These are all the books and ads you must read to get a firm grip on copywriting, according to advertising guru (and teacher) Gary Halbert (and here, archived).

A lot of advice is dished out on the internet, but it's rarely authoritative, and people rarely act on it. That blog post by Gary Halbert is an example of one worth acting on if you want to learn how to sell using copy.

So this is my log of Step 1: to read all the content. (Step two is to copy and re-write ads as my own, and step 3 is to re-read and take notes.)

I found it a little challenging getting all the resources on that page. For example, not every book is available online, or in Kindle format (my preferred, since I travel a lot), or indeed through online booksellers at all. So I've provided some links below.

(Some of them are Amazon affiliate links that provide me with a small commission, but costs you nothing. You don't have to use the links, but I'm providing them here in case my squirrelling around helps you. I get less than 50c a sale usually. $$$)

My favourites from this list

If I had to recommend a few books and no others, I'd recommend:

  • How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor Schwab, way cheaper — if you're on a budget, start with this!
  • Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz, well worth the $125

Then I would read the ads, and start producing them.

The other books are interesting, but anyone with an analytical mind should know the basics of quantitative advertising and so on.

Read these books, and no other books

I re-ordered this list slightly, to prioritise the best books.

  • "Breakthrough Advertising" by Eugene M. Schwartz. Hardcover only, new print for $125. This should be the first book on the list, and maybe the only one on many people's lists. Available only through this website that is legit (I bought from it!) It costs a LOT more on Amazon, or even on eBay, to the point where you could resell it for an easy profit. Further, don't buy the later annotated editions. You want this original one. I haven't read the later ones, but I have read that they take away from the core message.

Want my summary of Breakthrough Advertising? I've been poring over this book for so long that I'm writing a more modern, cleaner version, without all the out-dated references. Subscribe to my email list on the main page and I'll let you know when it's available.

Read these ads

Here are links to all the ads on, a generally great resource with original copies of the greatest ads ever published, here for you to copy.

And, in general, anything you can get your hands on by:

  • Gary Bencivenga
  • Dan Rosenthal
  • Joe E. Kennedy, Pat Garrard
  • Steve Brown
  • Drew Kaplan
  • Claude Hopkins
  • Joe Karbo
  • Ben Suarez
  • Joe Sugarman
  • Gene Schwartz
  • Gary Halbert

I'll let you do your own searches on those. Happy hunting!