Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Holiday reading

July 15, 2011

At this time of year the newspapers are full of lists of books to read on the beach. While I tend to make sure that I don’t read business books while on holiday some of you might want to. But the question is: which one or two of the thousands of business books should you go for?  I couldn’t possibly answer that but my friend and sometime collaborator Emma Rea was asked that question by a client and asked a few of us for our recommendations. I was quite surprised by the list that resulted – a mixture of marketing classics and newer/more narrative style/more personal perspectives. Here they are (in no particular order), with my comments in italics where I’ve read them:

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (Al Ries & Laura Ries)
Very easy to read in bite-sized chunks; quite old now and a bit simplistic but some good core principles for those quite new to marketing. 

Eating the Big Fish (Adam Morgan)
The original ‘challenger brand’ book (although the principles often apply to all brands). Nicely written although the examples might seem a bit out-of-date now. I really like his subsequent book ‘The Pirate Inside’ too – full of practical stuff about how to pull of being a challenger brand. 

Never mind the sizzle where’s the sausage? (David Taylor of Brand Gym)
Lots of good principles delivered via the story of a fictional company. Personally I prefer the non-narrative ‘how to’ approach of the other Brand Gym books but this one is really easy to read so could be a good pool-side intro to the Brand Gym.

How Disruption brought order (Jean Marie Dru of TBWA Paris)
How deliberately thinking in a disruptive way can help you develop distinctive and successful ideas. Can feel a bit familiar and/or overly contrary now but some good examples. 

The Tipping Point  (Malcolm Gladwell)
About how small things can make a massive difference with respect to trends/ behaviours/brands crossing the ‘tipping point’ to spread like wildfire. Very enjoyable to read, as are his other books such as ‘Blink’ and ‘Outliers’. 

Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us (Daniel Pink)
I haven’t read this one but this is what Amazon says: Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people – at work, at school, at home. It is wrong. As Daniel H. Pink explains in his paradigm-shattering book Drive, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today’s world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and the world. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation, and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward. 

How brands grow: what marketers don’t know (Byron Sharp)
This was my suggestion and I’ve posted about it here before. Probably not ideal beach reading but some really important mind-altering stuff that has stayed with me. Read it on a train to a meeting or something. 

Innocent: building a brand from nothing but fruit (John Simmonds)
I haven’t read this but you can imagine what it’s like. Personally I feel I’ve heard enough about Innocent already.

Delivering happiness (Tony Hsieh – the CEO of the very successful American online shoe retailer and cool company Zappo’s)
I haven’t read this but am going to buy it now. Looks inspiring and relevant for all those tricky service company challenges where you’ve got to engage and motivate a massive team of people behind a common vision. 

So that was the list Emma gave to her client. Plus here are a couple of books that have recently been recommended to me that I going to buy alongside the Zappo’s one:

Onwards: how Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul (Howard Schultz, the CEO who founded it, left, then returned to revive it).
Emma Woods of PizzaExpress says it’s a good read and full of good tips relevant for their company.

Anything you want (Derek Sivers)
Recommended by Seth Godin on his blog. One of those ‘how I did it’ stories by an entrepreneur but has a good cover that makes it more likely to get into the beach bag:

There is another way however. There are some business books that offer neat little summaries of what the authors regard as the best business books. I’ve got these two:









They’re divided into useful sections (Leadership, Innovation and Creativity, etc.) and written in a user-friendly way, with things like one-sentence summaries, ‘takeaways’ and suggestions of further reading if you’re interested. ‘Marketing greatest hits’ is (unsurprisingly) more marketing-oriented but there’s also a ‘Business greatest hits’ version. It’s written by a Brit whereas ‘The 100 Best Business Books of All Time’ is written by two Americans, but they’re both good. And they both have online versions where you can get regular summaries of new books: go to or

For the beach I’d go for one of the first person narratives, but these are good to have on the shelf for when you’re seeking some fresh inspiration, need a primer on economics or want to refresh your memory of what the hell book X was all about without actually re-reading it. Enjoy …