Best Business Books: 50+ Marketing Experts Will Make You Smarter

Best Business Books Recommended by Marketing ExpertsWant to improve your marketing?

Of course, you do.

Beyond learning about the latest marketing trends, the best thing that you can do is to improve your understanding of business more broadly.

The best way to accomplish this is to read the top business books.

To help you choose the best business books, I asked 50+ top marketers to recommend their favorite business books.  This way you get the inside scoop from trusted sources.

You may also be interested in their favorite marketing books.


Top business books for marketers

Take the time to read through the entire list of top business books for marketers. You’ll be surprised by their choices. There’s lots of variety including fiction.

These are books to study for their business acumen as well as for their power to inspire your peers.Best Business Books Recommended by Marketing Experts


Hana Abaza – Shopify. Also, speaker, blogger and self-proclaimed podcast junkie 🙂 Her podcast is Flip the Switch.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It’s got this no-BS narrative that rings true. Probably one of the best business books I’ve read in a while.
Switch, Chip & Dan Heath – This book provides great examples of how change happens when it seems impossible. It’s packed with interesting stories from areas of life and the overarching lessons can be applied both personally and professionally.
Radical Focus, Christina Wodtke – Since the problem with most teams isn’t the lack of ideas, it’s a lack of focus. This book provides a framework for zeroing in on the things that matter.


Scott Abel – Founder, CEO, and chief strategist at The Content Wrangler, Inc. Author of The Language of Content Strategy and Intelligent Content: A Primer. Co-Founder of Intelligent Content Conference. His alter ego, The Audio Wrangler, is a popular DJ and dance music mashup artist.

Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions, Dr. Carmen Simon – How to make content memorable and why audiences can’t remember 90% of what we think they can.
Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, John E Kelly III & Steve Hamm – How the coming cognitive computing revolution will change how we learn, work, and live. It has critical lessons that are important to content creators, managers and marketers.
Unique Ability® 2.0: Discovery – Define Your Best Self, Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, & Shannon Waller – This book teaches you how to focus on doing what you love and do best so you can create the most value for others.


Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions, author of:Digital Relevance and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell – This book helped me to apply a more intent application to character. A lot of the methodology I developed for creating buyer personas came from thinking spawned by Campbell’s ideas. Especially the idea that we can learn to understand ourselves better through the stories we choose to read or view.


Mike Alton – Content Marketing Practitioner for The Social Media Hat and Chief Marketing Officer for SiteSell.

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries – Teaches manufacturing companies and startups how to launch new products in an agile way. This process of testing and evaluating can be applied to content marketing.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey – While lessons can be taken with regard to marketing, simply “being” a more effective person will make you a better marketer.
Europe In The Twentieth Century, Dr. Paxton – This is part of my broader collection and education on history in general. It helps me to remain grounded in my marketing approach and views. To steal a quote from Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before, and will happen again.” While there are always new developments and ‘shiny objects’ to chase, the roots of marketing will always be about relationships and providing value. Studying great books is always good advice!


Syed Balkhi – Founder and CEO of Awesome Motive Inc. His company is best known for OptinMonster.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz
The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle
Power of HabitCharles Duhigg


Robbie Kellman Baxter – Head of Peninsula Strategies. Author of The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction & Build Recurring Revenue. (Check Baxter’s video summary of The Membership Economy.)

Getting to 50 50, Strober & Meers – This book shows how to be successful in business while being a married, working mom.
Stumbling Upon HappinessDaniel Gilbert – Shows you how to find what really makes you happy.
The Enneagram Made Easy, Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele – Shows you how to understand people who are motivated by very different things.
Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss – Shows you how to build a consulting practice you love.


Jonah Berger – Wharton Professor. Author of Invisible Influence and Contagious: Why Things Catch On.

Stumbling Upon HappinessDaniel Gilbert
The Mind Club, Daniel M. Wegner   – It’s interesting to see how our minds work and what makes us happy


Toby Bloomberg – Bloomberg Marketing/Diva Marketing. Read her free e-book: Social Media GPS: 40 Interviews with Marketing Professionals About Social Media Conduct On Twitter

Accidental Genius, Mark Levy – It’s too easy and too often that we loose our creative focus. Mark shares an interesting way to get out of the mud with ‘freestyle writing’ tips.
Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, Sybil Stershic – Although this book was written for nonprofits, the concepts hold true for any industry. The author reminds us that it’s the personal touch that matters and makes a difference. And can be your point of difference. Sybil’s writing is easy to read and includes workflow exercises.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, Seuss – This seemingly simple children’s book holds so many truths for people of any age. It’s a source of inspiration and creativity.


Susan Borst – Led the IAB Task Force to develop the IAB Native Advertising Playbook, an industry framework. Borst was involved with the pro-bono “Girls Go Tech” initiative .

Einstein’s DreamsAlan Lightman – This fiction book covers various views on the theory of time. It’s hard to explain all that this book covers, but it has had a profound impact on me as I evaluate opportunities and people I meet.


Tim Bourquin – Co-founder,

The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely – I think this is a fantastic resource for building websites and landing pages that convert prospects into leads.  By understanding how people think and make decisions, you can capitalize on those motivations and design your marketing material in a way that speaks to them and gets them to pay attention.

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Michael Brenner
– CEO of Marketing Insider Group providing content marketing strategy, content development and content marketing workshops. Author of The Content Formula.

Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull
The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell
Ernest Hemingway – Everything Hemingway wrote is worth reading. (Editor’s note: Hemingway was the master of the short sentence.)


C.C. Chapman is a professional creative. He’s also the co-author (with Ann Handley) Content Rules

Made to Stick, Chip & Dan Heath – Focuses on how our brains work. The more you know about how your audience thinks, the more you can work it into your marketing campaigns.
Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon – I hated the title of this book when I first saw it. After reading it I fully appreciated. To be successful we need to consume other people’s work in addition to creating. I wish more marketers would learn to do this!
Purple Cow, Seth Godin – It is a classic. If you haven’t read this book yet, get on it now!!!


Dorie Clark – Author of Stand Out and Reinventing You.

The Boron Letters, Gary Halbert – This is famed copywriter Gary Halbert’s letters from prison to his young son. But it’s one of the best examples of high-quality, conversational copywriting, and includes his musings on what makes one successful in sales and life.
Born Standing Up, Steve Martin – A thoughtful look at Martin’s early years and how he came to fame. His story shows the passion and commitment that’s necessary for success, whether you’re a standup or an entrepreneur.
The Education of a Value Investor, Guy Spier – A moving memoir about a guy who was once a jerky financier and how he learned to become a better investor and person.


Heidi Cohen – Chief Content Officer of Actionable Marketing Guide. (Note: I selected these 3 books since they marked marketing pivots. There are many I could add including those by the contributors to this article.)

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – This book provides insights as to how you can achieve the maximum sense of happiness and success. It’s not a self-help book. Rather, it’s based on research by a University of Chicago professor.
On Writing, Stephen King. This book is a classic for every writer. I’ve read it multiple times.
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron. I love how this book sparked my inner creativity. It’s a guide for anyone seeking to create anything, not just writing or art. It gives you exercises to change how you view the world around you. It’s useful to read when you’re making an important life change.
Made To Stick, Chip & Dan Heath. I couldn’t put this book down. Reading it was a light bulb moment for me. It provided insight into how to craft your marketing to motivate your target customer to act.


Andy Crestodina – Cofounder and strategic director of Orbit Media Studios and author of Content Chemistry.

Getting Naked (or any book by Lencioni) is a good reminder to stay human and honest in all things related to business.
Getting Things Done, David Allen. A classic that I read every few years.


Guillaume Decugis – Co-Founder & CEO,

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries – After I successfully sold my first startup to Microsoft, I thought I’d learned a lot about entrepreneurship. But when my second business failed, this book taught me how to be an entrepreneur again.
How Not To Be Wrong: The hidden math of everyday life, Jorden Ellenberg – Math is everywhere. As marketing becomes more and more data-driven, there’s a lot to learn from this easy-to-understand book. It’s intended for non-mathematicians.


Pawan Deshpande – CEO of Curata and author of The Definitive Guide to Content Curation ebook.

Influence, Robert Cialdini – This is a must-read book for anyone in a customer facing role. It teaches you how to use human physiology to influence someone’s decision making — after all that’s what marketing and sales is all about.


Pam Didner – Content Marketing expert, speaker and professor, author of Global Content Marketing. (Get a free chapter of the book).

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creative Imaginative Fiction, Jeff Vandermeer – The author explains how to write and plot a fictional story illustrated with creative visuals of monsters and beasts. Telling a good story is hard, but it can be adventurous.


Gini Dietrich – Founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Author of Spin Sucks and co-author of Marketing in the Round. Head of Spin Sucks blog  and Spin Sucks Pro.

Traction, Gino Wickman – I recommend this to every entrepreneur. It’s, hands-down, the very best book on business planning. It walks you through how to do it, gives you templates, and even provides a two-page plan that you can actually execute against. I love it.
Predictable Success, Les McKeown, – I keep this book on my desk. It’s nice to be reminded that the challenges you have when growing a business aren’t unique. It’s helpful to think, “How should I deal with this?” and be able to open to a chapter on the very issue.


Melonie Dodaro of Top Dog Social Media. Author of  LinkedIn Unlocked and The LinkedIn Code.

I love the book Influence by Robert Ciadini. I attributed him in my book as well, but I also caution people not to use his weapons of influence in an unethical way, which can eliminate trust.

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Henneke Duistermaat
is the founder of and a regular contributor to Copyblogger. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook, and she helps business owners become confident writers and find their voice, so they can attract the right clients to their business.

The Path, Michael Puett. For anyone who’s tired of the “follow your passion” advice because they don’t know what their passion, this book is refreshing. Packed with advice from old Chinese philosophers – surprisingly relevant in the modern age.


Nathan Ellering – CoSchedule. Author of How To Create A Social Media Strategy. The Know-It-All’s Complete Guide To Launching Social Media For Monumental Growth

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth Godin – “You can train yourself to matter.” If you want inspiration to never stop learning, trying, and growing, this is the book for you. This book pushed me to fight the resistance and favor shipping over perfection.
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership, Bill Walsh. As a new manager, I needed to learn how to translate my thoughts into frameworks the team could help execute. Bill Walsh advocates a standard of performance to help your team learn what to do so well they could operate without you.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg. Maintaining status quo produces status quo results. You can push yourself—and your team—to modify existing habits to refocus your efforts and dramatically increase your productivity.


Eric EngeStone Temple Consulting. Co-author of The Art of SEO (With Stephan Spencer and others.)

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand – This is the story of a society that goes completely communist/socialist and takes away the concept of earning more if you contribute more. While the moral issues in this book can be tricky to navigate, it’s a great read.
StrategyH. Liddell Hart – This book about military strategy taught me much about flexible thinking and opportunism. [Editor’s note: Many marketing and business executives use Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in the same way.]


Brian Fanzo (aka  iSocialFanz) – Co-Founder of Summit.Live and Co-Host of SMACtalk Live Podcast & Event Show

Start with Why, Simon Sinek – This is the only book I’ve read cover to cover more than once. Why? We live in a world over run with noise. Nobody cares about what other people care about, why other people do what they do, and why it matters.This book ties that all together.


Rand Fishkin – SparkToro. Author of Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World

Good to Great by Jim Collins made me think hard about the aspects of building a company that correlate with successful outcomes
Powerful by Patty McCord has some awesome stories from Netflix’s early years that resonated with me
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely opened my eyes to the idea that while people aren’t logical, their lack of logic does follow patterns that can be recognized and optimized for


Allen Gannett of TrackMaven. Author of The Creative Curve.

Creativity, Inc.,  Catmul is one of the co-founders of Pixar, and his book is a deep dive into the creative culture at Pixar. It’s extremely engaging. If you’re interested in the artistic process and innovation, this book is a must read.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz  This is a fantastic book that takes an honest look at the difficulties of building a business from the ground up. It’s filled with honest, hard-nosed, and—most importantly—valuable advice for entrepreneurs. Pick up a copy, you won’t regret it.


Chris Guillebeau – World traveler, author of Born for ThisThe $100 StartupThe Art of Non-Conformity

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder – do everything you can to help others
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl showed me how to find purpose in anything, no matter how difficult the circumstance
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. There’s something you have to find, even if it takes over your whole life


Ann Handley – CCO, MarketingProfs; author of Everybody Writes and Content Rules.

The Elements of Style, E.B. White (& William Strunk) – This is the book that taught me how to write. I still re-read it every year or so. Plus, E.B. White and I both loved/love Maine. So I’ve always felt a kinship with the guy.
The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher, Don Murray – Don is under the radar, but all of his books are like water wings for non-swimmers. At first they help you float, but they also get you to try a few moves on your own and before you know it… you’re writing! And swimming!


Jeffrey Hayzlett – Television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives. Chairman of C-Suite Network. Author of Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless, Running the Gauntlet, and The Mirror Test.

Selfish, Scared & Stupid, Dan Gregory & Kieran Flanagan – Outlines the 3 most common human traits: selfishness, fear and a need for simplicity. To effectively increase influence and performance, whether at work or home, Dan Gregory & Kieran Flanagan break down these traits and provide implementable solutions and real-life examples that stem from extensive research and an impressive combined body of work.
The Barefoot Spirit, Bonnie Harvey & Michael Houlihan – Barefoot Wines founders use universal business principles, and their never-say-die outlook despite facing one seemingly insurmountable hurdle after another. Those hardships, that hustle, and their heart, are the essence of the Barefoot Spirit.
The Power of Broke, Daymond John – The author has practiced the power of broke ever since he started selling his home-sewn t-shirts on the streets of Queens. With no funding and a $40 budget, Daymond had create out-of-the box ways to promote his products.


Erika Heald – Content Marketing Consultant

Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham – This book gave me a language to talk about my work style. It also helped me think through the primary traits that come through in others in the workplace. This book has helped me to better think through creating marketing personas and the related content to meet different prospect needs and preferences.

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Albert Jan (AJ) Huisman – of Y Content (content marketing consultancy) and co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Content Marketing Fast Forward  (platform to inspire and educate marketers). AJ lives in an old Bakery dated back to 1732 in a small historic village 40 miles north of Amsterdam.

The Go-Giver, Bob Burg – Content marketing essential: “Create value”, with every piece of content you produce, ask yourself “Does this help my audience?”
50 Ways to Yes, Dr. Robert Cialdini – It’s a much needed “Weapons of Influence” for every marketer.
Made to Stick, Dan & Chip Heath – How to avoid “The Curse of Knowledge” in your content marketing.


Neen James – Author of Attention Pays

The Thought Leaders Practice by Matt Church – it’s my business ‘bible’ and a great template of how thought leaders commercialize their expertise.


Greg Jarboe – President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency. Author of YouTube and Video Marketing as well as a contributor to 4 other books. Jarboe is the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn and an instructor in Rutgers Business School’s Executive Education program

Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain. Under the tutelage of the most celebrated Mississippi pilot, Twain learns to navigate a constantly changing river. As a result, he avoids potential collisions with other boats and traversing winding channels. In today’s world, there is a lot of wisdom to learn from 1857.
The Fourth Part of the World, Toby Lester – For millennia Europeans believed the world consisted Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the 3 continents in different shapes and sizes on their maps. Occasionally, they hinted at the existence of a “fourth part of the world.” It was a mysterious, inaccessible place, separated from the rest by a vast expanse of ocean. This book is a must-read for anyone who experiences a paradigm shift. It’s a thrilling saga of geographical and intellectual exploration, full of outsize thinkers and voyages. Taking a kaleidoscopic approach, Lester traces the origins of our modern worldview.


Carla Johnson – Co-author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing and CEO of Type A Communications.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink – I love this book because it points how much of the work that people do can quickly be commoditized. If you want to create value for your customers and be valuable as a professional, we need to think differently. It’s not art versus science, it’s art and
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Jake Knapp – Moving anything forward – projects, ideas, momentum in general – often die a slow death. There’s too much bureaucracy and too many people weighing in. This book shows how to take a small group of the right people, test an idea, and understand if it’s valid or not in a very short amount of time.
You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, Mark Sanborn – Many marketers give away their power by saying something or someone has to be different before change can happen. This is a great, short and entertaining read about how anyone in any position in any organization can lead, make a difference and usher in positive change.


Christian Karasiewicz – Social Chefs, a social media training and education business. We create an immense amount of videos, blog posts and downloadable content.

The ONE Thing, Gary Keller – has been instrumental at helping me cut through the weeds and develop a stronger focus on what we work on. We can’t do everything so it is important to prioritize.
Uncontainable, Kip Tindell – Has helped me develop a core list of principles that we value at my company.
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier – Has given me insight into ways to improve my coaching practice.


Carrie Kerpen – Likeable Media. Author of Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business.

Built to Sell by John Warrilow helped me understand how to build a scalable business.
Onlyness by Nilofer Merchant taught me to value my own unique self.
Profit by Mike Michalowicz first taught me how to make my business profitable in a simple way.


Dave Kerpen – Likeable Local. Author of Likeable BusinessLikeable Leadership.

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This easy read will change the way you think about your work. It is so simply written, with small words and big pictures – and yet contains profound wisdom about how to be more productive and successful without being a workaholic or sacrificing anything.
What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. I read this book when I was 21 years old and didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. It helped me go from a Crunch n Munch vendor at the ballpark to a top salesperson at Radio Disney.


Marti Konstant – Constant Change. Author of Activate Your Agile Career: How Responding to Change Will Inspire Your Life’s Work

The Gray Rhino by Michele Wucker. She highlights the abundant early warnings preceding economic, environmental, and economic crisis situations. The Global Financial Crisis, a catastrophic bridge collapse, the failure of an industry like Kodak are examples. She states a Gray Rhino is a highly probable, high impact threat; something we ought to see coming, like a two-ton rhinoceros aiming its horn in our direction and preparing to charge.


Jeff Korhan – Founder of Landscape Digital Institute. Author of Built-In Social.

Growing a Business, Paul Hawken – Has great lessons about bootstrapping your business. Traditional wisdom says businesses fail due to being undercapitalized. Often the opposite is true.With ready access to cash there is little incentive to learn the tough lessons.


Hannah Kovacs – Community Manager at PostBeyond. Created  11 Steps to Enterprise Social Media Advocacy

Lean InSheryl Sandberg – As a young female professional early in my career, this book had a huge impact on me. Yes, it talks about balancing motherhood and work, but more importantly, it addresses the challenges we as women face in “getting ahead” in a professional context. Her discussion inspired me to reflect on how I plan to grow as both a person and a professional, in a society where sexism and gender bias still plagues the workplace.
Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – Thinking outside the box doesn’t need to complicated. The authors tell you it’s ok to say “I don’t know” – if that’s what helps you approach an obstacle from a different perspective. This helped me immensely as a marketer – approaching something from a different angle allows you to tap into your more creative side.


Arnie Kuenn — CEO of Vertical Measures, a full-service Internet marketing agency. Author of Accelerate & Content Marketing Works.

A Passion for Excellence by Tom Peters. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. But it taught me the art of measuring your internal quality and having a passion for what you do.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. This book taught me the various phases almost every business goes through.


Ian Lurie – CEO & Founder, Portent, Inc. Creator of several training Lynda courses. Author of One Trick Ponies Get Shot: How To Succeed In The Business Of Consulting.

Edward Tufte – He writes and creates the most amazing books about data visualization. I learned most of what I know about reporting, presentation and even blog layout from him.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini. It’s the best look at how we influence customer decision making I’ve read.


Cathy McPhillips – President of Marketing, Content Marketing Institute

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown – This book was just given to me by a friend, and it really hit home on how I “know” I can put myself out there, take risks with my work, – and dare greatly…but sometimes I doubt myself. It’s empowered me in a way not many books have.
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg – As my career, my family, my personal life and beyond all keep me on my toes, knowing my habits – and embracing them – have made me more productive, and in turn happier when things are in order, so I can focus on the right things at the right times. It’s also helped me learn a lot about how to work and live with others


Jason Miller – Group Manager, Content Marketing, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. Author of Welcome to the Funnel: Proven Tactics to Turn Your Social and Content Marketing up to 11 (book) and The Sophisticated Marketer’s Series for LinkedIn. (Editor’s note: Miller is also a photographer. Check his heavy metal photos!)

Ignore Everybody, Hugh MacLeod – The best book I’ve ever read on creativity.
Fascinate, Sally Hogshead – A brilliant look at the science of fascination and how to captivate an audience.
Me Inc., Gene Simmons – Entrepreneur, rock god, self-made millionaire, Gene Simmons splits the book into two parts. The first about how he got to where he is today and the second how you can find your true potential and unleash your inner rock star.


Stephanie A. MillerIs a marketing automation expert. She writes a ClickZ column.

How to Make Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie – It’s a classic.
Hope is Not a Strategy, Rick Page – This book is amazing!
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Ries and Jack Trout – I recently re-read this book and it’s still amazingly current.  It should be required reading every 2 years for everyone in marketing!


Donna MoritzSocially Sorted

Thrive, Ariana Huffington – I’m reading this book for the second time.  Ariana Huffington shares her journey behind the scenes of the Huffington Post success, after complete burnout and literally collapsing from exhaustion.  Entrepreneurs get caught up in what we do, sometimes at the expense of sleep and self-care. This is why I loved this book for it’s not-so-subtle reminder to re-define the idea of success. It talks about the importance of sleep, meditation, mindfulness, unplugging and giving as new benchmarks to measure.  It’s been a powerful book for me.


B.L. Ochman – Publisher of What’s Next Blog. Marketer, digital and video content creator, speaker, coach and strategist.

Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity, Neal Gabler – This is the story of one of the greatest journalists of the early days. It helps you to understand the lure of celebrities and gossip.
Reality is Broken, Jane McGonnigal – Shows the science behind games with theories about how we can use principles of gaming to fix the real world.


Jess Ostroff – Don’t Panic Management. Author of Panic Proof: How the Right Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity and Grow Your Business.

Body of Work by Pam Slim was the first book that helped me get clear about what my unique value proposition is and how my work can impact the world. I was able to drill down into all the things that I love and care about, both in my personal and professional life, so that I could craft a life that fulfills me every day while also helping others.


Michael Pinto – Founder, Very Memorable, Inc.

Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art, by Paul Rand – Rand was one of the pioneers of branding. While that isn’t the focus of this book you get a really good sense of how he really defined the branding field. It’s much more than the mere placement of a logo.
Essays, Paul GrahamAs one of the Y Combinator founders, Graham wrote countless essays on the subject of startups. I always find myself thinking back on his essays.


Joe Pulizzi – Founder of Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World.  Author of 4 content marketing books (Editor’s note: many are noted on this list!), including most recently, Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses.  Here’s a free chapter of Content Inc.

Disney Wars, James Stewart – It’s a bit of a soap opera. But, this book gives an amazing inside look at one of the greatest media companies ever built.
Automate This, Steiner – Recommended to me by my friend Paul Roetzer, author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint (Amazon link).  Much of the future of content will hover around machine learning.  This book is a primer for that upcoming revolution.

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Tor Refsland – Award-winning blogger. Was featured on 158 top blogs in his first 14 months of blogging.  Created the course, How To Blog Outreach Like A Boss

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki – Teaches the real difference between liabilities and assets. It shows how wealthy people are able to leverage their assets to work for them to grow their business and life.


Robert RoseCo-founder of Content Marketing Institute and co-author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing (

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks, Joshua Cooper Ramo – It’s a VERY powerful history lesson and insight into global changes and the power of networks
The Business of Belief, Thomas Asacker – This is one of those read this book and “wake up” kind of things.
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown –Just an unbelievably great gook about how vulnerability helps you lead and change the way you look at life.


Ted Rubin – Author of Return on Relationship (with Kathryn Rose) and How to Look People in the Eye Digitally.  Check out his video on #RonR

How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie – The ultimate relationship building book. It’s the best social media book ever written (even though it was published in 1936!)
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill – Still the standard bearer for attitude, perspective and mindset.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand – A MUST read!


Mark W. Schaefer – Keynote speaker and author of The Content CodeThe Tao of TwitterSocial Media ExplainedBorn to Blog and Return On Influence.

I loved Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Peter Drucker, who was my teacher and mentor. It presents a method to really institutionalize innovation.


Neal Schaffer – Is a Social Media Author, Strategy Consultant, International Speaker, and Innovator. He’s CEO of Maximize Your Social and Co-Founder, Social Tools Summit. Author of Maximize Your Social, Maximizing LinkedIn for Business, and Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.

Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Paul Kennedy – While required reading in college, its application to business is unmistakable. It helps me better understand the rise and fall of the popularity of social networks. It’s a constant reminder that nothing in business lasts forever.
Reengineering the Corporation, Michael Hammer & James Champy – This was required reading at the Japanese semiconductor company where I worked at early in my career. It provides fresh thinking about examining the processes and infrastructures of companies. It’s served as a backbone for how I look at my own social media operations.
Solution Selling, Michael Bosworth – As a sales professional, it was required reading. This book helped me tremendously as a sales professional and a consultant.


Marcus Sheridan –The Sales Lion. Author of They Ask, You Answer.

How to Win Friend and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. This was the best sales / marketing / communication book ever written. By far.
The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin—to me, Franklin demonstrated the ultimate model of entrepreneurism, education, communication, and “giving back.”


Stephan Spencer – SEO expert. Founder of SEO agency, Netconcepts. Author of The Art of SEOSocial eCommerce, and Google Power Search.

Rules of the Game, Neil Strauss – This book about the underground world of PUAs (pick-up artists). It taught me a ton about influence and persuasion. Among the key topics were Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), calibrating, rapport-building, social proof, peacocking (essentially sticking out in a crowded market), and never looking at a “No” as failure but only as information.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo – If it doesn’t spark joy, it’s clutter. Using Kondo’s techniques, I’ve purged hundreds of books from my library, reams of paper from my files, half of my wardrobe, and much more. Clutter shows up in your marketing too; you just aren’t seeing it! [Editor’s note: This book helped me too!]
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson – It’s rare for me to get into a fiction book. But this book is near-term science fiction. It got my creative juices going, thinking about coming technologies and how to leverage them. It’s hard to pick just one book by Neal Stephenson. I loved Snow Crash too. So read both!


Jim Sterne – Founder eMetrics Summit and Board Chair Digital Analytics Association. Author of 12 books on digital marketing, advertising, email, social media and metrics dating back to 1995). Most recent are The Devil’s Data Dictionary and Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment (2010).

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout
The Elements of Style, William Strunk
Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug


Carson Tate – Working Simply, author of  Work Simply.

Getting Things Done by David Allen. Allen offers a tangible, actionable workflow management system that resonates and works well for many people.
Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard by Dan and Chip Heath. A simple, yet powerful approach to driving individual and organizational change.
Thinking Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman. An insightful exploration of the two systems that drive the way we think and how these systems impact not only corporate decision making, but also, our own predictions of what will make us happy in the future.


Laura Vanderkam – Author of I Know How She Does It168 Hours.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen Covey was the first productivity book I read, and it remains the one all others are measured against. In all my time management speeches I mention his simple but profound line about putting “first things first.” All of time management really comes down to that.
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is my favorite novel. I re-read it once a year as a reminder of what prose can be, and how a writer can create a world that draws you in.

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Mark Wachen – Upstage Ventures

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt
Moneyball, Michael Lewis
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson


Nick Westergaard – Author of Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small and host of the Social Brand Forum in Iowa.

To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink — It’s the best modern book on sales because we’re all in sales, really.
No One Understands You and What to Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson — a must-read for anyone working with others — especially marketers


Joanna Wiebe – Creator of Copy Hackers, where startups learn to convert like mofos. Her ebooks have 30,000+ copies and she’s spoken at 50+ international marketing conferences.

Made to Stick, Chip & Dan Heath – The concept of stickiness is so powerful. By unpacking what’s made past campaigns and brands stick, the Heath brothers have helped a generation of marketers stop generating fluff. The world should thank the Heath brothers.
Snow White, Donald Barthelme – This book is waaaay out of the realm of marketing. It’s a poststructuralist novel that deconstructs the Snow White fairy tale. As it does, challenges the way we write and read. If you want your words to stick, this book is an intense study in rhetoric and composition.


Dennis Yu – Co-author of Facebook Nation (Now in its second edition and in over 1,000 universities.) What happens when Facebook knows everything about you? What can they do and what should you do?

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson – Deals with the worlds of AR/VR– exploring the issues we face as a society and businesses. You could get 100 viable product ideas if you read carefully.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow – It’s a hilarious, short, touching book on virtual currency. It’s not boring. Even better, it’s more informative than any blog or commentary by “social media experts”.


Top Business Books bottom line:

Books can teach you a lot about business – regardless of your specific career. What matters is that you continue to read and learn about the world and the people in it.

Look at what these marketing influencers selected as their top business books.

It’s not just about business!

From a traditional library perspective, you’re covering a lot of the catalog. There’s a lot of fiction as well as self-help.

The top business books bottom line for marketers: Just read – Anything and everything.

It’s a great habit.

If you don’t like reading or don’t have time, try audio books. All you have to do is listen.

I dare you.

Read a top business book to help your marketing and your career!

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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Note: this article was originally published on October 3, 2016. It has been extensively expanded and updated.
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