In late 2013, I started a habit that changed my life. After reading a brilliant article by Ryan Holiday, I started carrying a book with me at all times.
And when I say “at all times,” I really mean it. The supermarket, the DMV, almost everywhere I could envision a couple minutes of dead time. I decided that if I had five minutes somewhere, I didn’t want to play Angry Birds on my iPhone.
Instead, I wanted to read.
Even if it was only a couple of minutes throughout the day. I was trying to build a habit, to replace iPhone games with reading.
Personally, I believe a good read has a real return on investment, and that return compounds over time.
The more you read, the faster you are at it, the more connections you see between topics, the better you are at analyzing things and reading between the lines, and the more often you’re able to disagree with a particular author.
In short, the more nuanced your understanding of the world becomes.
For that reason, reading is extremely important and non-negotiable. It’s like sleep, spending time with loved ones, or eating three meals a day.
Why reading is crucial, backed by science
When was the last time you read a book? Do your daily reading habits revolve around your Facebook feed and the back of that Chipotle bag?
Well, reading is the key to a happy, fulfilling, and successful life.
But it’s not just me who says so. It’s science.
It gives you a broad understanding of the world
From an early age, reading exposes you to 50 percent more words than TV cartoons, according to the University of California, Berkeley.
Other studies suggest that stronger early reading skills may mean a higher degree of intelligence later in life.
In addition, reading on a regular basis offers an outstanding wealth of learning at a faster rate than official education, like college. In fact, having more books at home has been strongly linked to academic achievement and success.
According to Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich in their study What Reading Does for the Mind, they noted that heavy readers tend to display greater knowledge of how things work and who or what people were.
It helps you navigate through life effortlessly
Research by Mindlab at Sussex university found that reading is a fantastic way to alleviate the problems of everyday life and combat stress. According to the research, heart rates and muscle tension significantly drops within six minutes of starting to read.
It improves your memory
It also improves your ability to remember. When you read a book, you must remember multiple characters and their nuances, plot-lines, story arcs, and more.
And every new memory you create forges new synapses and strengthens the existing ones.
In the book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf sustains:
“Typically, when you read, you have more time to think. Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight. By and large, with oral language when you watch a film or listen to a tape, you don’t press pause.”
What’s even more interesting is that it keeps your brain sharp for years to come. A study by Neurology Journal maintains that doing robust brain activities during your early years has a direct impact on memory loss rate at old age.
World-changing people do it
Winston Churchill, Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss, Seneca, and Robert Green. What do these leaders, authors and successful people have in common?
They all read voraciously.
And the list is endless. Think about Frederick Douglas, who freed himself out of slavery by sneaking out and teaching himself how to read.
Or Mark Zuckerberg who in 2015 decided to challenge himself and read one new book every other week — with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.
I encourage you to do the same. Reading will change your life.
If you are a visual marketer, and don’t know where to start, then these are the sixteen books you should read now.
1. Design for Hackers, by David Kadavy
4.5 stars from 102 customer reviews.
Hackers are known for being able to accomplish so much in so little time. Partly because they come from a community that’s built upon sharing knowledge, and partly because they are always looking for smart shortcuts.
When it comes to learning design, things aren’t as straightforward or simple.
Hackers are extremely smart people who know you need a deeper understanding of the nuances of something to excel in it.
This book by David Kadavy breaks down, or “reverse engineers” everything related to design — from impressionist paintings to Twitter’s interface — and utilizes these concepts to teach design.
2. The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
4.5 stars from 139 customer reviews.
Everything among us has been designed by someone. However, every day we fail to figure out which light switch to turn on, or whether to push, or pull a door.
But this is not our fault (mostly). The problem is that designers sometimes — knowingly or not — ignore user needs and basic usability principles.
This fantastic book by cognitive scientist Dan Norman is a powerful primer on how and why some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.
In turn, this will provide powerful insights for you that will help you understand visual design and customer research in a whole other light.
3. The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams
4.5 stars from 194 customer reviews.
As a visual marketer, everyday you’ll face design challenges you are not formally trained for. Sure, you know your way around Photoshop, but there are certain things that tend to fly over your head.
Personally, I believe this is the perfect book for visual marketers with little to no design training. It’s the one reference you can turn to find quick, non-intimidating, abd excellent design help from trusted design instructor Robin Williams.
In it, he focuses his attention to the basic principles that govern good design.
Enlightening, entertaining and funny to read. A must-have for any visual marketer.
4. Purple Cow, by Seth Godin
4 stars from 144 customer reviews.
Pricing, Promotion, and Publicity — the three marketing Ps — aren’t working anymore. Seth Godin, one of the most insightful marketers of the past 10 years, argues that there’s an exceptionally important “P” that has to be added to the list. It’s a Purple Cow.
Cows. After you’ve seen one, or ten, they become rather dull. A Purple Cow, though — now that would be something.
This metaphor describes something phenomenal, unique, counterintuitive, exciting, and flat-out unbelievable. The only way to differentiate yourself from the boring array of businesses is by being a Purple Cow.
Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, and make them remarkable and noticeable. If you never read something by him, this might be the place to start.
5. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuk
4.5 stars from 645 customer reviews.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a New York Times bestselling author, is as loud as he is brilliant. You should read anything from him you can put your hands on.
In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary uses boxing techniques to share advice on how to connect with customers and beat the competition.
In boxing, the Jab is a quick, subtle punch used to engage with your opponent, while the right hook is the finishing move used to knock out.
In the new internet era, online marketers plan their strategies for the Right Hook — the sale. They want to knock out their opponents in one punch, at the beginning of round one.
But that doesn’t work. Instead, they should commit themselves to Jabbing and building a relationship with their audiences.
Critics describe it as “a blueprint to social media marketing strategies that really works.”
6. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, by John Truby
4.5 stars from 190 customer reviews.
John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek.
The Anatomy of Story, which is based on his award-winning lecture Great Screenwriting, shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script.
It uses philosophy and mythology to introduce readers to new and truly effective techniques for building an effective, nuanced narrative.
7. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, by Joseph Sugarman
4.5 stars from 86 customer reviews.
Visuals are great, but they become unstoppable when paired with excellent copy. And excellent copy is the key to success in almost any endeavor.
Legend Joseph Sugarman, one of the best copywriters in advertising history, provides brilliant insights and proven techniques that will help you write beautiful, compelling copy that will entice, motivate, and move customers to buy.
This is the first of many books I’ve read on copywriting, and so far, it has been the best. Any marketer looking to reach their audience in an effective way should definitely have a look at this.
8. Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
4.5 stars from 1,317 customer reviews.
A few years ago, Austin Kleon was asked to give a speech to college students in upstate New York. He shaped his speech around the ten things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out.
After the talk went viral, he dug deeper into it and published Steal Like an Artist, in which he maintains that creativity is everywhere.
Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect other people’s ideas, and remix them to discover your own style and product amazing results.
I picked this book after seeing Ryan Holiday, Tucker Max, and Tim Ferriss quote it as one of the most amazing books ever written. And let me tell you something — you won’t be disappointed.
The graphics, examples and anecdotes in this book will put you directly in touch with your best artistic side.
9. Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey
4 stars from 331 customer reviews.
A big part of being a successful marketer is being productive and effective, and one of the best ways of doing that is in establishing a daily routine. Personally, I wake up every day at the same time, grab breakfast, read for 30 minutes, meditate, and only then, I start working.
This book by Mason Currey is a fantastic compilation of the daily rituals of famous and successful creatives throughout history. From Andy Warhol to Ernest Hemingway, you’ll discover the exact process this people used to produce such brilliant outcomes.
Warning: It’s addictive.
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10. Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton
5 stars from 2,202 customer reviews.
In the summer of 2010, Brandon Stanton, a broke photographer in New York, started taking pictures of random people in New York. At first, nothing happened, but when he started asking for people’s stories, his blog and Facebook page Humans of New York went viral.
A few years later, he published a book with the same title, in which he gathers the most beautiful, funny, moving, and heartbreaking stories in his blog.
This might seem like a weird choice. Yes, this is not a marketing book. However, this book will provide you with an insightful view towards other people’s lives.
This book teaches you that each one of us has a different story, and lives under a unique reality, and those circumstances shape our world view. It’s also a fantastic example of storytelling.
11. The Visual Marketing Revolution, by Stephanie Diamond
5 stars from 4 customer reviews.
Words can’t express what you need to say — visuals will. Stephanie Diamond takes this quote as a stepstone to write this powerful book, which sustains that the best way to reach customers is via visual marketing.
Learn how to identify your audience and craft brilliant messages that will appeal to your buyer persona by using the timeless art of visual persuasion.
12. How To, by Michael Bierut
4.5 stars from 7 customer reviews.
Michael Bierut is one of the world’s most renowned graphic designers, and has worked with Saks Fifth Avenue, Harley-Davidson, the Atlantic Monthly, Billboard, Princeton University, the New York Jets, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others.
In How To, his first design manual and manifesto, he explores how to use design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, and make people cry, by revealing and breaking down the design philosophy behind 35 of his projects.
A fantastic book for anyone interested in how words, images, and ideas can be put together to accomplish a goal. Visual marketers included!
13. Buyer Personas, by Adele Revella
4.5 stars from 31 customer reviews.
If you are a marketer, you should learn what your buyers wants, what motivates them, and how they make decisions.
Written by the world’s leading authority on buyer personas, this book guides you and teaches you how to explore, research, conduct buyer’s studies and take that information to create buyer personas that will help you increase your marketing effectiveness.
The key is that it utilizes a unique approach. Instead of relying on guesswork to determine what the buyer wants, it teaches you to ask the buyer directly and obtain more precise and actionable guidance.
14. Hidden Persuasion: 33 Psychological Influences Techniques in Advertising, by Marc Andrews, Matthijs Leeuwen, and Rick van Baaren
5 stars from 13 customer reviews.
Visual messages are everywhere. Marketers are constantly attempting to persuade us to buy, learn, and act.
However, some efforts are significantly more successful than others in influencing our behavior and choices.
Why is Apple’s marketing is so simple yet so powerful, for example? Why do people rush to get the new iPhone? What’s the secret sauce behind these unique messages?
This fantastic book breaks down and explains the psychology behind 33 different effective visual persuasion techniques and how to apply them. It will provide numerous brilliant insights into how visual means are constructed to influence behavior and decision making on a subconscious level.
15. Visual Marketing, by David Langton
4.5 stars from 33 customer reviews.
Sometimes, the best way of learning is by watching successful, real-life cases of things that worked. In fact, that’s the entire premise Harvard Business School is based upon.
David Langton, a visual communication designer, identifies 99 different attention-grabbing, effective, and successful marketing and PR tips, ideas, and creative stunts.
The goal is to inspire you, and help you translate those winning ideas into different verticals.
This include apps, ads, interactive games, billboards, emails, blogs, podcast, SlideShare presentations, and almost anything a marketer could use to get the word out.
16. Attention! This Book Will Make you Money, by Jim Kukral
4.5 stars from 84 customer reviews.
This book teaches a powerful lesson: Attention (or eyeballs) equals revenue.
The folks at Buzzfeed or Upworthy know this — when you direct more attention online, you have the potential to generate more long-term revenue.
Regardless of the size of your business, you can have a huge impact by correctly leveraging the power of social media and online communities.
Some of the techniques described in the book might be outdated, but as a visual marketer, you should use it as a hands-on framework to understand your market and come up with your own attention-grabbing ideas.
And you know… Attention is the key to success!
What about you? Would you like to recommend any books to the community? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Images via Unsplash