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What Top Marketers Read to Get Inspired

Whether hardcover, paperback, or digital, there’s nothing like a book for inspiration and diversion. The Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 Award winners have found both in the many tomes they’ve read. Here, a list of honorees’ current nightstand and e-reader perusals, as well as their all-time favorites—for business and pleasure.

Sources of inspiration

Jared Belsky
President, 360i

“Trust is a fairly elusive concept but is at the core of what every agency should be working towards. The Trusted Advisor [by Maister, Green, and Galford] breaks down trust into simple components, and if you’re going to be a great agency rep, you have to spend your days thinking about trust and teaching it to the younger generation.

Mike Santoro, President
Walker Sands Communications

“I would recommend that everybody reads Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion [ by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D]. It’s basically got six tips [for] how people are influenced. You can use it…in marketing to write better landing page copy, better direct mail copy, [or] better email copy—just to understand what turns people on. For the basics, Al Ries’ [and Laura Ries’] The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is solid. And then I recently read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. It’s interesting because it’s about how children succeed, but it’s also more, in general, [about] how people succeed. The basic thesis is around grit as a valuable personality trait. There are very intelligent people and they sometimes succeed. But…if you whole heartedly commit to doing something better and have the perseverance to do that, that’s really what’s ultimately going to let you succeed.”

Jeannie Green
VP, Fundraising and Nonprofit, Epsilon

“I just finished Lean In. What I took away is that, for women, it’s not about just having one seat at the table but having multiple seats at the table, and how important it is that we have a network to support each other.” 

Sean Lyons
Global Chief Digital Officer, Havas Worldwide

“One book that stuck with me…is Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. The interesting thing about that book is that it’s about innovation and where individual ideas come from. It’s not what you’d expect in terms of having that one inventor come up with an idea in his or her workshop. It’s actually more about the environment that you need to create for good ideas to flourish. It’s really important for any agency. You need to think about the environment that you set up—the physical environment, the emotional environment, how people work together, what things you expose them to. And that environment, and obviously a larger culture, has a huge impact on where those great ideas come from.”

Nataly Kelly
VP of Marketing, Smartling

The one book that I always recommend to people is called The Gift of Fear. It’s by Gavin de Becker. It’s all about how our instinct is not really our gut telling us something; it’s our brain processing information and telling us what to do and how to react to something without us realizing all of the processing that is happening…. [It’s] understanding why you might be thinking a certain way and having a scientific rationale for [it].

Josh Blacksmith
SVP, Management Director, FCB Global

“I’m reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. An understanding of the subconscious and unconscious is incredibly important in relationship marketing. Blink does a great job of demonstrating how complex human behavior truly is and why we’re able to make some decisions so effortlessly; it’s a fun study in behavioral psychology. I’m a strong believer in making decisions simpler for our brands’ consumers and working to achieve that by creating meaningful experiences and using behavioral economics to drive engagement.”

Bryan Brown
VP Product Strategy, Silverpop

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
by Walter Isaacson. “He rarely at first succeeded, but had an uncanny ability to rearchitect his views until he was successful.”

Adriel Sanchez
VP Demand Generation, SAP

The J-Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall
by Ian Bremmer. “To move from a closed society to an open society, a period of intense instability is required. You don’t have to stretch your mind very far to apply this principle to the state of marketing today.”

Dwayne Raupp
Executive Creative Director, Organic Inc.

“My temptation to use mathematics as a method for design has always intrigued me and fuels a desire to read random blogs, GitHub branches, and old mathematics and physics books from high school.”

Mitch Wainer
Cofounder and CMO, DigitalOcean

“I really like the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals [now software company Basecamp]. It breaks down in a simplified way and it paints a clear picture of what matters, what’s really important in driving a business forward; [how] to focus on the important things, not to get bogged down by the little things, and to be…agile and lean. I think that metrology of just getting stuff done was impactful for me when I read that book early on in my career.”

Zak Garner
Director of Customer Success, 6Sense

“The Lean Startup
by Eric Ries. That was really an eye-opening and amazing book…. It gave me a critical eye for why I’m working, how I’m doing the things that I’m doing, and why…. I couldn’t read 10 pages without putting the book down to type up a note to myself about what it made me think of for my personal and professional life. It inspired me to keep thinking and keep trying to look for creative approaches to solving problems.” 

Ron Selvey
VP of Marketing WebDAM, a Shutterstock Company

One book that really helped me that I read probably 10 years ago…is called Monday Morning Leadership. It’s by David Cottrell. It’s a quick read. One of my old mentors [from] when I used to work in the federal government gave it to me. He said that it helped him quite a bit and that he loved it. I read a portion of it for about 10 minutes every morning before I went to work, and it would really help me get in that mind-set of trying to apply new things on a day-by-day basis. It’s a quick read and it’s all about building effective teams, employee engagement, and just becoming a better manager and person as a whole.

Greg Alvo
CEO & Founder, OrderGroove

The Hard Thing about Hard Things
, by Ben Horowitz. “It’s easy to celebrate the great times, but it’s those moments of struggle where the magic happens. They really define a person and help propel the business and themselves to the next stage in their career.”

Amber Olson Rourke
Cofounder and CMO, Nerium International

The Slight Edge
, by Jeff Olson and John David Mann. “It takes the guesswork out of what makes people successful and focuses on small actions that anyone can take to achieve their goals.”

Strategic influence

Ryan Bonifacino
VP of Digital, Alex and Ani

The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras: Those are two foundational [books]. Built to Last… summarizes absolutely everything that you’ld ever learn in business school…. [The Art of War is about] understanding the combination of politics and business.”

Uwe Gutschow
VP, Digital Strategy and Engagement, INNOCEAN

The Art of War
, by Sun Tzu. “The book is about war and how to prepare for war, but there’s a lot of real truths in terms of business situations and a lot of hard situations that you face in business, how to act in those situations, how to react or how not to react, when to yield [and] when to push. The balance of that is very delicate sometimes in business. That book has helped many business leaders, including myself.”

Necessary diversions

Erik Severinghaus
Founder & CEO, SimpleRelevance

Serpent of Venice
by Christopher Moore. “Moore is my guilty pleasure for mindless, hilarious reading to de-stress.”

Michelle Killebrew
Program Director of Strategy and Solutions, IBM Social Business
“I’m currently reading Brisingr—book three of The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini. It’s a fantasy, hero journey about a young farm boy and his dragon [and how] they hope to overthrow an amazingly strong and sadistic king from his control of the Empire. At the end of a long day plugged into the digital world, I enjoy escaping in the storytelling evoked in fiction on paperback. That said, of course there are always life and career lessons that can still be learned and applied: how one gains skills to succeed, the promise of overcoming obstacles to achieve, the importance of people that help you along the way, to name just a few.”

Darr Gerscovich
VP Marketing, Ensighten

“I’m a prolific reader. On any given night I’ll consume three to five books. I’ll even read the same book several times. Most of the books are in English, but I always read them out loud in Spanish. I gravitate toward the classics, such as Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Green Eggs and Ham. If it’s not readily apparent, I have two adorable young children.”

Other favorites, for business and pleasure

Lee Goldstein
President, DiMassimo Goldstein

Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
by Ben Mezrich.

Iryna Newman
Director of Mobile Marketing, OpenTable

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Jenne Barbour
Solutions Strategist, Marketing Applications, Teradata

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed
by Glennon Doyle Melton

Jacqueline Yu
Senior Manager, CRM, LG Electronics USA
The Gift Is You
, by Dr. David L. Wolf

Josh Martin
Executive Vice President, Zenith Optimedia Direct
The Spectacular Now
, by Tim Tharp

Cari Bucci
EVP/General Manager, MARC USA Chicago

Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence
by Halvorson and Higgins

Amanda Levy
SVP & Managing Director, Critical Mass

A Million Ways to Die in the West
by Seth MacFarlane

Carina Pologruto
GM & EVP of Client Services,  Marketsmith Inc.

David & Goliath
by Malcom Gladwell

Lauren Tetuan
EVP, Director of Digital Media, Deutsch LA

In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Matthew Greitzer
Cofounder and COO, Accordant Media

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
by Jared Diamond

Matthew Mierzejewski
EVP of Client Service and Delivery, RKG

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself
by Harvard Business Review.

Melissa Burdon
Director of Marketing Operations, Extra Space Storage

Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results
by Bryan Eisenberg and Jeffrey Eisenberg.

Leerom Segal
Cofounder and CEO, Klick Health

The Practice of Management
by Peter F. Drucker

Michael D’Adamo
Founder and CEO, T.O.P. Marketing Group

Think and Grow Rich
by Napoleon Hill 

Julia Smith
VP, Technology, Epsilon
Igniting Customer Connections: Fire Up Your Company’s Growth by Multiplying Customer Experience & Engagement by Andrew Frawley

Kane Russell
VP of Marketing, Waterfall

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management
by Roger Lowenstein

Kim Land
Marketing Director, Herald-Journal

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
by Stephen Covey

Kristen Kaefer
Senior Director, Digital Marketing, NetApp Inc.

Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions By Knowing What To Ask
by Michael Marquardt

Click or tap here to read the full stories behind the successes of the other Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 winners–to be posted at noon ET today, September 30.

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