I’m so excited for this post!
Obviously, I’m excited for every post, but today I get to talk about one of my favorite topics: books.
And these aren’t your typical “marketing” books, either…
We curated our own eclectic reading list to inspire your whole person, not just the usual subjects they give you in business school.
So without further ado, here are the top 6 business-ish books that changed the way Molly and I think about work, our careers, and what it means to be successful.
1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Molly: My first pick is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This book was hugely impactful for me. It showed me how creativity really functions in our day-to-day lives, but also how you can access your creativity any time and any place that you need it.
This isn’t a business book specifically — but as marketers who come up with creative ideas all day long, I can’t think of a more important skill to develop than this.
And really, I just love the way Big Magic makes me feel. The way Elizabeth writes, her energy, it always makes me feel like a better marketer, so definitely check this one out.
2. Crucial Conversations
John: My first book is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.
Crucial Conversations teaches you how to navigate high-stakes conflicts, whether you’re trying to make a case for an important project or dealing with an employee who isn’t respecting your energy or attention.
These conversations can be the difference between feeling successful and solving problems, or feeling burned out and needing to change jobs.
This book totally resolved my fear around having those tense, awkward business conversations that so many of us try to avoid.
Plus, it doesn’t just teach you the skills to become a better communicator with your coworkers but with yourself, too. I can’t recommend Crucial Conversations enough.
3. The Wizard of Ads
Molly: My second book is actually a trilogy called The Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams.
Roy is absolutely one of the best marketers in the world, and he understands marketing in a way that is so deep and so human that it doesn’t matter which platform you apply his teachings to.
And these books are incredible — they’re magical and mystical and so, so weird in the best possible way.
Any time I need some inspiration, I just open to a random chapter and, whatever chapter I land on, it always helps me move forward.
The Wizard of Ads takes me back to that place where I can remember that all of this marketing stuff is about magic and fun — and there’s no need to take it so seriously.
4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
John: The second book I want to recommend is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
I started reading this book when I started managing people, and it’s packed with lessons I used to break into that new role at work — but it’s not really a management book.
Instead, The Power of Habit will teach you how to break old habits and replace them with new habits you can control.
This book helped me make some really positive changes in my life by teaching me that a habit is really just a 3-step process: a cue, a behavior, and a reward.
And whether it’s good, bad or neutral — if you can pinpoint each part, then you can change your habits by changing the behavior and keeping the cue and the reward the same.
5. The CEO Test: Master the Challenges That Make or Break All Leaders
Molly: Last but not least, I want to recommend The CEO Test by Adam Bryant.
This book is more tactical than Big Magic and The Wizard of Ads, but it isn’t just for the Fortune 500. Adam interviewed over 600 CEOs before writing this book, and he uses their insider experience to help you navigate the unique challenges of being in any leadership position.
How do you navigate hard decisions?
How do you build the stamina you need to lead your team into the future?
How do you deal with the loneliness of being the boss?
Being CEO is enormously difficult. And as much as I love what I do, it can be a lonely experience, and I struggle with that.
The CEO TEST compiles hundreds of lessons into a single guide that’s helped me become a better leader, and hopefully it helps you too.
6. Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat
John: My last book is Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson, and it’s very businessy.
This book has stuck with me forever because it provides a really useful mental model of how to grow a company. Masterson’s idea is that there are four stages of business growth: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
He shows you how the common challenges and opportunities in each stage are roughly the same for every business — and so are the skills you need to grow beyond them.
Now when I work with a business as a consultant, I can easily identify the biggest challenges it’s facing and the biggest opportunities that I need to make sure it capitalizes on.
And this mental framework he gives you — the one I’ve kept all these years — is what makes this last book so powerful.
Did We Miss One?
And we’re always on the lookout for our next favorite marketing book…
So if there’s a book that had a big impact on your career, DM us on Instagram so we can read it, too!
Want to hear the full story?
Listen to episode 50 of the Smart Marketer Podcast.
You’ll learn more about our Summer Reading List, and get in-depth summaries of John’s three favorite business books: