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Here are some books that will make you smarter at business, marketing, and life.

(In alphabetical order)

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

What

How Derek Sivers accidentally grew CD Baby to $22 million

Why

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.

Buy Anything You Want

Being Direct by Lester Wunderman

What

Lester Wunderman’s biography.

Why

Lester Wunderman is the guy you’ve never heard of who invented industries, manufactured demand, created markets, and harnessed the power of human nature in order to sell more.

He created #nbd things like AMEX credit cards, the toll-free 1-800 number, and the entire field of Direct Marketing.

His story is a turn-of-the-century rags-to-riches tale of perseverance and business savvy. If you want to know how to attract and retain customers, you will enjoy this book.

Disclaimer

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

Buy Being Direct
big-magic-liz-gilbert

Big Magic

What

A giant middle finger to the struggling artist stereotype.

Why

Gilbert challenges the notion that you must be addicted to suffering if you want to create great art (or if you want to create, at all).

This book will push you to let go of your preconceived notion of art as something “important” or that you must be “talented” to do. It’s a delightful reframe of everything you thought you knew about creativity. It’s also unsuspectingly funny.

Disclaimer

If you’re not into Gilbert’s style of writing, you won’t enjoy the style of this book. But you will get value out of it.

Get Big Magic

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

What

Exposé on how companies manipulate us into loving them and buying more. But with neuroscience.

Why

If you’re on the fence about whether “branding” actually works, this will tip the scale. Lindstrom takes you behind-the-scenes to explain why and how branding succeeds at influencing perception and behavior. Most of what’s in here isn’t bad, it’s smart and generally good business practices. 

This is the second book to a companion, Buy-ology, but this one is better.

 

Disclaimer

It’s not a book on “branding.” It’s about how the brands we create influence everything from our purchase behavior to our beliefs about the world.

Buy Brandwashed

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

What

A manual for understanding human desire disguised a book about direct response copywriting.

Why

The book on direct response copywriting, to be precise. The author, Eugene Schwartz, was a direct mail copywriter in the 30s and considered to be one of the best of his time. This book is his guide to writing persuasive copy that sells.

Disclaimer

For serious nerds only. This is a tough read. Not a beginner book. It’s dense and will be hard to get through if you’re not inherently interested in this topic.

Buy Breakthrough Advertising

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

What

Rumored to be the book Mad Men was based on.

Why

Ogilvy’s no-nonsense approach to doing business 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. Also, if you have a weak stomach for 1960s boozing and business, you will get queasy.

Buy Confessions of an Advertising Man
daring-greatly-Brene-Brown

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

What

This one is a game changer.

Why

Brown is hilarious and candid in this in-depth look on her work on shame, vulnerability, and courage. The crux is that vulnerability is the gateway to courage (yeah, wrap your head around that).

This thing reads as smoothly as fiction, despite being about psychology, research, and data.

Disclaimer

There’s a risk you’ll become that person who recommends this book to everyone you know for about a month or two after reading it.

Get Daring Greatly

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

What

The seminal book on persuasion that everyone and their mom recommends (with good reason).

Why

Most of today’s popular books on persuasion and sales are rip-offs of this one. It’s not enough to know the “hacks” you read on Joe Shmo’s blog, you need to understand why those hacks work. This book explains that in frightening and fascinating detail.

Disclaimer

It doesn’t read as nicely as the memoir style storytelling (after all, Cialdini isn’t a copywriter), but don’t be deterred. Worth pushing through for the “ah ha” moments it will inspire for your business.

Buy Influence

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

What

A book on selling in the connection economy, disguised as a social media book.

Why

Say what you will about Gary V, the guy knows his stuff. The idea is simple: Find a way to add value first, then ask for the sale – hard. He highlights timeless principles of listening to (instead of screaming at) your customer, showing up where people already hanging out, and speaking to your customers in a way that they can hear you.

There are also fun pictures.

Disclaimer

Yes, there are things that are dated (like # of FB users or EdgeRank). But if you get stuck on those things you’re missing the point. You want to pay attention to the approach he is recommending. Don’t get lost in the tactics.

Buy Jab Jab Jab Right Hook
lying-sam-harris

Lying by Sam Harris

What

Short essay on why you shouldn’t ever bother lying.

Why

Even if you disagree with Harris’s argument, it’s a compelling read that will challenge your own relationship with the truth. Well written and easy to follow, it’s a quick and entertaining read that makes excellent fodder for conversation.

Disclaimer

He takes a pretty radical stance, but the result is helpful in prompting you to declare where you stand on the issue. And even…why it matters at all as an issue.

Get Lying