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The Drum’s What’s On Your Bookshelf series asks industry luminaries to share their essential reading lists. Here we delve into the page-turners helping McCann Worldgroup's Harjot Singh get through lockdown.

Harjot Singh joined the global strategy team at McCann Worldgroup in January 2011 and has since risen through the ranks to chief strategy officer for the UK and Europe. Despite his strategic role, he admits he doesn't sit down and devour business books. Rather, he finds works of fiction to be far more enriching. 

"I love fiction so much," he says. "Stories teach you about character and about humanity in such a beautiful way because you realise that as humans, we're all flawed in ways that make us special."

Of his reading habits under lockdown, Singh says that while he struggles to follow a good food diet, he has tried to maintain an "emotional diet".

"I can't bear to watch the news and books are where I retreat to," Singh tells The Drum's consulting editor Sonoo Singh, in an interview for The Drum's Can-Do festival. "I can't keep watching TV as everything is about raising the volume. So I try to read half an hour at lunch and I always ready before going to bed. I like getting lost in books." 

So, what’s on his bookshelf right now?

The Andy Warhol Diaries by Andy Warhol 

What’s the story?

Posthumously published in 1989, The Andy Warhol Diaries is the dictated memoirs of the idiosyncratic American pop artist. It spans November 1976 to five days before his death in February 1987 and is filled with celebrity anecdotes and details of the lavish parties Warhol attended. It surprisingly rarely talks about art, other than the commercial aspect, and is largely devoid of mentions of world events. 

What Singh says:

"Every time you're having a shitty day and think 'this could have gone better', you can just open the book and see what Warhol was doing today. We think that to write a diary, you need to write 200 words a day. But sometimes, he just wrote one sentence. Like, on Thursday, 1 March 1984, he wrote: 'Jay called in the morning and said the Michael Jackson Time cover was back on.' I'm like – that's your life?" 

Andy Warhol Diaries
 
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The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker 

What’s the story?

Compiled after the US entered the second world war, the American modernist poet Dorothy Parker collaborated with the literary critic Alexander Woollcott on an anthology of her work. Compiling Parker's verse, stories, essays and journalism, The Portable Dorothy Parker has been in continuous print since it was first published in 1944. 

What Singh says:

"Parker is my other favourite friend. She was just such a clever and quick-witted woman, who has such a profound (but at the same time funny) commentary on life and culture. It's still so relevant. She says things like 'if you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to' and 'never send a boy to do a man's job.' I quote her from time to time and the funny thing is not a lot of people read her." 

Dorothy Parker
 
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How We Fight Our Lives by Saeed Jones

What’s the story?

Winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award, Saeed Jones' brutal coming-of-age memoir How We Fight Our Lives unpacks the struggles felt by a young, black gay man growing up in Texas. Dissecting the intersectionality of sex, race, and power, the poet navigates his life through a series of vignettes. 

What Singh says:

"It's very sobering. I relate to it so much. This is a memoir that talks about him being black and gay and growing up in America, in a very conservative part of America. And his commentary is just beautiful. He says, 'people don't just happen. You only happen if you sacrifice former versions of yourself and we sacrifice the people who dared to raise us.' And he says, the 'I doesn't exist until we're able to say - I am no longer yours.' It's very interesting. It's a beautiful read." 

Saeed Jones
 
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Singh spoke with The Drum's consulting editor Sonoo Singh as part of The Drum's Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full and see what else is on the creative’s bookshelf here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.