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

(In alphabetical order)

*These are affiliate links. So for every book you buy, I make like...25 cents. #baller #rollingincash

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

What

A blend of memoir and cautionary tale with chapters so famous today they’ve become cliches (don’t eat fish on Mondays, always order what the place is known for, never waste your time on traditional brunch).

Why

This book will transport you to a New York you’ve only seen in movies. Ripe with drugs, seedy main characters, embarrassments of riches, and a colorful cast of underlings, Bourdain’s first-person narrative is wildly entertaining. Funny, sad, heroic, and honest. This book is nothing if not powerful.

Bonus: if you pay attention, you’ll learn a thing or two about business. Notably, why the restaurant business is one you should avoid. And how in the end, talent is less important than your ability to show up and do the work.

Disclaimer

Even if you have zero interest in the restaurant industry, you’ll get something out of this book. That’s not really a disclaimer…it’s a fantastic book.
Get Kitchen Confidential
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

My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins

What

A time machine to the turn of the century. You get to step out, walk around, and feel what it was like to sell to the masses, invent markets, and do business in the early 1900’s.

Why

This guy pioneered sampling, using ads to secure distribution, and (this one is huge) how to manufacture demand for a product. He details truths about human nature that have been validated by science nearly 100 years later. Oh and household brands like Palmolive, Pepsodent, and Goodyear are only “household brands” because of him.

Get your highlighter out. I couldn’t put this one down.

Disclaimer

Don’t get caught up with how much has changed since this book was published. The genius is in how he thinks about solving each business problem and how he thinks about “mass markets” and ordinary “simple” people. Those are the takeaways you’re looking for.

Buy My Life in Advertising

No B.S. Direct Marketing by Dan Kennedy

What

Introduction to direct response marketing for small-to-midsize businesses.

Why

Kennedy resurrects the basics for you in a highly palatable easy-to-read book for people who aren’t marketers. Direct response (DR) marketing is marketing that sells. The idea is that your marketing should pay for itself. It should be trackable, measurable, and generate ROI.

Disclaimer

SPAMMY. This book feels spammy. Still, some gems in here so find the lessons underneath the icky-feeling you have before you dismiss it.

Buy No B.S. Direct Marketing

Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

What

A semester on advertising, business, and selling from the real life Don Draper.

Why

His lessons on business are timeless #facepalms ignored by most marketers, like: “Make sure what you promise is important to your customer,” and “I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

The book goes into detail on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to advertising that sells (with lots of examples). There’s enough in here to keep you in business for life.

Disclaimer

If you aren’t inherently interested in this topic, you might miss the value packed into this little book. If you are, have your highlighter ready.

Buy Ogilvy On Advertising

On Writing by Stephen King

What

Half memoir, half tactics, and all fantastic.

Why

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)

Disclaimer

Not a book on copywriting. A book on writing. And it’s not short. But you will be glad. I didn’t want it to end.

Buy On Writing
outliers-malcolm-gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

What

The compelling case for what makes high-achievers and successful people extraordinary (good news: it’s not talent).

Why

It’s contrarian, entertaining, and surprisingly hopeful. We’ve long believed that genius, success, and talent were innate. Gladwell offers another perspective using strong case studies and less-well-known stories and facts about what contributes to making someone an outlier.

Disclaimer

The most popular criticism of Gladwell is that he’s “anecdotal” which for someone who identifies as a storyteller isn’t so much an insult, but it remains true of this book too. Still, worth a read for anyone who is working to rise above their circumstances. Highly illuminating and still valuable, despite being “anecdotal.”

Get Outliers
predictably-irrational

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

What

The book that will challenge everything you thought was true.

Why

 

If the title is any indication, the point of the book is to show you that humans aren’t rational, but we are (very) predictable. Ariely wants to open your eyes and change the way you think about decision making, behavior, incentives, pricing, and people. In academic circles, this is called “behavioral economics.”

Disclaimer

If you’re not open to your intuitions being wrong, this might be irritating to get through.

Get Predictably Irrational

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

What

The book that explains why traditional marketing doesn’t work anymore (and tells you what does).

Why

If you want to understand how marketing works in a world where everyone is distracted and no one is paying attention, read this book.

Disclaimer

Purple Cow is written in typical Godin-style, conversational, top line, and arguably oversimplified. But that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s an especially important read for anyone who still thinks the old approach to marketing works (hint: it doesn’t). This book will change the way you think about everything.

Buy Purple Cow

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

What

The immutable laws of advertising condensed into a deceptively quick read.

Why

Ogilvy said that “Nobody should be allowed to anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times.” And I am inclined to agree.

If you’re wondering why you’re not selling as much as you should be, this book will explain. Hopkins shows where, why, and how you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t know these basic principles of selling.

Disclaimer

Don’t be fooled by this book’s simplicity. There are enormous wisdom bombs in here that you will miss if you’re not reading carefully. Take your time with this one. It’s a short read, but it is packed with insights that will hugely impact your business.

Buy Scientific Advertising