Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

What

How Derek Sivers accidentally grew CD Baby to $22 million

Why

You know the “It’s either hell yes, or no” principle? That came from this book. So did, every other non-intuitive principles for running a business, like:

  • Don’t take investment (“By not having money, you never waste money.”)
  • Confidently exclude people
  • Don’t try and make money

Derek’s philosophy is a manifesto for the next generation of entrepreneurs who see business as a way to help others. Afterall, “It’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have.”

Disclaimer

You can finish this book in an hour. I recommend drawing it out and reading one two-page chapter a day and letting the lesson marinate.

On Writing by Stephen King

What

Half memoir, half tactics, and all fantastic.

Why

You won’t be able to put this thing down once you start. It doesn’t read like a pedantic “how to.” It’s a story. Told by your best friend who is trying really hard to be honest with you about the fact that you’re probably not cut out for this. Still, he gives you the tools you need to improve as a storyteller, with tons of examples of what works, what doesn’t, and why when it comes to literary style, syntax, story structure, grammar, etc. But mostly you get brutal honesty.

If that’s not convincing enough, this excerpt from the forward should do it: “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.” (page ix)

(Note: It’s not short. But you will be glad. I didn’t want it to end.)

Disclaimer

Not a book on copywriting. A book on writing. Specifically, storytelling. The real kind, not the metaphorical kind Godin and Gary V refer to all the time.

This is not about influencing behavior (though you could argue it’s about influencing feelings. After all, your readers should feel something after reading you. Otherwise, what are we doing here?)

Being Direct by Lester Wunderman

What

Lester Wunderman’s biography. Lester Wunderman: The guy you’ve never heard of who is responsible for #nbd things like AMEX credit cards, the toll-free 1-800 number, and the entire field of Direct Marketing.

Why

You know the famous saying, “50% of my marketing’s working. Trouble is I don’t know which 50%.” Direct Marketing is the 50% that is working.

Mr. Wunderman is credited with inventing the field of Direct Response Marketing.

His story is a turn-of-the-century rags-to-riches tale, but the road to success is fraught will lessons that will make you pause and go “Why am I not doing this is my business?!!” He invented industries, manufactured demand, created markets, and harnessed the power of human nature in order to sell more. If you want to know how to attract and retain customers, you will enjoy this book.

It’s a remarkable tale of perseverance and business savvy.

Disclaimer

Some parts are a little slow and…dry. If you’re not in the mood, it can get boring.

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

What

Rumored to be the book Mad Men was based on.

Why

There are more lessons on business packed into this man’s story than any textbook on entrepreneurship.

This man set the tone for an entire generation of high achievers. No one has been able to replicate what he built and when you read it you’ll see why. His no-nonsense approach to doing business and advertising will have you gasping with “Holy $%^# did he actually write this??”

Remember, he’s famous for being insufferably arrogant (and rarely wrong). Plus, he’s a copywriter, which makes it a very entertaining read. You won’t be bored.

Disclaimer

Sexism. (More pragmatic than offensive in tone, but still sexism). In 1988 (20 years after publication), he explains that women have a place in the workforce and even credits them with talent: “Don’t let men write advertising for products which are bought by women.”

If you have a weak stomach for 1960s boozing and business, you will get queasy. Worth it, though.

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