It’s that time of year again when summer reading lists come out. I’ve never put out a summer reading list, so this will be my very first one. In thinking through the titles I should include on my list, I found myself getting more and more excited. Content creation is more important than ever and the very best writers read, a lot. To appeal to your target audience these days, you have to be a master storyteller and really appeal to your audience. What better way to improve your storytelling abilities than by brushing up on classics alongside modern day marketing thought leadership?!
Over the weekend, I reflected on all the written works that have moved me, inspired me, taught me and grew me from the inside out. Plenty of these works are well-known, maybe you even read them once upon a time, and others you may have heard of and just haven’t read yet. I encourage you to pick up some of these titles for an experience that will expand your mind, challenge your perspectives and prepare you for great marketing that will matter to your audience.
In no particular order, here is my hand-picked selection of titles for summer reading:
1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Entrepreneurs, Americans everywhere… if you haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it. We all take a journey and we rarely know where we’ll end up. If you can’t go on your own road trip this summer, join Sal and Dean on theirs!
2. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Talk about poetic prose. Everyone’s life tells a story and Thomas Wolfe shares his through his first novel. You can learn a lot about the art of crafting your own story through the hailed writings of Mr. Wolfe.
Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas. . . Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time. This is a moment.
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Admittedly, I love 19th Century texts. Whether you are a romantic or not, that’s not why you should or shouldn’t read Jane Austen. Her storytelling is magnificent and her ability to underscore important social and political debates of her time period through character relationships is both genius and inspiring.
4. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
5. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Named the bestselling marketing book of 2014, this is a must-read to better understand why certain things catch on and become so popular among people. The human psychology behind how and why people share certain information is mind-bending.
6. Youtility by Jay Baer
A novel concept introduced that challenges marketers and businesses from selling to helping their customers by providing so much value that people will actually want to pay for it. “Help not Hype” is the theme of this industry-changing contribution to the world of marketing and business.
7. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Who doesn’t love Hemingway? Telling a great story is both an art and a science. Telling a story from your brand’s perspective in a way that will resonate and that others will be able to relate to is a real gift to have. Spend time with the ultimate influencer when it comes to storytelling so you can get it right.
8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)
I actually read this one cover to cover twice. Never has a work taken the reader so far within the mind of a character. Reading this book is like living through a deep psychological conflict that begs everyone to think introspectively about our own boundaries for when the ends justify the means. To learn how to be this honest and reflective in one’s own life is invaluable in life and in business.
9. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
Perhaps one of the greatest books of all time that encapsulates the true American hustle of an unlikely pairing. This was likely a required reading when you were growing up, but I urge you to read it again by choice.
10. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
The book’s promotion says it better than I can myself, “Everybody Writes is your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content that attracts and retains customers. Because in today’s content-driven world, writing matters more… not less.” Need I justify why you need to read this book any further?
11: Influence by Robert Cialdni
We’re all in business and need to make a living. Understanding why people say, “yes” is helpful knowledge to have! Everyone needs to know how to sell, especially marketers.
12. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1845)
Today, many of us feel the need to unplug from social media and escape the busy-ness of our lives. Thoreau felt the same way back in the 19th Century and I think this is an excellent work to reflect on for anyone who is looking for some sanctuary from the ever-increasing distractions of our media-driven lives.
13. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
Truly a work that challenges all of us to stand for something. Apathy for issues outside of one’s immediate attention is a real problem and the same was true back in 1848 when Thoreau was fed up with the population’s inaction against unfair laws. This work had a profound effect on the actions of men and women during his time period. Every great piece of marketing should motivate its audience to action. That’s why you need to read this work as an example of one very famous, “call to action” in American history.
14. Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold
If you want change. If you want to redefine a status quo. If you want to put an original spin on a timeless idea…. this work is like the surgeon’s handbook for such a feat. Definitely a mind-bender of Western intellectual tradition that can be applied to any culture, any government, during any time period. It may not be an easy text, but it’s certainly an important one well worth the challenge. It’s also good if you read in groups so you can discuss.
15. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Unless you studied in English or Women’s Studies, you may have never heard of this significant work. It’s one of the very first, written by a woman, during and about patriarchal attitudes in the 18th Century. It is a cornerstone text on equality that is masterfully articulated. It was the “Lean In” of its time period and does a great job in defending its position.
16. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Most have probably read this one. Even if you don’t remember the exact plot, you probably remember how it made you feel. That’s why you should read this classic by Poe. Works that leave an emotional impression are memorable. How might you help your audience experience something memorable when they read your business’s content (without being disturbing of course)?
17. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Do you know what your purpose is? This Christian-based bestselling devotional makes the list, because it begs the questions we all should be asking of ourselves as individuals. It is also the question you need to be asking about your business and your marketing. No matter what, we all must be able to clearly answer the important question of “why.” You may avoid it in your life, but you know your marketing always needs to offer a crystal clear answer.
18. Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado
This text explores and identifies your own uniqueness, motivation to put your strengths to work, and the perfect prescription for finding and living in your sweet spot for the rest of your life. Great personal branding hinges on clarity around these important themes and this has been more insightful to me personally than many of the “personal branding” books I’ve read.
19. The Invisible Man by HG Wells
Classic science fiction. I had to include at least one from this genre. Creating new ideas and then convincing others of your new ideas isn’t easy. Science fiction and fantasy have a way of creating whole worlds and things and situations that have never existed. Don’t forget to flex your own imagination. It is uniquely human and can be wildly beneficial in business.
20. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
A well-known American classic that does a great job representing how to truly know and speak to your audience. One of the first novels to be written in vernacular English, it expresses a deep understanding of the characters and life situations it is writing about. The best brands can channel the voices of their audience. That is why this novel makes my list.
21. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Symbolism is powerful and memorable. You may not remember the entire plot of this famous novel, but I guarantee you remember the scarlet letter “A” the protagonist bore throughout this classic. Marketers use symbols all the time to represent our brand, product, service, idea, solution, etc. This novel is a great reminder of how to master the use of symbolism.
22. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” Need I say more? How important is your brand’s reputation to you?
23. White Noise by Don Delillo
Rampant consumerism, media saturation, novelty academic intellectualism, underground conspiracies, the disintegration and reintegration of the family, human-made disasters, and the potentially regenerative nature of human violence…. what’s not to love? It’s witty and ironic, and quite darkly hilarious. I can appreciate the unique perspective it offers of the culture we’ve created.
Phew. My list grew quite long and I even removed some titles. The bottom line is that I recommend you read works this summer that grow you and challenge you in some way. This is a list I hold near and dear to my heart and hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
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