Many a thesis has been written on the power of books to enhance how people think. As children, books are our first avenue into the world of communications and writing. As adults, books continue to shape how we see the world. And as communicators, we learn to write by reading.
This month, we look at the books that have influenced us at Ellis Jones; those that have changed our thinking, our perspective and our approaches to our craft and our lives. From classics to new-age journalism, self-help to social commentary, Australian fiction to graphic novels, we present Books of influence: the Ellis Jones reading list…
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Lisl: Flanagan shows that although events in our individual lives may seem enormous to us, to the wider world these preoccupations are, at most, a passing blip. Although depressing in the recognition of your insignificance in the world, this theme is also freeing in its license to follow your own prerogative; it’s only you who will remember or care in the end.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Janine: This book in itself did not have a dramatic impact on my life, but rather the analysis of the book in GSCE English at school in the UK. Researching the underlying themes in this novel was my first foray into theories of sociology and psychology, leading to an on-going interest in human behaviour and the influence of society and culture.
There but for the by Ali Smith
Kat: This book describes an event as seen from the perspective of all witnesses. Each character is authentic, effortless and nuanced as they broach contemporary topics of gender, race and environment with humour and pathos. Through this, Smith manages to talk about life’s heavy topics in a light and entertaining way – not an easy feat!
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Patrick: Cat’s Cradle is a fictitious novel about the end of the world, written during the Cold War. It’s a funny, dark, satire that mocks the absurdity of humans, often through a fictitious religion called “Bokonism”. Through Bokonism, Vonnegut makes fun of how and where humans find satisfaction. I like it because it’s important to laugh at ourselves (as a species) once in a while.
“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’ Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand.”
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Caroline: If Random Family was a piece of fiction, critics would likely have slammed it as an over-exaggerated piece of poverty porn. Alas, it’s not fiction – it is journalism. And the author, LeBlanc, spent over 11 years collating her story. The result is a frightening and gripping portrayal of life in the Bronx, and the devastating cycle of poverty. Through sex, love, drugs, prison and pregnancy, Random Family follows its main characters from carefree teenagers on the streets to middle-aged parents, fractured and flattened by prison sentences, drug abuse, violence and a system that seems impossible to escape.
Patrick White: A Life by David Marr
Rhod: The biographical story of an incredible, inspiring, unlikeable man living through a mind boggling period of human and Australian history, and told by a master storyteller.
Mad Women by Jane Maas
Claudia: I was a huge fan of the TV series “Mad Men”. The book Mad Women brings the “Mad Men” era to life from the perspective of a working mum, showing that there are still a lot of similarities in the struggles women face in the communications industry, then as much as now.
Stitches by David Small
Amelia: Graphic novels and comics are such a powerful medium. David Small’s graphic novel highlights the limitations of words, and provokes readers to think more deeply about the possibilities for communication when words, images and symbols are married. Small does this through an autobiography of his traumatic upbringing, where silence is deafening.
A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink
Felicity: This book goes deep into theories of left and right brain thinking, and how right brain thinkers are set to rule the professional world in the coming future. By using strategies to provoke the right brain, it helped me to develop my right side (I’m a left side thinker!). This is essential in an industry where marketing theory and creative design collide.
No Sense of Place by Joshua Meyrowitz
Melinda: If you’ve ever considered how fundamental communications is to the functioning of society, No Sense of Place will give you the answer. From writing hieroglyphics in stone in Ancient Egypt, to the invention of paper in Ancient Rome, to the printing press and the electronic media age, this book describes how each mode of communication has profoundly influenced humanity and how we live.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Kellie: At the time, what Wolf said about the way beauty is understood and how it’s used to create social standards, was revolutionary (it was 1990, after all). She cut through all the propaganda of the beauty and fashion industries to highlight that beauty standards are social constructs that change through time. It completely changed the way l thought about beauty, for good.
“She wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her.”
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Elise: A gripping, courageous Australian narrative and allegory of modern misogyny. Reminding me of other dystopian fiction like 1984 and Brave New World, it struck a powerful balance between absurdity and shockingly descriptive of real dynamics in Australia and many other countries. It shook up my thinking about women’s roles, depictions, behaviour, relationships and treatment in the modern world.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.
Alice: This book opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about work/life balance, time management and the value of money when compared to happiness and self-fulfilment.