Would you rather judge a book by its cover or get a recommendation from a friend? I’d take the recommendation every time – especially when it comes from someone I admire.
That’s why we asked more than 40 top marketers, entrepreneurs, media experts and creatives to share one book they’d recommend to their peers. Now, we’ve put together the ultimate list of great reads for creative people, from creative people. Scroll through the list to see their book tips, along with why they love them.
No need to read all these books at once – decide what to read first based on your mood. We’ve broken it down into sections:
- Boost Your Productivity
- Get Inspired
- Learn from the Disruptors
- Back to Basics
- Writing and Storytelling
- The Study of People
- Build Your Playbook
- Grow Your Business
Now, find a cozy reading nook, kick your feet up and enjoy these fantastic recommendations! Share your favorite reads with us @getlibris.
Boost Your Productivity
If you’re going to read all these books, and do what they suggest, you’ll need to free up some time in your schedule. These books will help you work faster and smarter.
“Procrastinate on Purpose” by Rory Vaden | Recommended by Jay Baer, Convince & Convert
The best book ever written for busy people, about time management and how to focus your attention on what really matters. – @jaybaer
“Deep Work” by Cal Newport | Recommended by Kevan Lee, Buffer
This book put words to a lot of my feelings as a tech marketer: being able to quantify knowledge work, how to avoid distraction, when I get my best work done, etc. The examples and lessons are fantastic (apart from the “don’t use social media” lesson — I skipped it!), and it inspired me to be more purposeful about how I spend my time each day. – @kevanlee
“Essentialism” by Greg McKeown | Recommended by Joe Putnam, ConversionEngine,
and Andrew Fingerman, Libris by PhotoShelter
“Essentialism” was recommended twice, so that’s double the reason to pick up a copy. Here’s why it’s a must-read for Joe Putnam:
Most of us are over-committed which means we do a lot of things but not many things well. This book reminds that there are trade offs for everything we do and value in paring back to what’s essential so you can maximize your life’s work. – @JosephPutnam
And here’s Andrew Fingerman’s take:
This book helps you create greater focus on what’s most important to you, both at work and in life more generally. For all of us, time is precious and distractions are everywhere, so drilling down to grasp what’s most essential can help drive success for you and the teams you work on, personal effectiveness, and happiness. – @awfingerman
“Smarter, Faster, Better: the Transformative Power of Real Productivity” by Charles Duhigg | Recommended by Pam Didner
I recently read “Smarter, Faster, Better: the Transformative Power of Real Productivity” by Charles Duhigg. He talked about the topics such as Focus, Innovation, Managing Others and Goal Setting etc. Honestly, none of these topics are new. Duhigg discussed these ideas through specific case studies and examples and went into every case study and example in detail to explain what worked and didn’t work. This book is highly entertaining, informative and well-written. Highly recommend it! – @PamDidner
Sometimes you just need a little inspiration. These books will give you a new sense of excitement, spark your creativity and get your ideas flowing.
“Do Over” by Jon Acuff | Recommended by Donna Moritz, Socially Sorted
After seeing Jon give a keynote and hearing him on a podcast, I had to check out his book. This was perfect timing for me while going through a change of direction or “pivot” in my business and life and I love his storytelling skills and sense of humor. Do Over is great for any type of “change” – be it a new opportunity, leaving 9-5 to be an entrepreneur or maybe even going in the opposite direction… and his storytelling skills and humor make it a great read. Funnily enough, I’m also reading “The Universe Has Got Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein” – it’s a perfect companion book for navigating the ebb and flow of opportunities and challenges. – @SociallySorted
“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert | Recommended by Ayaz Nanji, ICW Content
Struggling with finding inspiration and motivation? Gilbert shares the approaches/mindsets/tricks that help her stop stalling and start creating. – @AyazNanji
“Do You Matter: How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company” by Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery | Recommended by Adam Martin, Mtn. & Co.
This is probably my all-time favorite book that I recommend to Makers of Sport listeners and community members. It was the first book (which I read around 2009) that helped me to truly understand branding; specifically how brands are actually not shaped by who we say we are, but rather the gut feeling in our customers. We can affect those feelings through creating good design and customer or user experiences. – @TAdamMartin
“The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield | Recommended by Adam Martin, Mtn. & Co.
This book is a classic for creative people. Pressfield, the writer of “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, is often quoted by renown marketing writers Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. “The War of Art” discusses the difficulty of becoming of inspired and we can battle the voices inside our heads (aka “the resistance”) that keep us from creating our art. – @TAdamMartin
Editor’s note: Shout out to Adam Martin, who recommended not one book, but two, for this post, as well as many others during the MLC Connect conference for pro sports creatives.
“Collective Genius” by Linda A. Hill | Recommended by Martellus Bennett, The Imagination Agency
I think awesome books I keep to myself so no one else knows about them. – @MartysaurusRex
Editor’s note: Don’t worry, after the Pro Bowl Tight End made this joke, I made sure it was ok that I share his recommendations with the world. Bonus fact: he’s thinking about being Kingsley Shacklebolt for Halloween.
“Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger | Recommended by Benji Hyam, Grow & Convert
It contains research and case studies about why things catch on. How to make things go viral and how to generate word of mouth for your business. – @benjihyam
“The Content Code” by Mark Schaeffer | Recommended by Wendy Marx, Marx Communications
Mark Schaeffer refutes the tired adage that content is king, showing and explaining in highly accesible prose exactly what is needed to get content to ignite. Read this if you truly want to do content marketing! – @wendymarx
Learn from the Disruptors
Everyone loves a behind the scenes look at the story of a rebel, an outlier or a trailblazer. These are stories of people, brands and ideas that have changed the tide.
“Becoming Facebook: The 10 Challenges That Defined The Company That’s Disrupting The World” by Mike Hoefflinger | Recommended by Joseph Caporoso, Whistle Sports
The book provides great insight into how Facebook was able to continually evolve, experiment and think ahead on media distribution, as the services they offered rapidly expanded. – @JCaporoso
“Creativity, Inc.” by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull | Recommended by Amrita Chandra, CrowdRiff
This book, in addition to being a super interesting and entertaining read, shares techniques for anyone managing teams working on creative projects. It gives helpful firsthand advice on everything from dealing with fear to doing effective critiques. – @amritachandra
“The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company” by John Rossman | Recommended by Denise Lee Yohn
Rossman, a former Amazon executive, takes you on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the mega-company and how it lives out its core values. You learn why the people at Amazon readily accept that “leaders are right — a lot,” how they “practice frugality” so they can do more than keep their prices low, and how brilliant minds and big egos co-exist at the company because they “disagree and commit.” Although it’s clear the culture at Amazon isn’t for everyone, the way it operationalizes its values is something every company should learn from. – @deniseleeyohn
Get more of Denise Lee Yohn’s book recommendations here.
“Platform Revolution” by Geoffrey G. Parker | Recommended by Zak Cocos, LawnStarter
It is a great overview of the ins and outs of marketplace businesses. At any stage of marketplace, “Platform Revolution” touches on the challenges, and gives apt recommendations for how to effectively manage a marketplace. – @LawnStarter
“Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight | Recommended by Jacco De Bruijn, Libris by PhotoShelter
It’s a factual story about the beginnings of one of the most well-knowns brands around the world, but reads like a suspenseful novel. The takeaway like most founding stories is that it takes a lot of hard work, creativity, failure and persistence to create something worthwhile. – @jjdebruijn
“Trust Me, I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday | Recommended by Robert Katai, Bannersnack
A lot has changed since 2013, when Ryan wrote Trust Me, I’m Lying but there are still a few valid ideas that you need to read. It’s a must read if you work in any industry related to media (or even if you just want to know how easy it is to control it) I wrote an article about the 23 reasons why I still believe in Ryan’s lies, even after 4 years. – @katairobi
“Content, Inc.” by Joe Pulizzi | Recommended by Ardath Albee, Marketing Interactions, Inc.
To gain a place of status in a noisy marketing environment, you need to own a niche. You/your company need to have a specific “tilt” that differentiates your expertise. Joe Pulizzi shows you just how to go about it in “Content, Inc.” – with excellent examples that will give you ideas about how to get the attention of your target audience. – @ardath421
Back to Basics
As Julie Andrews sings in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
These reads will give you a strong foundation, whether you’re interested in blogging, branding, advertising or all of the above.
“The Medium is the Message” by Marshall McLuhan | Recommended by Casey Armstrong, BigCommerce
If you are selling innovation, you must remember that Innovation does not fit within existing channels, but demands innovative context and mediums. McLuhan showcases slightly esoterically that ‘how’ you get to the customer is as important, if not more, then ‘what’ you get to the customer. – @CaseyA
“Ogilvy on Advertising” by David Ogilvy | Recommended by Ryan Farley, LawnStarter
This classic not only has timeless advice on copywriting; it brings you back to a day void of analytics where success in marketing required a deep understanding of your customers’ psychology. Reading this will help you step outside the world of pixels, A/B testing, and retargeting for a bit, and help you think about what matters: your customer. – @RJ_Farley
“The Road to Recognition” by Seth Price & Barry Feldman | Recommended by Shayla Price
It’s an easy-to-read A-Z guide to building your personal brand from scratch. – @shaylaprice
“The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone | Recommended by Brad Smith, Codeless
The only stuff that gets rewarded in today’s competitive marketing environment is the best of the best. And this book made me realize that most of my marketing failures are a direct result of thinking too small. – @BSmarketer
“The Business Blog Handbook” by Kathryn Aragon | Recommended by Kathryn Aragon, Kathryn Aragon Media
When I started managing business blogs, there wasn’t a guidebook, so I wrote it. It’s everything I wish I’d known when I started out. – @KathrynAragon
Writing and Storytelling
Want to catch your audience’s attention, write better copy, and keep your readers on the edge of their seats with great stories? These are the books for you.
“Grammar As Style” by Virginia Tufte | Recommended by Joanna Wiebe, Copy Hackers
This book makes good writing great. Grammar isn’t a set of rules with no purpose; this book teaches you how to use those rules to shape better, more persuasive sentences. – @copyhackers
“On Writing” by Stephen King | Recommended by Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide
Love King’s work or hate it, this book takes you into the mind of an experienced writer who has captured the attention of audiences for years. He’s built a loyal fan base without marketing or advertising. (Think: James Patterson!) – @heidicohen
“Between You & Me” by Mary Norris | Recommended by Ann Handley, MarketingProfs
If you love language and great writing and humor like I do, you will devour this book by Mary Norris, a longtime copyeditor at The New Yorker. – @annhandley
“Storytelling” by Nancy Duarte | Recommended by Stacy Adams, GoAnimate
I recommend Nancy’s books because they talk about business storytelling as a practice that should be examined and followed for better communication. She draws from extensive research on the world’s greatest communicators, and the material is fascinating. Great storytelling is the most compelling way for marketers to motivate audiences to do they want them to do, from buying their product to just feeling good about their brand. – @atl2oz
“The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase” by Mark Forsyth | Recommended by William Harris, Elumynt
It’s absolutely inspirational. If your writing has become ruined by the common “Content Pleonasm” that plagues the content marketing world, this book will change your mind, change your writing, and change your life. – @wmharris101
“Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene M. Schwartz | Recommended by Aaron Orendorff, iconiContent
Schwartz was arguably the greatest copywriter of the late 20th century. Breakthrough Advertising is his magnum opus. In addition to the five “States of Awareness” every market falls within and 38 ways to strengthen your headlines, the book contain two quotes that have forever shaped my understanding of marketing:
“Five to ten words will make up about 90% of the value of your ad. If you are right, they may start a new industry. If you are wrong, nothing you write after them will save your ad.”
“The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire but to channel and direct it.”
The Study of People
Whether you want to create content worth consuming or convert readers into buyers, you need to understand how people think, what they want and how they behave. These books share lessons in social psychology that will serve you well, whatever your aim.
“Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics” by Richard H. Thaler | Recommended by Jack Meredith, Kettle & Fire
“Misbehaving” is a fantastic overview of behavioral economics and is full of theories that can be directly applied to your copywriting, pricing strategy, and ad creatives. If you’re wanting to understand what drives consumer behavior or influences purchasing decisions, pick this book up. – @JVMeredith
“Hooked” by Nir Eyal | Recommended by Sid Bharath, Thinkific
Hooked talks about building habit-forming products using a four-step framework that the author developed. The book contains numerous insights that can also be used by marketers and creatives to build catchy campaigns and assets. – @Siddhartha87
“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini | Recommended by Pawan Deshpande, Curata
This is a book is a must read for any one whose job involves “influencing” someone else — particularly marketers. It reverse engineers the psychology of how decisions are persuaded by outside factors, and how as marketers, we can leverage them to market better ourselves. – @TweetsFromPawan
“Exactly What to Say” by Phil Jones | Recommended by Michael Barber, barber&hewitt
Do you like communicating well with humans? Then, buy this book. – @michaeljbarber
Build Your Playbook
These are the essentials. Use them to build a strong marketing playbook, and keep them on your bookshelf so you can refer back to them when you need to realign your planning.
“Dot Com Secrets” by Russell Brunson | Recommended by Nathan Chan, Foundr Magazine
Incredible book on marketing and conversions that will really help you level up your marketing game. – @NathanHChan
“The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period! 2.0” by Stoney deGeyter | Recommended by Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios
Before you finish building or publishing, just flip to the relevant page and scan the checklist. You’re likely to find a few brilliant little ideas you missed! – @crestodina
“Performance Partnerships” by Robert Glazer | Recommended by John Hall, Influence & Co.
Great book on partnerships and affiliates. It’s a vital part of marketing that many don’t understand, but need to. – @johnhall
“The Marketing Agency Blueprint: The Handbook for Building Hybrid PR, SEO, Content, Advertising, and Web Firms” by Paul Roetzer | Recommended by Matthieu Gauthier, Mention
I don’t work for an agency, but I work with them daily. They’re some of our biggest clients. This book teaches agencies how to grow responsibly.
It explains how good agencies approach lead generation, larger numbers of clients, recruitment, and all the other problems that come as a business scales.
This is incredibly insightful for B2B marketers working with agencies, to help understand and solve of their biggest problems. I found it fascinating! – @MatthGauth
“Lead Generation For Dummies” by Dayna Rothman | Recommended by Sweta Patel, Global Marketing Tactics
This is not a dummies book, it is an all inclusive lead generation book for professionals. It breaks down the nuts and bolts of real demand generation. – @SwetaSpeaks
“80/20 Sales and Marketing” by Perry Marshall | Recommended by Zach Grove
80/20 Sales and Marketing opens your eyes to the fact that, in most businesses, 20% of customers drive 80% of the revenue. 20% of prospects drive 80% of the conversions. And 20% of blog posts drive 80% of your traffic. Marshall explores all of the juicy implications of the 80/20 principle (and actionable ideas) in the context of growing companies. It’s a must-read for every marketer. – @zprgrove
“Traction” by Gino Wickman | Recommended by Jason Quey, The Storyteller Marketer
This book helps marketers to understand the majority of marketing channels to grow their business. Even if they aren’t a startup, all businesses need traction (i.e. sales) to function. – @jdquey
Grow Your Business
Ready to take your business to the next level? These books are all about building on your success and growing your business.
“Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat” by Michael Masterson | Recommended by Ed Leake, Midas Media
In essence a book full of golden entrepreneurial nuggets and wisdom, that outlines the four stages of business growth. It will make you re-think your previous learning (in a good way), and challenge your conventional though process of what a good business looks like. Perhaps more importantly – not matter your size – it’ll guide you to that goal. – @EdLeake
“Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts” by Ryan Holiday | Recommended by Hans van Gent, Inbound Rocket, and Benjamin Kimo Twichell
This classic marketing read was recommended by two of our experts. Here’s what Hans van Gent had to say:
Ryan Holiday did it again, in a time when ever more work is created, how can you create content (in any shape, way or form, but mostly focusing on writing books). It will not be a set of guidelines to follow for you to be successful, it will, however, make the case on the hard grinding work it takes to create a perennial seller. A great read as always by Ryan, as soon as I got my hands on it, I devoured the book and will recommend it to everyone! – @jcvangent
And here’s Benjamin Kimo Twichell’s take:
Often times growth marketers focus on a quick win, it’s important to be planning for the future and analyzing not only how to create growth, but how to build sustained growth. – @BenKimoTwichell
“Aligned to Achieve: How to Unite Your Sales and Marketing Teams into a Single Force for Growth” by Tracy Eller | Recommended by Patrick Whatman, Mention
We’ve been working hard to align our sales and marketing teams, basically since I joined Mention. Just like others who’ve done the same thing, we’ve had plenty of wins and losses.
This book gives a lot of practical, actionable advice from people who’ve done this successfully. You get a great blueprint for smarketing, which I found invaluable throughout the process.
I can heartily recommend it to any business aiming to align marketing and sales at present. – @mrwhatman
“Hacking Growth” by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown | Recommended by Ty Magnin, Appcues, and Brian Kidwell, Scott’s Cheap Flights
“Hacking Growth” is another popular recommendation. Here’s why Ty Magnin says you should pick up a copy:
There’s tons to learn from this seminal book on growth hacking. Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown lay out near foolproof processes to growing your software business. – @tymagnin
And here’s Brian Kidwell’s perspective:
I’m not a huge fan of the term “growth hacker,” but if you can get past that you’ll get some great new marketing ideas for your business. This book does a great job of turning the idea of growth into an achievable step-by-step process of constant testing and tweaking. – @TheBrianKidwell
What’s On Your Bookshelf?
We can’t wait to read all of these great recommendations. Right now, our marketing team’s book club is reading Creativity, Inc.
Which ones are on the top of your list? What would you recommend to your peers? Share your book tips with us @getlibris!
Photos by Todd Owyoung.