s dream and often used as a university-level textbook.

Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business – Adele Revella
If you’re struggling on messaging for your audience – or aren’t sure what they want to read – Adele Revella gives an excellent methodology to understand what your audience wants and needs.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content – Ann Handley
The brilliance of this book is short chapters with succinct lessons in each one. Ann Handley is a joy to read as she passes down terrific writing lessons with great examples.

Content Inc., Completely Updated and Expanded Second Edition: Start a Content-First Business, Build a Massive Audience, and Become Radically Successful (with little or no money) – Joe Pulizzi
In the second edition of Content Inc., Joe Pulizzi moves beyond advice for using content in small businesses to how to become a content entrepreneur. As usual, he gives away all the secret sauce.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style – Benjamin Dreyer
As Copy Chief at Random House, Benjamin Dreyer has spent his career making the best writers in the world look even better. It’s a witty, intimate book that leaves no grey areas about grammar, punctuation and how to become a better writer.

Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers
Whenever I’m confused about the rules of writing, I find the answer here. (Okay, I often let my proofreader do that for me but she’s a big fan of this book, too.)

RE: Think Innovation: How the World’s Most Prolific Innovators Come Up with Great Ideas that Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes – Carla Johnson
In the latest addition to my stack, Carla Johnson shows readers how to continue to percolate those ideas that are so critical to writing success. Whether you’re naturally creative or not, this book will help you produce better ideas, and lots of them.

What’s on your book list?

I’m still on the hunt for my next page-turner. I’d love to hear your literature or business book recommendations for things you couldn’t put down or can’t move off your desk. Reply to this email and let us know.

Sarah Mitchell
21 July 2021


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