Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 9, 2008 8:19 AM

Books You Need To Read To Succeed In Business

It's not all about Blogs and Digital Readers. Picking up a great business book will give you focus, new perspective and help you grow as a Marketer.

Did you happen to catch the Raise-a-Reader fundraising day that was run by Canwest (parent company of the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun) on Oct. 3? I was driving into Ottawa that day and noticed several volunteers on the busy streets collecting money and building awareness for this very important cause.

To date, Canwest's Raise-a-Reader campaign has raised more than $10 million, which directly funds and supports local literacy initiatives and creates awareness of the importance of family and children's literacy. It's a pretty amazing thing.

So, we all pulled up our pants and did our part to make sure that the younger generation is going to appreciate (and read) books.

But, take a look around your office. How many grown-ups do you see reading books these days? What does your bookshelf look like? Can it use a dusting off?

Canadians are not heavy book readers, and with a business column like this, you would expect some kind of diatribe about how the printed book has seen its last days of glory. How - going forward - almost everything (including paper) will be digital. Maybe some techie whiz talk about the new breed of digital book readers like the one from Sony or the Amazon Kindle.

Not the case.

I'm a voracious reader of books. Beyond some weird compulsion that draws me to walk into every book store in my path (with a purchase most of the time), in order to best understand where business is (and where it's heading), there's nothing like a well thought-out book to supplement the knee-jerk brilliance you can pull from the best and brightest bloggers or in issues of Fast Company and Wired Magazine.

In the spirit of the Raise-a-Reader, I've decided to share with you my six "must-read" business books for the new economy. Let's face it: it's hard to raise a reader if you're not one yourself. I've chosen books that are not only full of fascinating insights, but are also fun (and, sometimes, even funny).

Here they are (in alphabetical order):

1. The Cluetrain Manifesto - The End of Business as Usual, by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger (Basic Books).
Published near the beginning of the Internet revolution (early 2001), it is probably best known in marketing circles for coining the phrase "Markets are conversation." The book looks at the Internet as a new medium and unique communications channel.

The reason it is still so attractive for businesspeople is that the four authors are, primarily, tech guys (educators, journalists, evangelists, etc.), so their thoughts are pure, focused and very different from business-oriented authors viewing this pending revolution. Reading the book again, you'll wonder why the four of them didn't write this book on a wiki (my guess is that they would have had wikis existed back then).

In the spirit of spreading the word about The Cluetrain Manifesto, you can actually read the entire book online free (that being said, I have multiple copies at both offices and at home. I urge you to pick up a physical copy.

2. Here Comes Everybody - The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky (Penguin Press).
This book is fairly new and I am only 90 pages into it, but I've had it for a few months. It is such a fascinating read that I am savoring each page, hoping it never ends (either that or I'm reading it so slowly that by the time it ends, Shirky will have another book out).

Shirky is an edgy and smart technology guy who breaks down the shifts and changes in publishing and media. If you liked Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat and are looking for a book more focused on the Internet, do not miss Here Comes Everybody.

3. Life After the 30-Second Spot - Energize Your Brand With a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising, by Joseph Jaffe (Wiley).
As a pure-play advertising book, this is a fun read with many great examples of how marketing and advertising is changing (and much change). It highlights Jaffe's short, snappy and insightful writing style. After you check out the book, do not miss his podcast and blog, Jaffe Juice.

4. Purple Cow - Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin (Portfolio).
Widely regarded as the leading marketing thinker in the world, you really won't go wrong with picking up any of Seth Godin's books (his newest, Tribes, is out any day). Purple Cow is short and pithy and really breaks down how certain brands grow and why most don't. Bottom line: after reading Purple Cow, you'll spend the rest of your days asking anybody and everybody if your business is "remarkable" enough.

5. Re-Imagine! - Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age, by Tom Peters (Dorling Kindersley).
One of the best-selling business books of all time is Tom Peter's In Search of Excellence. Re-Imagine! (in my humble opinion) is way better. It's a big book, and a visually stunning one at that. Peters looks at everything from talent and design to leadership and trends. The book is never far out of arm's reach and has been marked-up and post-it noted to death. You can literally hear Tom screaming in Re-Imagine! to "wake up!" and embrace the change.

6. Web Analytics - An Hour A Day, by Avinash Kaushik (Sybex).
Kaushik is the analytics evangelist for Google. He's a friend and I've already told him that the title of the book really doesn't speak to the power of the content. In a day and age where everybody is worried about the economy, Kaushik's book is an amazing walk through the power of using the information you already have at your fingertips to be a more effective business person and marketer. If you ever wanted to be better at understanding how to optimize everything you're doing online, take a read of Avinash's book.

What would be your top business books?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation, that was published today. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

- Montreal Gazette - Books you need to read to succeed in business.

- Vancouver Sun - Six business books you really should read.

By Mitch Joel