By Roger C. Parker published December 4, 2013

12 Content Marketing Books to Add to Your Holiday Gift List

book with a bow-holiday gift booksBooks make perfect gifts for content marketers, whether they’re family, friends, coworkers, or your staff. Similar to last year’s holiday gift book guide, here are some of the best content marketing books published in 2013 — any of these would be a great resource for advancing your skills and achieving greater success in your content marketing efforts.

All in all, 2013 has been an exceptional year for well-produced books filled with fresh insights from both established authors and newcomers. The following titles (arranged alphabetically by primary author’s last name) can make significant contributions to all content marketing professionals, whether they work in corporate, agency, or self-employed settings. 

1. Jay Baer: Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype

book cover-youtilityYoutility is one of the two books I’ve been enthusiastically recommending to clients, friends, and strangers I run into on airplanes — it’s that good. I purchased it at Content Marketing World 2013 after Jay’s inspiring keynote presentation.

Youtility is an “attitude” book that inspires by the strength of its examples and the logic of its arguments. It’s the perfect book for content marketing skeptics who say, “This wouldn’t work for my type of business,” because the examples come from businesses of all sizes, across all types of fields. From Jay’s opening perspective that, “Your friends and family are now competing with you,” to the six blueprints he provides, Youtility delivers, both as a book and as an overall content marketing philosophy.

2. Roy Peter Clark: How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

book cover-how to write shortThis is the latest in a series of four highly relevant and highly readable books that Roy Peter Clark has written about writing. All display his pragmatic approach to both fiction and nonfiction writing, perhaps influenced by his journalistic and teaching background.

How to Write Short is loaded with surprises and practical tips. He starts with showing that there’s nothing particularly “new” about effective short-form writing (think Facebook posts; Twitter updates, and the like), and provides numerous examples of how short messages can have long life spans. As he does in his previous books, Clark also suggests specific habits and practices that can improve your ability to deliver compelling content in a brief format. As he puts it: “In the digital age, short writing is king.”

3. Christine Chopyak: Picture Your Business Strategy: Transform Decisions with the Power of Visuals

book cover-picture your business strategyIf you attended Content Marketing World 2013, you were likely fascinated by the way Kelly Kingman used graphic recording to create eye-catching visual content — in real time — during the keynote presentations. Picture Your Business Strategy shows how the technique of graphic recording can also be used to facilitate meetings and encourage attendee participation at content marketers’ staff meetings and brainstorming sessions.

4. Stephanie Diamond: The Visual Marketing Revolution

book cover-visual marketing revolutionStephanie Diamond was the Marketing Director at AOL during its period of greatest growth. Her latest book — The Visual Marketing Revolution — is an illustrated how-to guide to putting the best visual marketing tools to work.

In this definitive guide to visual marketing, Stephanie describes the primary characteristics of and best uses for myriad visual content formats, and shares resources and tips for creating great graphics. Keep this book on hand in your department’s library (or your home office) and use it to help you select the best images for your articles, blog posts, white papers, or any other content you are creating.

5. Jocelyn Glei: Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind

book cover-manage your day-to-dayThis slim anthology of 20 essays about the origins of creativity reflects the mindset behind Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen one of my all-time favorite productivity books. In fact, Scott wrote Manage Your Day-to-Day’s foreword, and many of the book’s ideas reflect the goals of his group’s website: “At 99U, we don’t want to give you more ideas —we want to empower you to make good on the ones you’ve got.”

The book’s small format, low price, and 8- to 10-page essays make this an especially suitable gift for content marketers who like to read during their daily commutes.

6. Debra Kaye, with Karen Kelly: Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation

book cover-red thread thinkingDebra Kaye’s Red Thread Thinking provides an inspiring alternative to creativity books that focus on “Aha!” moments of breakthrough innovation.

The book shares “red threads,” those more predictable and realistic sources of innovation that can be found in everyday business situations — not just in isolated geniuses or deep-pocketed research departments. Illustrated with case studies and interviews, this is one innovation book that won’t put you to sleep on your next flight.

7. Gary Keller, with Jay Papasan: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

book cover-the one thingPersonal productivity and time management play key roles in content marketing success; The ONE Thing is 2013’s best book about “getting it together” and making a major leap forward in accomplishing your personal, departmental, or business goals.

Reflecting the experiences of Gary Keller, the founder of Keller-Williams Realty — the largest real estate franchise in the U.S. — the book serves as an excellent example of the marriage of content, illustrations, and design. The premise is simple, and the implementation is easy, but it really works.

8. Lee LeFever: The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products, and Services Easier to Understand

book cover-the art of explanationExplanations form the heart of content marketing success. So it’s particularly helpful that Lee LeFever starts his book by detailing the planning and writing steps necessary to create an effective explanation. He then describes how to make explanations as visual as possible using animated, simple drawings.

In a world filled with books stressing persuasive copywriting techniques, it’s a rare pleasure to see a book dedicated to explanatory writing.

9. Joe Pulizzi: Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

book cover-epic content marketingThis is the second book I’ve been recommending to clients, friends, and strangers whom I’ve met on planes. Epic Content Marketing lives up to its title by providing the type of detail-oriented implementation advice needed to produce the type of inspiring content Joe describes.

I read this book while traveling home from Content Marketing World, and totally “defaced” my copy with notes that I added to the margins of pages, as well as on the blank inside front and back covers. The chapters are organized into five logical sections that build upon each other; and within those chapters, Joe has helpfully balanced discussion and interviews with bulleted lists, insightful thoughts, and useful resources. Epic Content Marketing is a “dictionary of possibilities.”

10. David Meerman Scott: The New Rules of Marketing & PR (4th edition)

book cover-new rules of marketingWith over 300,000 copies in print in more than 25 languages, David Meerman Scott’s New Rules of Marketing and PR has become the bible of online marketing, and can be considered the best all-around introduction to today’s changed marketing world.

The latest edition is the best one yet. David revisited every chapter, updating stories and adding resources, in addition to adding new chapters on topics like social media, online video, and mobile applications.

11. Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield: The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well

book cover-art of doingThe Art of Doing profiles 30 “superachievers” — people who have achieved significant success in building their brands in a variety of fields. Sweeney and Gosfield’s list includes both high-profile media professionals as well as an eclectic mix of individuals who are well known in their fields. Based on interviews, each chapter tells the story of a single individual, describing their success and providing 10 lessons that others can learn from their experiences.

The Art of Doing is fascinating reading, both for its narratives and the conclusions the authors have drawn from their interviews.

12: Susan Weinschenk: 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People

book cover-100 thingsOver the past few years, Susan Weinschenk has published several engaging books about marketing and communications that are written from her perspective as a psychologist. Her books are filled with stories that summarize the latest research on how the brain perceives and processes information. Her latest book offers 100 ideas for increasing the effectiveness of your presentations, as well as stories, tips, and takeaways. Its lessons are as valuable for content marketers who are preparing eLearning courses or embedding SlideShare presentations as they are for using PowerPoint at staff meetings.

Making the most of 2013’s best content marketing books

Looking beyond the holidays, the above list also presents numerous opportunities for ongoing personal development and staff improvement in 2014.

For example, you may have noticed I included 12 newly published books. Just think of potential benefits of reading one book a month during 2014! Even better, consider using the 12 books as the basis of a content marketing departmental library, encouraging your staff members to read one book a month and sharing their comments and takeaways at monthly “fresh ideas” meetings. What a catalyst for group interaction and ongoing learning!

Although I tried to choose books from a variety of disciplines, no list is ever perfect. If I’ve overlooked one of your favorite creativity, design, marketing, or visual-thinking books published during 2013, please share its title, below, as well as why you feel it should be included. Or, you could even suggest substituting a different book for one of my selections in the above list. Happy reading!

Looking to read up on the latest strategies and techniques for successful content marketing? Browse CMI’s Essential #BestBooksReading List for Content Marketers to see Roger Parker’s other top recommendations.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Roger C. Parker

A lifelong content marketer, copywriter, and author, Roger enjoys helping clients write books and simplify their content marketing. Follow @RogercParker on LinkedIn at ContentMarketingHelp. Download a free copy of his 4-page 8 Commitments of Content Marketing Success.

Other posts by Roger C. Parker

  • ahaval

    Great list. Love how they are from different disciplines.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Ahaval:
      Thank you for your comment, especially for noticing the way I tried to cover all the bases. The joy, and the challenge, of content marketing is its fascinating, multi-disciplinary character. Roger

  • jaybaer

    Thanks so much Roger. Thrilled that you are enjoying Youtility!

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Jay:
      Thank you for writing such a recommendable book! Great CMI presentation!

  • Aaron

    Youtility is awesome. Not sure about Joe Pulizzi a new author? Kidding, I’m already 1/3 into the book. I love how Joe breaks down the content marketing process into logical and simple chunks: strategy, process, promotion and metrics. highly recommended!

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Aaron:
      Thank you for writing. Thank you, also, for reinforcing the importance of the way that Joe Pulizzi broke the process down into simple chunks, then goes into the details within the chapters of each section. Best wishes. Roger

    • Joe Pulizzi

      I know what you mean 😉

  • Sarah Becherer

    Excellent recs. Thanks! Ordering Youtility for sure.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Sarah:
      I appreciate your comment. Happy reading! BTW, is this for yourself or for a gift?

      • Sarah Becherer

        Always happy when reading 🙂

        It’s for me, but I’ll probably pass it on when I finish.

  • Greg Elwell

    Thanks for the list Roger, have read a few of these and adding more to my list! A few of my recommendations: The Marketer’s Guide to SlideShare by Todd Wheatland, a CMI published book – great for getting started and creating content for a network with 60 million unique monthly visitors (also great for B2Bs and those marketing on LinkedIn). AUDIENCE by Jeffrey Rohrs will really help you understand how to create and distribute content for a wide variety of audience types. And also, I see Ahava Leibtag here in the comments, she also has just published a book, The Digital Crown – Winning at Content on the Web, marketers should check that one out, too.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Greg:
      Thank you for your great suggestions. Todd’s book is a singularly useful book, combining perspective and detailed steps. I’m not familiar with Audience by Jeffrey Rohrs, but will check it out. Sounds very appropriate.

      I am also looking forward to review Ahava Leibtag’s Digital Crown. Thank you for taking the time to build upon the original post with specific examples.

      • Todd Wheatland

        Thanks guys, appreciate the call-out!

  • Barbara Mckinney

    Great list. Now I know what’s the best gift I could give to my friends. I hope they’re not that expensive 🙂 Thanks for sharing Roger!

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Barbara:
      Thank you for your kind words. I grinned at your “expensive” comment. My immediate reaction was along the lines of: “expensive is relative to value,” and all of the books offer high value.

      But, more important, during 2013, quality trade publishers seem to have made an obvious effort to enhance the value of their books through higher production and design values. For example, many of the books are beautifully produced hardcover books that sell for less than most trade paperbacks.

      After the Holidays, let us know how your gift books were received by the recipients!

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Roger…loved the list…there are a couple on here I didn’t know about. Thanks for that and your kinds words about Epic Content Marketing.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Joe: Thanks for your comments.

      BTW, one of the things that sets your Epic Content Marketing apart is your somewhat rare, but very refreshing and logical, discussion of the advantages of printed marketing. Epic covers all the bases, the obvious and the not-so-obvious, where readers where want to be reached.

  • Netcurate

    Thanks Roger. Just ordered Youtility by Jay Baer. I came across his podcast on BrightIdeas and loved his talk. If you haven’t checked it out – take a look.

    Any book you know which talks about Content Curation in particular? I would love to get my hands on it – also share it with our team at

    Thanks for sharing again. Very helpful.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Thank you for your kind words. I wasn’t familiar with Jay’s podcast on Brightideas, but will search for it.

      Thank you, also, for asking about books about content curation. At this point, I don’t have a favorite in the category, but I’m open to your suggestions. Why don’t you share your favorites, below. It’s obviously an area of huge importance.

      Best wishes, Roger

      • Sujay Maheshwari

        Here’s the link to Jay’s podcast –

        Thanks for responding!

        • Roger C. Parker

          Dear Sujay: Thank you for the link! Roger

  • Alessandra

    If I were Amazon i would put together a great package deal for all of them,paper or kindle.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Alesandra:
      Thanks for making my day! That’s a great idea; reminding me of the fun I used to get out of retail.

      Of course, to make the idea work, I’ve have to be cut into the action, then we’d have to include you for originating the idea, then include Joe Pulizzi for creating such a great platform…

      But, seriously, your idea offers a lot of merchandising ideas, especially for the independents, too. What’s your background?

      Thanks, again.

  • Aubrey Jesseau

    where is Jab Jab Jab Right Hook?

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Aubrey:
      Great suggestion! I totally overlooked it.

      Aubrey is referring to Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book,Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.

      I’ll make sure I include it in my mid-year book roundup. In the meantime, Aubrey, how about sharing a couple of sentences about why you like it, and a few of your takeaways?

      • Aubrey Jesseau

        Hey Roger,

        In JJJRH Gary explains exactly WHY businesses need social media and WHAT they are doing wrong. If it’s not obvious to you, you should definitely take a look 🙂

        He then spells out what good ‘native content’ is for each social platform.

        IMO it’s an invaluable tool!


  • Alexandra

    I’ve actually read almost all of these books and I should say that only several of them are useful. I like “How to write short” by R. P. Clark and “New rules of marketing and PR” by D. M. Scott. But “Visual marketing revolution” by S. Diamond is total rubbish!
    Just don’t vaste your time reading it.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Alexandra:
      Thank you for contributing to the dialog. Can you recommend a suitable alternative as an introduction to the topic? Best wishes, Roger

  • Roger C. Parker

    Too late for my list, but worth adding to my list of 2013’s best books for Content Marketing, is @Mitchjoel’s Ctrl, Alt, Delete. Compelling and readable. Any other late arrivals worth adding to to the list?

  • Jay Papasan

    Great list! Honored to see The ONE Thing in such good company. Will add Youtility to my must-read list. Cheers!