Blackad recommends…

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Rachel McCallion

Who better to recommend books about writing, than writers? Meta, we know, but here we are. And here they are – the writers that copywriters turn to for help.

Chris: Light the Dark is a collection of essays from The Atlantic’s By Heart series. In each essay a different author uses a favourite passage as a starting point to consider what they love about reading and writing. Some get specific about craft, others talk about overcoming challenges in writing, others about its social value. It’s mostly fiction writers, but its range of voices means you should find something of value no matter what you’re writing. A great taster is Elizabeth Gilbert on gladness.

Helen: Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch reframed a lot of my opinions on today’s changing language. While not about the craft of writing, it really got me thinking about the role writers and ‘content creators’ play in shaping the way words are used now and in the future. And for me, this was a real creativity-igniter.

Rachel: I’ve not read quite as many as the writing connoisseurs on the team, but my favourite has to be First You Write a Sentence. Easy to read, not preachy, and full of useful nuggets to help improve your writing. You can read our full review of Joe Moran’s book on our blog. 

Alan: Much writing advice is timidly orthodox, and often focuses on what not to write. Roger Horberry does something very different with his book Sounds Good on Paper. It covers figures of speech, from tmesis (it’s abso-freaking-lutely brilliant) to kenning (adored by word-monkeys everywhere).

Next up, the real-life reads helping us escape from the immediate vicinity without leaving our living rooms. 

Chris: You’d be forgiven for thinking the world is completely screwed and plunging into a deep despair is the only rational response. Instead, try Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark – a short read that quashes defeatism. Written in response to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it’s more relevant now than ever, and gives reason to believe that while 2020 was awful, we might dare to see some of the positives – like the global upsurge in activism and a mainstream acknowledgement of systemic inequalities – as the potential beginning of meaningful change.

Helen: A bit of a trendy coffee table number, I know. But Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval is an absolute joy to dip in and out of. It’s allowed me to escape to numerous corners of the world at a time when it’s not been physically possible to do so. And the writing that goes with the photos is nice and witty to boot.

Rachel: I think we’re all in the market for a little kindness right about now, right? Enter The Shed that Fed A Million Children. It’s the amazing true story of Scottish charity Mary’s Meals. They started in the Scottish Highlands with a simple idea and ultimately went on to feed thousands of the world’s poorest children. A lovely read while we’re all sat on our sofas feeling a bit glum.

Alan: There’s nothing like a good movie to transport you away from lockdown. Except all the cinemas are shut, and it’s never quite the same on the telly, is it? So what about a comic-book exploration of all your big screen favourites – with a lightly placed dollop of film theory on top? That’ll be Filmish by Edward Ross.

Is there any better distraction than a good bit of telly? From American gangsters to singing sea creatures and very fast cars – here are the moving pictures keeping us entertained. 

Chris: Recently I’ve escaped the real world by observing the politics of the New Jersey mob instead. This will be news to nobody, but it is worth repeating: The Sopranos is extremely good. I’ve been rewatching it over the break and the writing throughout is absolutely *chef’s kiss*.

And for 90 minutes of pure joy, you won’t find much better than David Byrne’s American Utopia.

Helen: I’ve watched the whole series of Mad Men several times over and never tire of it. The costumes. The soundtrack. The characters. It’s beautifully written and so well executed. And yes, I do pretend to be Peggy Olson whenever I crack out a killer bit of copy.

As far as films go, The Little Mermaid has sea, song and a Jamaican crab… what more could you want? I may be in my thirties, but Ariel will always have a special place in my heart.

Alan: Ozark on Netflix follows a similar fish-out-of-water narrative as Walter White’s in Breaking Bad. It’s gory, true. But the acting is great – Laura Linney and Julia Garner in particular – and you’ll be gripped from the first grim execution to the last. Check out the character names… there’s meaning in tham thar appellations.

Rachel: I get it, we’ve all had enough of Zoom. But what about zoom zoom? There’s nothing like a little bit of live sport to pass the time, but Drive to Survive combines the thrill of live F1 with the drama levels of The Real Housewives. I devoured both series in a week.

For a wholesome time, I’d suggest sitting down to watch Peanut Butter Falcon. I challenge you not to have a smile on your face for most of the movie.

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