What 8 Creative Chiefs Are Reading Right Now

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(From l.) 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette,' 'Purity,' '4-Hour Body,' 'Here I Am,' 'The Girl on the Train,' 'Stumbling on Happiness,' 'The Revenant' and 'Ready Player One.'
(From l.) 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette,' 'Purity,' '4-Hour Body,' 'Here I Am,' 'The Girl on the Train,' 'Stumbling on Happiness,' 'The Revenant' and 'Ready Player One.'

Between client meetings, brainstorm sessions and pitch preparations, time is sparse for chief creative officers, but that doesn't mean they're too busy to energize their creative juices by squeezing in reading time. Check out what books (or audiobooks), in genres from mystery and thriller to comedy and history, some of the industry's creative chiefs are diving into during their spare time.

Brent Choi
Brent Choi Credit: J. Walter Thompson

Brent Choi, chief creative officer, J. Walter Thompson New York and Canada

I literally just finished the audiobook of "Girl on the Train." I really enjoy audiobooks because they're always with me, which is handy since I travel so much. Plus, I've seen literally every movie on every plane. And while I'm traveling, it's great to have my eyes closed while I take the story in. On the book itself, it's very "Gone Girl"-esque. I loved the style, which takes the reader (or listener) back and forth between the voices of different characters, and the internal guessing game I have of who the killer is.

Bruce Henderson
Bruce Henderson Credit: Jack Morton Worldwide

Bruce Henderson, chief creative officer, Jack Morton Worldwide

I've always read a fair amount of fiction, and I've recently reverted from digital books (Kindle) to paper again. I've also taken a break from a string of dystopian future novels to read "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," by Maria Semple. It's a satirical novel with a nontraditional narrative structure—the story is expressed in a series of emails, letters and other documents—that takes place in, and pokes fun at, Seattle. It's very fun. I've also been rereading Mark Epstein's "Thoughts Without a Thinker," which examines psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective. It's a fascinating approach, and like anything that deals with how humans behave, it's valuable for this work.

Kate Stanners
Kate Stanners Credit: Saatchi & Saatchi

Kate Stanners, global chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi

I'm reading "Purity," by Jonathan Franzen, to be entertained.

Liz Taylor, chief creative officer, FCB Chicago

I've been trying to get my hands on "Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure," which tracks the lives of 12 powerful figures that fought against convention in pursuit of greatness. Maybe Elon Musk will share his copy with me. Until then, I'm devouring "Here I Am," by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's about a marriage falling apart amid a dystopian nightmare while planning a bar mitzvah and eating kugel, all while celebrating the smallness of life. It takes a great storyteller to woo me, and to make me momentarily forget about binge-watching Netflix, reading emails or browsing social feeds. Advertisers need to be relentless, compelling storytellers. Why not learn from the best?

Liz Taylor
Liz Taylor Credit: FCB Chicago
Vida Cornelious
Vida Cornelious Credit: Walton Isaacson

Vida Cornelious, chief creative officer, Walton Isaacson

"Stumbling on Happiness," by Daniel Gilbert. I saw this one in the airport and it looked interesting. It's a psychology book that is very witty and written in layman's terms on why humans are relentless in their pursuit of happiness. "Save the Cat," by Blake Snyder. I am always thinking about writing something, so I'm using this book to learn about scripting and story beats. Everyone says this is the easiest. It's an ongoing process, so I'm sure I will never really "finish" this. "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art," by Scott McCloud. A friend just sent me this one. You would think it's about comics. It's really about the art of storytelling disguised as a book about comics.

Jo Shoesmith
Jo Shoesmith Credit: Campbell Ewald

Jo Shoesmith, chief creative officer, Campbell Ewald

I'm reading "Ready Player One." This Ernest Cline novel really appeals to my inner geek. It's an '80s pop culture bomb that explodes across the pages. It references everything from Max Headroom to John Hughes. I can't wait to see what Spielberg does with it.

Chris Garbutt, chief creative officer, TBWA/Chiat/Day NY and global creative president, TBWA/Worldwide

Chris Garbutt
Chris Garbutt Credit: TBWA

"The Revenant," by Michael Punke. Even though the film was so inventive and visually stunning, I love the fact the book goes into much more detail about the history of mapping unchartered territory and the fur trade. It makes one realize how lucky we are today. Those guys had it tough! "The Ways to New: 15 Paths to Disruptive Innovation," by Jean-Marie Dru. We had a conference recently in Singapore, and one of the prerequisites was that we read Jean-Marie's book before arriving. Begrudgingly, I took it on the plane with me and started to read it. It was brilliant. And it has trained me to think in a whole new way about how we help our clients innovate in an ever-changing, volatile landscape.

Patrick Scissons
Patrick Scissons Credit: KBS

Patrick Scissons, global chief creative officer, KBS

OK, OK, I didn't pick up Tim Ferriss' "4-Hour Body" because I had a big weight-loss goal or I was critically concerned about my bedroom performance between the sheets. Honest, you have to believe me! But after reading his first book, "The 4-Hour Workweek," I quickly became a fan of all things Ferriss. His "hacker" experimental approach to life(style) design, whether it be for work or body, is fresh and unique and is really insightful into human performance and how we tick. Plus, the Uberman polyphasic sleeping methodology will come in handy the next time I have three pitches and four productions all happening in the same week.

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