As an author, one of the things that I have learned in the process of writing my book is that there are only four types of books that any businessperson ever buys:
1. “Should Buys” – These are the books that are usually on some kind of best seller list that seem like responsible choices other businesspeople are reading, so you should too. They are bought often to keep you from appearing uninformed and because of an industry based kind of peer pressure.
2. “Shelf Warmers” – Usually with great titles and covers, these books look great on your shelf and can often make you appear smarter to anyone who happens to glance at your bookshelf and may be the ones that you will hand down from generation to generation.
3. “Someday Theories” – When you know something about a theory of a book and believe that it could be useful one day (but not necessarily today) and you buy it for that moment in the future when you may do something with it.
4. “Actually Useful” – This last category is the most rare to find, but the books in this category are the ones that help you make a change today. They teach you something you can apply immediately.
Now these categories are not permanent states … you may buy a book that initially is in category #1 but evolves into category #4. And this is also not to say that there isn’t value in the other categories. I have lots of books that fit into the first three categories and I’m very happy I bought them because they each offered me something different.
But if you value your time (and we all do), then your ultimate goal should be to try and increase the number of books that you buy that fit into the fourth category. To help you start thinking about this, here are five unlikely books that I have found to be highly useful. Each offers a way of thinking that I found highly applicable and useful to the world of business and marketing:
1. Save the Cat! – One of my favourite books from the recently late Blake Snyder, one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters, takes you through the Hollywood method for putting a powerful story together. His book was a huge influence for me in developing my own theories of business storytelling and personality. Though he just passed away a few months ago, his third book is being published posthumously and I highly recommend it, as well as either of his other two.
2. Slideology – This great book on creating a visual slideshow (please don’t call it Powerpoint!) is from Nancy Duarte, the relatively unknown consultant behind Al Gore’s Oscar-winning Inconvenient Truth presentation and Steve Job’s visionary product launch announcement presentations. Though that alone should make you run out and get this book, her clearly defined visual approach and multitude of examples will force you to never look at Powerpoint in the same way again.
3. Einstein’s Dreams – Though more of a philosophical choice, this half poetry/half novel book from physicist Alan Lightman takes you on a journey of space and time to explore how we perceive time. The application to marketing and business is quite simply that sometimes the most effective thing you can do is to focus not on what your message will be or where you will place it … but when you will deliver it. It is the when that makes the real difference.
4. A Book About Innocent – One of my favourite business stories about a small brand that became a large one (at least in the UK) is the English smoothie company Innocent Drinks. In this book that tells the story of the company, they share the simple stories from their history that would help you fall in love with them. It’s the ultimate lesson in how to build a brand that people love passionately and would do anything for.