“What should I read so I can write?”

Yesterday i asked what is Eugene Cheong‘s favorite book. And he promised me to get back asap with a list.
Today, he emailed not only his favorite books, but also his piece of advice.
So here it is, friends…
Enjoy 🙂

Lydia Tarigan
Excited Copywriter


Here’s some writing tips I gave to Paul Lim. The note includes my recommended reading list.

Eugene Cheong
Regional Executive Creative Director
Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific


My only advice to writers is that they commit to memory the very best writing there is.

I made it a habit to underline bits I like in the books I’m reading and, then, to religiously transcribe them onto my trademark black notebook. By committing them to memory, they become part of me.

Here’s what, Prof John Carey, has to say about the habit:

‘We can remember pictures, perhaps quite vividly, but it will hardly make us want to see them again. But learn a poem by heart, and you have it for ever. You never again have to consult a text. You can say it over to yourself in the small hours. It is yours. The equivalent would be lugging The Kiss home from the Musee Rodin, or strolling out of the Frick with Vermeer’s Girl Interrupted at Her Music and, cumbersome though it might be to get through the door, Gainsborough’s Walk in St James’s Park. With literature we can commit these thefts shamelessly and as often as we choose. Indeed, it is better even than that, because supposing you did get the Girl Interrupted at Her Music home, you could never make her a part of you. You could not take her into yourself, so that her beauty becomes yours. But with literature you can. Once its words are lodged into your mind they are indistinguishable from the way you think.’

The greatest writing, usually, comes from outside advertising. From poetry, speeches, movies, the Bible, fiction and non-fiction.

Here are some of my favorite writing.

In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts—not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doers of deed could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, who does actually strive to do the deeds… who, in the end, if he succeeds, knows the triumph of the high achievement and who, if he fails, at least will never find his place among the cold and timid souls who never knew victory or defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking, so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

-Nelson Mandela

If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairy tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy. So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt: it must be one particular proportion of the two—which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.

G.K. Chesterton

Great writing gives you ideas to think with. It stocks your mind. It does not indoctrinate, because diversity, counter-argument, reappraisal and qualification are its essence. But it supplies raw materials for thought. Like drugs, drink and antidepressants, literature is a mind-changer and an escape, but unlike them it develops and enlarges the mind as well as changing it.

Here’s a list of my favourite books.

1.  Developing the leader within you. John C Maxwell

2.  Let My People Go Surfing. Yvon Chouinard

3.  The Art of Travel.  Alain de Botton

4.  The Hungry Spirit. Charles Handy

5.  Halftime. Bob Buford

6.  Understanding Comics. Scott McCloud

7.  The Book of Tea. Kakuzo Okakura

8.  Sophie’s World. Jostein Gaarder

9.  History of the World. J. M. Roberts

10. The Art of Eating. M.F.K. Fisher

11. One hundred years of solitude. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

12. Poems on the Underground.

13. The Story of Art. E.H Gombrich

14. Modern Times. Paul. M. Johnson

15. The Nation’s Favourite Twentieth Century Poems.

16. The Instance of the Fingerpost. Iain Pears

17. Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott

18. Birdsong. Sebastian Faulks

19. War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy

20. Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Robert T. Kiyosaki

Now, how does one become a great headline writer?

Nobody can string together 200 words like Neil French can. However, if it comes down to one thought and a dozen words I am more than capable of whipping Frenchy’s arse. You see, I have turned a weakness into strength. I read my first book when I was 17, so I really do not have a library in my head. Now because I am not a literary person like Neil, I prefer sound bites to soliloquies. While Neil writes (and speaks) prose, I am a writer of epigrams. In that sense, I am more an art director than a writer. For me, it has always been about attention getting. My aim has always been to inflict maximum damage with a single remark. I liken it to sinking an aircraft carrier with a power drill. It’s a very juvenile art. There is a lot of aggression and hitting below the belt with this sort of street writing. That’s because, most of the time, you have be unreasonable to be heard. I recently come across a treasury of pithy lines that’s definitely worth buying. The book’s calls The Funniest Things You Never Said and here’s a few samples from the book, enjoy:

100,000 sperms and you’re the fastest?

I don’t visit my parents often because Delta Airlines won’t wait in the yard while I run in.

-Margaret Smith

God gave men both a penis and a brain, but only enough blood supply to run one at a time.

-Robin William

You don’t know a woman until you’ve met her in court.

-Woody Allen

I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.

-Boscoe Pertwee

Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.

-Woody Allen

Start off every day with a smile and get it over with.

-W.C. Fields

I hate housework. You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later, you have to start all over again.

-Joan Rivers

He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.


Who is one cell short of an amoeba?

-Anne Robinson

How many times do I have to flush before you go away?

-Stephen Fry