30 Books That Will Make Marketers improve Their Skills

30 Books That Will Make Marketers improve Their Skills

10th January 2014

One of our old bloggers James Carson went on a trip and he decided he wanted to have a few good books to read to take with him. So what does someone who works with the internet do? They turn to Social Media.

James went on Facebook and asked suggestions for his reading list. Many marketers responded to his request and out came a list of books which can really help a marketer get better at what he does.

The group agreed that I would publish the list here, under one condition from Justin Parks (“so long as i get a mention for 50 shades of grey in the post – go for it”) and with reference to who suggested it. I filtered out a few who were ‘just for fun’ or less applicable to get to 30, but here they are: 30 books that will make you do a better job as a marketer. Books about marketing, self help or books that simply make you think.

Before we start the list, here are 10 highlighted which will make you understand your target audience a lot better:


The Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel IsraelThe Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel co-authored this book about five converging forces “that promise to change virtually every aspect of our lives”: social media, mobile, data, sensors and location-based technology.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Alex Moss



Grouped by Paul Adams

Grouped by Paul Adams

In this book Paul Adams describes how people are connected and how the web is connected and how people’s social behaviour is influenced by that. Based on extensive research it looks at ‘influence and social behavior to describe how people are connected, and how ideas and brand messages spread through social networks.’

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Suggested by: Bas van den Beld


Brandwashed by Martin LindstromBrandwashed by Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is an experienced writer and researcher around brand related topics. In his book Brandwashed he shows how brands are influencing our behaviour. He is showing the psychological tricks and traps that companies use to make us buy.

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Suggested by: Bas van den Beld




The Hidden Persuaders by Packard, Vance and Miller, Mark CrispinThe Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

This book is quiet an old book (The Hidden Persuaders went through 27 printings between 1957 and 1974) and one of the highest praised books by critics. In his book Packard explaines, describes, exposes and illustrates subliminal advertising.

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Suggested by: Neil Yeomans



The book of five ringsThe book of Five Rings

“The Book of Five Rings analyzes the process of struggle and mastery over conflict that underlies every level of human interaction.” (Amazon). Not your average business book, but you can learn from martial artists and who doesn’t want that right? 🙂

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Suggested by: Jake Langwith




trust-me-im-lyingTrust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

We are being fooled all the time in media, whether it’s radio, tv or even blogs. This is all done by media manipulators. One of them is Ryan Holiday, he decided to write down all his secrets because he is “tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it.”

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Suggested by: Rhys Wynne


Rainbows End by Vernor VingeRainbows End by Vernor Vinge

This again is not a regular business book, in fact it’s not a business book at all, it’s a novel. But the novel is about a recovering Alzheimer’s patient who discovers the world has changed and who needs “to learn how to cope with a new information age in which the virtual and the real are a seamless continuum.“ And what is described could very well be the future: Google Glass eat your heart out?

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Suggested by: Gus Ferguson


Ctrl Alt Del by Mitch JoelCtrl Alt Del by Mitch Joel

New Media expert Mitch Joel believes business models need to be changed, or ‘Ctrl Alt Deleted’ for that matter. He explains the convergence of five key movements that have changed business forever and introduces is concept “squiggle”. A book about “changing both you AND your business model.”

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Suggested by: Gus Ferguson


Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. SunsteinNudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Nudge is a book which is not so much business but more of self-help book in which authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein “offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make.” From Amazon: “In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.”

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Suggested by: Jack Norell


The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas TalebThe Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The book “Black swan” is all about unexpected events and processes, which Black Swan stands for. Taleb claims that unexpected events have much greater effect, both financially and the broader, than we usually suppose.

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Suggested by: Jack Norell



The Brand Gap by Marty NeumeierThe Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier

The Brand Gap probably is one of the classics when it comes to brand management. The book is about how to get your brand to become ‘essential’ in peoples lives. One they just cannot live without.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Sam Noble



ZAG by Marty NeumeierZAG by Marty Neumeier

From the same author as ‘The Brand Gap’ comes ‘ZAG’. It’s the follow up book actually, which goes deeper into the topic of how brands can harness the power of differentiation: how to stand out as a brand in such a cluttered market place.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Sam Noble


Freakonomics by Steven D. LevittFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

Another classic in marketing and economy is Freakonomics from successful author Steven D. Levitt. Levitt takes up the topic of economics in a different way than most authors, using a lot of storytelling and examples.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Tim Stewart



Influence Marketing by Danny Brown & Sam FiorellaInfluence Marketing by Danny Brown & Sam Fiorella

It’s probably one of the most used terms in the past year: Influence Marketing. So a book about that should be in this list for sure. “Influence Marketing”. Authors Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella provide a blueprint that moves influence marketing beyond simple brand awareness and into sales acquisition and customer life time value measurement.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Andrew George Burnett


1984 by George Orwell1984 by George Orwell

Again an odd one out and, again, not a business book, but ‘1984’ by George Orwell is the classic when it comes to looking at the future. The novel from 1949 looks at an omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system. In lights of recent NSA developments a very interesting read indeed.

Find on Amazon 

Suggested by: James Crawford


Pioneers of Digital by Mel CarsonPioneers of Digital by Mel Carson

Yes, it is indeed suggested by the author himself (Mel Carson), but he was right to suggest it (and het did suggest others as well, see below). In this book Carson interviews many big and important minds. It has twenty inspirational interviews with those who have defined digital formats and campaigns.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Mel Carson


The Business of Influence by Philip SheldrakeThe Business of Influence by Philip Sheldrake

As said before, Inlfuence Marketing is hot and this book by Philip Sheldrake takes an in depth look into the pr side of this. Sheldrake tries to “reframe marketing and PR in the context of 21st Century technology, 21st Century media and disintermediation, and 21st Century articulation of and appreciation for business strategy.”

Find on Amazon

Suggested by Steve Lock


Idea Stormers by Bryan W. MattimoreIdea Stormers by Bryan W. Mattimore

Getting new ideas which are fresh and not done before is very, very difficult. Every little piece of help there is welcome. In “Idea Stormers” Mattimore “explains the how, what, and why of successful ideation and provides a framework for when and how to apply various techniques.”

Find on Amazon 

Suggested by Steve Lock


The_First_20_Hours_by_Josh_Kaufman-2The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman

Also have a big list of things you want to learn? But you don’t have time or the energy to get started? In “The First 20 Hours” Josh Kaufman offers a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition: how to learn any new skill as quickly as possible. Challenge accepted?

Find on Amazon

Suggested by Steve Lock



Cognitive Surplus by Clay ShirkyCognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

‘Cognitive Surplus’ is the sequel to Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, which covered the impact of social media. In this book he argues that people learn to better use free time, particularly with the advent of online tools that allow new forms of collaboration. Shirky investigates this trend.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: James Carson

Big Data- A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Kenneth CukierBig Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Kenneth Cukier

Another ‘big term’ in the past year was ‘big data’. What’s that all about? In his book Economist editor Kenneth Cukier, together with his co-author Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, “reveal the reality of a big data world and outline clear and actionable steps that will equip the reader with the tools needed for this next phase of human evolution.”

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Suggested by James Carson


Steal Like an Artist- 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin KleonSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Is creativity just for a few creative people? Maybe not, if you listen to Austin Kleon. His book ‘Steal Like an Artist” is “a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. A very ‘hip’ book they say.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by Steve Lock

The Signal and the Noise- The Art and Science of PredictionThe Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction by Nate Silver

“Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty.” (Amazon description)

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Suggested by: Kelvin Newman


The Righteous Mind by Jonathan HaidtThe Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

A book on psychology! Jonathan Haidt looks into why we are so ‘moral’ all the time. According to Haidt we are “hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous too. Yet we don’t all have the same ideas. That is where Haidt focuses on: the understanding of this all.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Barry Adams


Predictably Irrational by Dan ArielyPredictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

A ‘classic’ again. This time in the field of neurmarketing. Ariely looks at our irrational behaviour and sees if there are predictive patterns to find. And guess what, there are! With many examples and storytelling Ariely brings the science that is neuromscience closer to our everyday lives.

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Suggested by: Barry Adams



Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanThinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is one of the most famous and most successful neuro psychologists. The winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences knows all about decision making and his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ he takes us through a ride through our minds and explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices.

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Suggested by: Mel Carson


Success or your money back by Shed SimoveSuccess or your Money Back by Shed Simove

The title “Success or your money back” suggests a proper American sales pitch. But Shed Simove is not your average salesman. First of all, he’s not American, but a British author, performer and entrepreneur. And that reflects in this book.

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Suggested by: Mel Carson



The Antidote by Oliver BurkemanThe Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Don’t you just hate all the books, videos and blogposts about how you can reach happiness? Well here’s a book for you if you do. “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” looks at how self-help books don’t help in a “thought-provoking, counter-intuitive and ultimately uplifting” way.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Matt Bennett



Thick Face, Black Heart- The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life by Chin-Ning ChuThick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life by Chin-Ning Chu

Learn from successful business people in Asia? Why not. Chin-Ning Chu is president of Asian Marketing Consultants, Inc., and is an international lecturer, corporate trainer, consultant, and author of The Chinese Mind Game and The Asian Mind Game. Now thats quite a track record so her book should be good and with a lot of examples as illustration it sure seems to be just that.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by: Jake Langwith


Flat Earth News- An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick DaviesFlat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies

Do you believe everything you read in the papers? Or see on TV? Maybe you shouldn’t. Nick Davies talks in “Flat Earth News” about falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media. You probably won’t believe anything you read anymore when you finished this book.

Find on Amazon

Suggested by James Crawford


Let us know if you have read any of them and what your thoughts were about the books you read!

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Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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