This list is the list of a china obsessed digital strategist.
While it may seem more appropriate to only include digital or PR books, I think the ability to deal with constantly changing technologies, evaluate them and leverage them to further creative marketing campaigns can only be accomplished well by both culturally sensitive and analytical thought. These are gifts derived through a bright mind fed with culturally sensitive, beautifully analytical and varied content.
The list is primarily non-fiction. The few exceptions are social satires, parables, not fables, exaggerations exposing true human behavior. These books have influenced the way I think and process things, books which have no guaranteed happy endings, no fairy godmothers, and no Gods, not even a trip on the Mississippi. They represent critical thinkers with extraordinary gifts for processing information.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
Classic, we read it in the seventh grade. The best thing I ever read in a “guidance” course in Catholic school.
Biography of Marie Curie
Marie Curie, whose husband doesn’t usually get much credit, discovered the atomic properties of radioactivity. The couple was infertile and she died early, probably of cancer. Her near obsession with discovery was incredibly inspiring, but made me decide I didn’t want to be “a lab rat”.
A History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
Awesomely, awesome scientific explanation of the universe.
Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnston
Ironically we read this is Church. The gist is “if the cheese stops coming, are you someone who goes looking for new cheese, or do you stay waiting for the cheese to start coming again?”
A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works – Jonathan Swift
Swift’s ludicrous satire where he proposed to deal with the Catholic babies by selling them as meat is shocking in its logical style, and does as much to reveal the heart of societal hypocrisies as any modern TV pundit.
Handbook of Statistical Genetics – David J. Balding
This takes a strong stomach to get through, but I adored the charts, graphs and “R” values I only half-understood. This book made me even more a believer the “truth is in the numbers”.
The Travels of Marco Polo
This was a book from my grandfather, who visited China right after Deng Xiaoping opened it up. Marco’s stories were dismissed as mainly fiction by much of Europe, which they weren’t at all. It’s a great social study on how Western foreigners experience(d) Asian cultures.
Games Your Mother Never Taught You
This was written in I think the seventies. My mom passed on her yellowed to copy to me when I was in middle school, opening my eyes to the realities women had to face only a generation or so ago. For women in biz today see Facebook COO post.
Candide – Voltaire
Voltaire is my FAVE French philosopher, and close to my all-time fave. Candide – or Candid – is about a “fool” who is laughed at by his ludicrously logical and blunt view of life. The trick is in between the ridiculous, Candide speaks the truth. “Fools admire everything in a respected author.”
Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr. Suess
How could I not? I love the lesson, that you may be “bogged down”, but at least you bothered to go somewhere!
The Little Book of Money Quotes
Mostly I loved the Buffet quotes. The clear cut logic could have saved us the recession: Don’t invest, if you don’t understand it.
Good to Great- Jim Collins
This was selected by my all-time favorite business professor. The book focuses mainly on “getting good people on board”, meaning people are a company’s best asset. It also uses a hamster in a wheel metaphor to mean success must be driven by a constant innovation.
The Cost of Living – Arundhati Roy
This replaced my macroenomics textbook, thanks to our completely nutty professor. We also had to watch videos about chicken farming…but it was a eye-opener to global business impact and how international aid and development projects can completely miss the mark. Roy writes about the damage dams caused in India, destroying local resources when they were supposed to provide “modern living”.
The Brethren – Bob Woodward
This is about the nine Supreme Court Justices. Bob is such a great writer, I don’t even care much is exaggeration. I loved hearing about the first women on the court and the politics of each members’ selection. I NEVER want to go into politics.
The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
Brutal, logical business minded classic, with much in common with The Brethren. I argued with Machiavelli in my head, while trying to absorb his lessons.
The Dictionary of the Maqiao – Han Shaogong
Beautiful portrait of rural China. It comes in the form of a dictionary, but each entry is a little story of how the word came to be which offers cultural perspectives into a less Maoist China.
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
This one is actually less a story than a collection of quotes and sayings organized by topic. It’s a good little reference book. 🙂
Miscegenation – Elise Lemire
This is obviously a controversial topic. Anthropologists teach when a any 2+ populations meet, they can only become completely culturally homogenous through intermarriage. “When any two populations meet, they made trade, they may fight, they may coexist peacefully, but they always [intermarry].” A less romantic ideology comes from a famous writer who analyzed the Euro obsession with other “the exotic other” as a “desire to enhance the blank landscape of whiteness”. Having gone to China from a business angle, I encountered this type of traveler often and not without judgment.
Ethnic Studies: Issues and Approaches – Phillip Yang
Similar ideas, with a focus on the US and inter-minority conflict, specifically the LA riots.
The Accidental Mind – David J. Linden
The book traces the evolution of the human mind from its nematode origin, where simple light receptors and a neuron bud composed the “head”, to the multi-layered mind we use. It drives home the reality the brain is not a highly designed “computer-processor”, but a living, flawed, organ containing a history of its origins as rockcliffs contain history in their layers. This easy read can be a bit scientific, but a science background isn’t needed to understand it.
The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman
This revolutionary book is a classic for business majors to open their eyes to globalization. It was actually recommended to me by an IT professor because of its technology industry focus, especially with outsourcing to Asia and how technology is accelerating globalization.
Chasing Cool – Noah Kerner. Gene Pressman
Love this little book which is a fun, picture filled warning shot to all those meme-tracking, hipster hiring, survey marketers looking to hit on the “next big thing”. While the book applies to product development market research and advertising, I think its a translatable warning to remain creative, not buy into “cool”.
Youtube for Business – Michael Miller
I read this book in order to develop a plan for a Youtube channel for a school within my university. It tells the “Youtube” story from the first 30 second “Zoo” video to the company’s sale to Google. It gives great “Best in Class” examples and suggestions for developing a channel and feeding it content.
The Goal – Eli M Goldratt
This best seller was written in first person, as a story, which makes it so easy to read. They say “great books are a conversation with the author”, and you truly feel you’re a friend standing alongside Eli as he tackles the most mundane of business practices: Productions and logistics management. I would call it a pre-req to Freakonomics, showing you how simple logic and data can streamline business, and the difference between profit and revenue.
Freakonomics – Stephen Levitt, Stephen Dubner
These book will blow your mind. I don’t think there is anything I get such a giddy thrill over as much data-driven decision making and insights, but even the non-numerologically inclined with be impacted by this book’s revelations on flawed “common sense” conclusions which data debunks.
The New Rules of PR and Marketing – David Meerman Scott
Another PR classic, first introducing the digital world. It really focuses more on the basic marketing and PR skills that are translational in the new platforms. It’s good to remember although the tools are changing, people and what drives them does not change drastically.
What Color Is Your Parachute? Richard N. Bolles
This is a nice “how to” book for jobhunting, but its also a great lesson for networking. It teaches the ideology “if something’s not working, try something new”.
If You Have to Cry, Go Outside – Kelly Cutrone
Oh Kelly Cutrone. If you are a PR femme dreaming of Manhattan, (every other night), and have indulged in “The City”, you will recognize the pasty pale, black-clad fashionista who heards a team of young fashion PR girls with motherly, but vicious advice and insights: “This business is made of freaks and followers. You’re a freak. That’s ok, I’m a freak, but now that we know that, we know not to take you non-freak places.” Ouch! The book is a biography however, chronicling her life, her lowest points, and her success. Beware a little alternative religious diversion, but definitely an inspirational book.
Emotional Branding – Marc Gobe
I love Marc Gobe’s creative insights on branding. It’s a beautiful idealistic textbook for someone who wants to understand how to brand a company and how branding is the foundation to any other type of marketing, from PR to digital. This book is for marketers to help a company “discover who they are” or “who they want to be perceived as.”
Pick Me! – Nancy Vonk, Janet Prestin
This was written by a former CD, creative director at Ogilvy, and if you like Mad Men, you’ll appreciate the books take on CDs of old, and their persnickety, artistic temperaments, coupled with high expectations and judgment levied at young talent. It’s written as answers to letters young people wrote to get into advertising.
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
This book came into my life just when I needed it. It’s actually the book Bert Cooper recommended to Don again and again. It’s the best selling book of the last century, a 1,000 page story in the key of Aldous Huxley, but more realistic, and completely anti-communist. The best lesson is revealing the true meaning of money: A valuation of a person’s work and ability.
How to Make Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
My friend @bwells80 said this is “a book everyone should read at least once”. Don’t you hate how many books get that review? Dale Carnegie’s book however was written based on his lectures from the thirties, way before my or Brian’s time, and I agree it is an “everyone should read” book. It teaches mainly the Golden Rule, but in a way you realize not the altruism in this philosophy, but the personal incentives in just being nice.
Groundswell– Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li
My current fave, I wish I’d read this book when it first came out, but alas I was still looking at bringing pharmaceutical drugs to market in Asia. Though some of the web parameters have changed, and are changing, it is still completely relevant, and a “must read” for digital newbies. As I showed in my “Evaluation of Quora via Groundswell” post, the logic tests used in this book to evaluate new technologies by looking at what drives people continue to work effectively.
Real quick, books that I hate:
Most scifi (Wells is exception)