You Are What You Read — Books to Consider for Your Professional Arsenal


What's in your library?
What’s in your library?

I think one of the most consistent habits across those who excel in communications is that they have a large appetite for reading. My Kindle has certainly helped me with this habit as it is the best travel companion on business trips I could have found.

From newspapers and magazines to blogs and books, devouring words, retaining the information and applying it to work is simply a way of life for me. I admit that I probably don’t spend enough time with books, so when I do choose one to read it needs to be good. No, actually, it needs to be really good. That being said, if a book doesn’t interest me in the first 50 pages I simply don’t finish it.

But a few books have made a profound impact on the professional I am today and here’s my list:

  • Trusted Advisor — The theme of the book is pretty much in the title: You can’t be successful at what you do unless people have confidence in you and trust you. Think about that and your job. The authors use examples and provide reasons why you need to be your clients’ (internal as well as external) best resource. In today’s competitive job market and industries this may never be more true. I read this book while working for a professional services firm and it changed my attitude on how I approached my job.
  • Excellent Public Relations and Effective Organizations — This book by James Grunig and David Dozier has earned a special place with me. This was the book I used throughout earning my master’s degree at Syracuse and it has served me well since. It’s a big read and based on years of research, but the authors nail many of the key aspects of what it takes to earn a ‘seat at the management table’. For me personally, this book changed my views of the public relations industry and how we still need to grow as a profession.
  • Newsonomics Ken Doctor is someone you can trust when reading about the digital changes being made to the news business. While we all try to Monday morning quarterback the news industry as to what they should or shouldn’t be doing, Doctor is someone who does it without oversimplifying the issues. These are enormous and rapid changes facing an industry that we work with and rely on, and understanding what is happening is just as important on our end. I particularly like his Q&A approach throughout the book with various people.
  • Groundswell — If you read one book about social media to me this remains the standard for how things should be done. As more and more technologies emerge, Groundswell clarifies for you what you should focus on (people) and how to create your strategy using POST.
  • On Writing Well — Reading about writing? Yes, this is a must read for communicators who understand the power of the written word. From emails and blogs to research notes and speeches, writing (communicating) is at the heart of what we do as human beings. And for the lighter side of writing Eats, Shoots and Leaves is an entertaining reminder on the importance of punctuation. If you don’t believe in the value of good writing, think about your impression the last time someone sent you an email that was poorly worded and structured. Don’t be that person.
  • Innovator’s Dilemma — Understanding the thinking of executive managers is critical to doing our job as communicators. There are a number of great books today about business and business leaders, but I have yet to read anything that has influenced my role as a communicator more than Clayton Christensen’s book on innovation. Although this book is nearly 10 years old, it’s message about failing to ‘adapt or adopt’ remain present today.

Between my RSS feed, news media and industry publications there’s an endless amount of materials to consume but I still want to know your suggestions. If you could choose one book for me to read and add to my list what would it be?

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

Book Review: Empowered Is More Than Empty Words

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Book Review: UnMarketing

3 thoughts on “You Are What You Read — Books to Consider for Your Professional Arsenal”

  1. To get back into the habit of book reading, I suggest starting with an easy read, like  Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History.  It’s fun book that gives you insight into pre-internet viral marketing. A CMO recommendation is next on my list:  It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose.

  2. Either Drive by Dan Pink or The Power of Pull by John Hagel. Both are excellent and hit on some important themes. The most important theme around intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and how that’s effecting society are covered by both. 

    Drive is a little more oriented at the individual level and The Power of Pull is a little more focused at the business level so if you were only going to read one I’d say pick the one that sounds most relevant but if you have time both are awesome and there’s not too much overlap that you’d feel they were redundant. 

  3. Here some right on the spot…

     Robert Musil:  Der Mann ohne EigenschaftenGeorg Simmel: Philosophy of Money (Philosophie Des Gheldes)Hofstader : GEB (Godel, Hescher, Bach)Robert Pirsig: Zen and the art of Motorcycle MaintenanceH. Kissinger : The Years of the white houseMichener: The CovenantEmmanuel Derman :My life as a QuantMelville: Moby DickBarthes: Mit et MitologieBarthes: Le Plaisir du  TexteBarthes: Le Systeme de la ModeBarthes: fragmentes d’un discour amoureuseJerry Fodor: Hume VariationsBenoit Mandelbrot: Farctals and Scaling in Finance.Barthes: L’empire des signes.Didier Sornette: Critrical Phenomena in natural scienceThe BIBLEDante Alighieri:La Divina CommediaHugo: Les misérablesFlaubert: Une vieMaupassant: L’éducation SentimentaleGallo: NapoleonGallo: Louis XIV

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