Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 8, 2012 4:01 PM

5 New Books That Every Marketer Must Read (That Aren't About Marketing)

Looking for something good to read this weekend?

If you happen to be lucky enough to have some free time (who does?) and you're looking for something interesting to read, something that will help you get ahead at your job or something that will give you additional skills where you may have been lacking, then here's a suggestion: don't read another marketing book. Surprised by this answer? Don't be. There is a world of great new thinking out there (and yes, it's longer than a tweet and longer than an average blog post) that has nothing to do with marketing or growing your business. That being said, the content from these books will make you better (and smarter). Promise. In the past little while, I've been immersed in a handful of very different books, and they all offer some new and interesting perspectives that you simply don't find in the standard marketing/business book fare.

5 new books that every marketer must read (that aren't about marketing)...

  1. Comic-Con And The Business Of Pop Culture - What the world's wildest trade show can tell us about the future of entertainment by Rob Salkowitz. I'm a massive comic book nerd. I was a huge collector back when I was very young, and I would frequent comic book conventions whenever I had the disposable income to do so. I've never been to the Mecca of comic book conventions known as Comic-Con in San Diego. This event has evolved from rows of musty comic book boxes and people looking like the dude from The Simpsons that sells comic books to a world-class event about the future of entertainment. Some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters are launched at Comic-Con, and many of that city's success is determined by how fans react to screenings and previews at the convention. The sold out annual event hosts thousands of people who have come to realize that life - as we have known it - has truly become Revenge of the Nerds. If only I could go back in time and tell the thirteen year old me that Geek Culture would become the coolest thing ever, high school may have been a lot more tolerable. This book talks about how great it is that comic book culture has become so widely accepted and commercialized, but it also warns of how bad it is for some the more ardent comic book purists.
  2. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty - How we lie to everyone... especially ourselves by Dan Ariely. I'm a massive fan of everything Dan Ariely. I loved Predictably Irrational and his second book, The Upside Of Irrationality. Dan is a personal mentor to me and he introduced me to my literary agent (so I am, forever, in his debt). That being said, had he released a dud of a book, I would not bother to mention it. This one is awesome... especially if you're in the marketing business. Seth Godin's provocative book, All Marketers Are Liars, raised some eyebrows, but Dan takes lying and dishonesty to a whole new level with this one. How often do you lie? How often are you dishonest? Do you consider yourself a liar or someone that is dishonest? Read this book and I promise that your answer will change. As sad as that sounds.
  3. The Quiet - The power of Introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Susan at this year's TED conference and was very taken by her book (which I read a short while before the conference). As a public speaker and someone recognized as being good at networking, I'm actually very introverted. I never understood how to reconcile these two very opposing "me's" but this book helped. While we all celebrate connectivity, collaboration and open work spaces, Susan makes a very compelling argument for alone time and the value of thinking and working alone... and what this means to our society. Whether you're a loner or not, The Quiet is a great read.
  4. Steal Like An Artist - 10 things nobody told you about being creative by Austin Kleon. This is the smallest and shortest book on this list by far (but don't let it fool you). While you can finish this book in about an hour, it will keep you thinking about creativity and what it means to be a creative person for days, weeks and months. It's a smart and peppy little book that gives a ton of direction about how to get more creative about whatever it is that you're doing. I've adopted many of Kleon's ideas and my life is much richer (and emotional) because of it. It's hard to believe that this much wisdom only costs about ten bucks. Steal Like An Artist makes me realize just how cheap books are when you consider the value of education you're getting in return.
  5. Wired For Culture - Origins of the human social mind by Mark Pagel. Pack a lunch for this one. At over 350 pages long, Pagel (an evolutionary biologist) traces humanity and everything we have become back to the introduction of culture and how much value it has brought to our lives (it's more than you think). Not only to our civilization by to our physical evolution as a species. Yes, this is no light reading, but it is written beautifully and dabbles into so many different areas of humanity (from psychology and physiology to biology and humanities). It's a meaty read and not one to be taken lightly. By the end of it, you'll have a much deeper understanding of what makes us humans tick.

What about you? Any other new books that you've read that are not about marketing, but a book every marketer should read?

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    I would add the Public Parts book by Jeff Jarvis. This is one of my favorite books for 2012. Very very interesting. Have you read it?

  • Posted by Clay
    Mitch Joel

    Fables of Fortune - What Rich People Have That You Don't Want (Richard Watts) - great book on human psychology and our relationship with money.

    Getting More - How to Negotiate and Achieve Your Goals in the Real World (Stuart Diamond) - not a cheesy sales book on negotiation, the book covers all sorts of human negotiations that Diamond has taught for the last 20 years teaching negotiation. Here is his talk at Google ->

    The Founder's Dilemmas - Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Noam Wasserman) - $20 and 2 hours to learn how to avoid millions of dollars in mistakes? Well worth the investment for anyone building a startup.

    Thanks, Mitch. Keep leading.

  • Posted by Jeff Ogden
    Mitch Joel

    Great post, Mitch. I'd like to recommend Win the Crown by master magician Steve Cohen.

    Thanks also for being our very first guest on Marketing Made Simple TV, Mitch. (

  • Posted by Tina Sollows
    Mitch Joel

    I would recommend "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by neuroscientist David Eagleman.

    I have to admit though, I love reading about the brain and how it works.

    For more details, see

    From the dust jacket:

    Most of what you do, think and believe is generated by parts of your brain to which you have no access. Here's the surprising story of the non-conscious brain and all the machinery under the hood that keeps the show going.

  • Posted by Drew Williams
    Mitch Joel

    "How Dogs Think" (Stanley Coren). Never underestimate your audience. :)

    • Posted by Rebecca Todd
      Mitch Joel

      Love Stanley Coren!

      • Posted by Rebecca Todd
        Mitch Joel

        Thanks for this list, Mitch! I've only read Steal Like An Artist off of this list. I would add an author I first learned of via your blog. When you talked about Sherry Turkle's TED talk Connected...But Alone I immediately went and watched it. And again. And again. I was so moved by Sherry that I ordered her book, Alone Together. It is an amazing read and explores our connection to and through technology. Kind of scary knowledge to put in a marketer's hand, actually. And I just finished Sam Harris's Lying...and Pressfield's Turning Pro. Both amazing.

  • Posted by Rosemary ONeill
    Mitch Joel

    This may sound crazy, but I'm currently deep into the first Game of Thrones book. I am still working my way through Michael Hyatt's Platform, and Gini Dietrich's Marketing in the Round, but I wanted a sorbet...a palate, Game of Thrones. Completely irrelevant to anything serious, fantastical, and frivolous.

    However, what it's done is remind me how much I love big chunky fiction. So, my recommendation to marketers is to find a big irrelevant book once in a while and enjoy. It's good for the soul. It sets the refresh button on your busy brain.

  • Posted by Melonie Dodaro
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for sharing this books. You can’t really imagine the ideas that you can get from something that seemed out of place. I think a lot of people get their fresh ideas from them at times.

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