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Curate the Ultimate Content Marketing Library With These 51 Book Picks

You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can judge it based on the recommendations of your peers.

Here’s some help to build a great shelf of books (physically or digitally) to improve your content marketing skills, expand your marketing prowess, and gain inspiration to make your work more manageable and effective.

Browse these 51 recommendations from your peers who responded to our call for must-have books on Content Marketing Institute’s social platforms and on HARO. Some simply gave a recommendation, while others offered their reasoning.

51 picks to curate a helpful and inspirational #contentmarketing bookshelf from @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #books Share on X

We’ve divided the recommendations into three broad categories: content marketing (strategy, tactics, tools), marketing and general business, and psychology and persuasion. Some topics overlap, but each author brings a unique perspective.

(Note: If you missed our books list published in 2019, you can review it here. We didn’t include any of them on this stands-the-test-of-time list because they’re so new.)

Content marketing: strategy, planning, tactics

10x Marketing Formula: Your Blueprint for Creating ‘Competition-Free Content’ That Stands Out and Gets Results (2018) by Garrett Moon

From the Amazon description: The dream of content marketing is that it’s going to be a magical funnel that drips money into your bank account. Its lure is that it will create an inbound sales machine. But what should you do when it doesn’t work like that? Or even at all? That’s the question this book is here to answer.

Recommended by Jakub Zieliński, senior content marketing specialist, ClickMeeting:Superb writing and powerful insights.”


Book Launch: How to Write, Market & Publish Your First Bestseller in Three Months or Less AND Use it to Start and Grow a Six Figure Business (2015) by Chandler Bolt

From the Amazon description: Book Launch reveals the proven approach that all the top experts and millionaires are using to become successful: writing your own best-selling book.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek


Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time (2013) by Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith

From the Amazon description: Born to Blog is filled with practical, street-smart techniques and ideas to help you create and manage a winning business blog. Learn how to attract a loyal following, promote your blog, and write powerful content that generates new business.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek


HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Guest Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide

Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships (2012) by Andrew Davis

From the Amazon description: In this groundbreaking book, media and marketing visionary Andrew Davis shows you how to partner with other brands and undiscovered talent to create content that drives demand for the products and services you sell.

Recommended by Ashley Stryker, digital content marketing manager, Liquidity Services


Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen (2017) by Donald Miller

From the Amazon description: This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage … It teaches readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to, the real reason customers make purchases, how to simplify a brand message so people understand it, and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.

Recommended by Kathleen Smith, founder and principal consultant, “It’s (obviously) about brand development, but I found that it also gives your content strategy philosophy a tune-up, too.”

Recommended by Bryant Duhon, freelance content marketer: It’s essentially inbound marketing but with a framing device, been loving it.”

Also recommended by: James Furbush, global content marketing manager, Cognex; Linda Mtambo, social media manager, Fast Forward Online Marketing; Allison Wert, senior marketing strategist, SmartBug Media

Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing (2018, fifth edition) by Andy Crestodina

From the Amazon description: The result of thousands of conversations about web marketing with hundreds of companies, this handbook is a compilation of the most important and effective lessons and advice about the power of search engine optimization, social media, and email marketing.

Recommended by Adelina Karpenkova, content marketer, Joinative: “Content Chemistry is a must-read for those who want to leverage content marketing to improve their marketing and grow their business. As it leads you all the way from the very basics of content marketing to the actionable tips, it’s useful both for business owners willing to understand how this marketing approach works and for content marketers willing to improve their skills. The book is full of illustrations and examples that help you understand all the concepts quickly.”

Recommended by David M. McCarthy, marketing lead, AIM Specialty Health: It’s a legitimate handbook. If there’s ever a content marketing canon, this book deserves a spot in it.”

Recommended by Phyllis Neill Rush, director of content marketing, Bell Media: “I bought a copy for everyone on my content marketing team and we are reading it right now.”

Content Design (2017) by Sarah Richards

From the Amazon description: Between 2010 and 2014, Sarah Richards and her team at the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service did what many thought impossible: they took over 400 separate government websites and transformed them into a single site designed to effectively serve its users. In doing so, they defined a new discipline: content design. Content design focuses on what content best serves the users’ needs, whether it be the written word, infographics, visuals, videos, or charts.

Recommended by Trey Robinson, content designer, ModThink Marketing: It is amazing – one of my favorite content specific books.”

Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses (2015) by Joe Pulizzi

From the Amazon description: Simply put, it’s about developing valuable content, building an audience around that content, and then creating a product for that audience. Author Joe Pulizzi flips the traditional entrepreneurial approach of first creating a product and then trying to find customers. And best of all, it works. It’s a strategy Pulizzi used to build his own successful company, Content Marketing Institute.

Recommended by Bairapaga John, digital marketing manager, Gurukul Ventures: “I think every content marketer should read this book and prepare their own process for content marketing.”

Also recommended by Yavar Moshirfar, chief content officer, Nikstarter Official, and Jyotthsnaa A. Sharma, branding and marketing consultant

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (2012) by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

From the Amazon description: (The second edition coming out in September 2020.) Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms are giving everyone a “voice,” including organizations and their customers. Content Rules equips you for online success as a one-stop source on the art and science of developing content that people care about. This coverage is interwoven with case studies.

Recommended by Erin Read, marketing consultant, Platform III Advisors: “It’s not new, just fabulous. I have used it to train new content marketers, and to help clients generate and evolve story ideas. Especially useful are their examples of effective content marketing for ‘non-sexy’ industries.”

Also recommended by Elizabete Schramm Saukas, business owner, Health Discourse

Content Strategy at Work: Real-World Stories to Strengthen Every Interactive Project (2012) by Margot Bloomstein

From the Amazon description: Because even if content strategy isn’t your job, content’s probably your problem – and probably more than you think. So many ways, so much content … so where’s the problem? That is the problem. The solution is content strategy, and this book offers real-world examples and approaches you can adopt, no matter your role on the team.

Recommended by Marisa Peacock, social media strategist, owner, Strategic Peacock

Content Strategy for the Web (2012) by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach

From the Amazon description: Better content means better business. Your content is a mess: the website redesigns didn’t help, and the new CMS just made things worse. Or, maybe your content is full of potential: you know new revenue and cost-savings opportunities exist, but you’re not sure where to start. How can you realize the value of content while planning for its long-term success? For organizations all over the world, this is the go-to content strategy handbook.

Recommended by Kilian Drewel, content and PR specialist, True B.V.: “The book has aged well and still has some solid advice in it.”  (Note: Kilian also had something similar to say about another book later in the list.)

Content That Converts: How to Build a Profitable and Predictable B2B Content Marketing Strategy (2016) by Laura Hanly

From the Amazon description: This book is for entrepreneurs and the leaders of B2B businesses who want to use content marketing to bring a predictable stream of qualified leads into their sales cycles and need a replicable system to make it happen. This book provides that system – a step-by-step process that can be executed in any business to generate qualified leads and more conversions with content marketing.

Recommended by Ashley Stryker, digital content marketing manager, Liquidity Services

The Elements of  Content Strategy (2010) by Erin Kissane

From the Amazon description: Content strategy is the web’s hottest new thing. But where did it come from? Why does it matter? And what does the content renaissance mean for you? This brief guide explores content strategy’s roots, and quickly and expertly demonstrates not only how it’s done, but how you can do it well. A compelling read for both experienced content strategists and those making the transition from other fields.

Recommended by Marisa Peacock, social media strategist, owner, Strategic Peacock

Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less (2013) by Joe Pulizzi

From the Amazon description: Publishing is the new marketing. How do you cut through the noise, commotion, and bad information that is right now cluttering up your customers’ digital space? Epic Content Marketing. One of the world’s leading experts on content marketing, Joe Pulizzi explains how to draw prospects and customers in by creating information and content they actually want to engage with.

Recommended by Kilian Drewel, content and PR specialist, True B.V.: “This book has aged well and still has some solid advice in it.”

Recommended by Michael Stone, content marketing manager, Property Management Business Solutions: “Solid overview of what content marketing is (and what it isn’t), as well as great strategic overview of how to implement, maintain, and measure your content marketing.”

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (2014) by Ann Handley

From the Amazon description: Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.

Recommended by Adelina Karpenkova, content marketer, Joinative: Everybody Writes is for everyone who wants to write powerful text. No matter what kind of content you create and why you do it. After reading the book, you’ll better understand how to create texts that appeal to the reader.”

Recommended by Rich Schwerin, senior content strategist, Autodesk: A gift of pragmatic content marketing fundamentals and wisdom, wrapped in just-what-I-needed-right-now hilarity.”

Recommended by Jyotthsnaa A. Sharma, branding and marketing consultant: “It deals with the basics but those crucial things a content marketer has to know, especially a newbie.”

Recommended by CJ Xia, vice president of marketing and sales, Boster Biological Technology: “It  covers how to make your content marketing stand out across all major digital media channels. Whether you are looking for crafting catchy headings, making landing pages more attractive, creating good video content, or increasing conversions from marketing offers, this step-by-step guide would let you learn it all in minimal time. Moreover, the writer also mentions effective tools to get the job done.”

Also recommended by Monina Wagner, community manager, Content Marketing Institute

How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding (2004) by Douglas Holt

From the Amazon description: Based on extensive historical analyses of some of America’s most successful iconic brands, including ESPN, Mountain Dew, Volkswagen, Budweiser, and Harley-Davidson, this book presents the first systematic model to explain how brands become icons. Douglas B. Holt shows how iconic brands create “identity myths” that, through powerful symbolism, soothe collective anxieties resulting from acute social change. Holt warns that icons can’t be built through conventional branding strategies, which focus on benefits, brand personalities, and emotional relationships.

Recommended by Brandon Amoroso, CEO, electrIQ: “The best book I have read in 2019. It has helped shape my framework of what content marketing is and should be. This book encompasses more than just content marketing, but truly how you can build a customer experience that resonates with consumers so much that you become an iconic brand akin to Nike or Disney. This book has helped me focus my sights on long-term success and not just instantaneous results. Now I try to think of how the decisions I make today regarding my company’s brand are going to impact our future and what that means for our legacy.”

How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck (2011) by Steve Stockman

From the Amazon description: Newly updated and revised, this book is a quick and easy guide that will make your video better instantly – whether you read it cover to cover or just skim a few chapters. It’s about the language of video and how to think like a director, regardless of equipment (amateurs think about the camera, pros think about communication).

Recommended by Sharon Hadden, founder, Content Planning Company: “Steve’s book helped me create an engaging online training that’s brought new activity to my current email list and new contacts into my marketing funnel daily. My favorite section is his quick start guide on 12 ways to make your video better right now, which lets you instantly improve your video before you even finish the whole book.”

Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit (2017) by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose

From the Amazon description: It provides the insight, approaches, and examples you need to understand these disruptive forces in ways that turn your marketing from cost center to revenue creator. This book builds the case for, literally, transforming the purpose of marketing within your organization.

Recommended by Dale Spangler, senior content marketing manager, Tucker Powersports, and  Yavar Moshirfar, chief content officer, Nikstarter Official

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 4 Business Models for Content Marketing

Practical Content Strategy & Marketing (2017) by Julia McCoy

From the Amazon description:  It lays the “hows” of content marketing and strategy out, in a step-by-step approach, book form. Each section has written exercises built to solidify what you’re reading and learning – you’ll be able to fill these out with a pen.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek


The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters (2006) by Joseph Sugarman

From the Amazon description: Great copy is the heart and soul of the advertising business. In this practical guide, legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman provides proven guidelines and expert advice on what it takes to write copy that will entice, motivate, and move customers to buy.

Recommended by Matt Steinman, digital lifestyle entrepreneur, Armour Marketing: “It really opened my eyes to the mental process of executing a successful piece of content, whether it be a social post, advertising piece, or a long-form sales letter. I now spend more time writing headlines and creating compelling sentences to get the reader to continue reading.”

The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization (2015) by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie C. Stricchiola

From the Amazon description: Three acknowledged experts in search engine optimization share guidelines and innovative techniques that will help you plan and execute a comprehensive SEO strategy. Novices will receive a thorough SEO education, while experienced SEO practitioners get an extensive reference to support ongoing engagements.

Recommended by Daisy-ree Quaker, digital content marketer: “Every digital content marketer needs to understand SEO. Understanding does not just mean how to plug keywords into an article, but how search engines crawl and rank websites, search intent, and how different factors affect SEO. This book is big and meaty, but if you only read through a couple of chapters will give you a firm understanding of the basics which never change.”

The Art of the Click: How to Harness the Power of Direct-Response Copywriting and Make More Sales (2018) by Glenn Fisher

From the Amazon description: In this entertaining and highly readable guide, copywriting expert Glenn Fisher boils down over a decade of experience to present a huge array of techniques, tactics, and industry secrets to improve your copywriting, get more clicks … and ultimately, get more sales.

Recommended by Mhairi Millar DipJourn, copywriter and digital marketer: “This book is a game-changer.”


The Content Code: Six Essential Strategies to Ignite Your Content, Your Marketing, and Your Business (2015) by Mark Schaefer

From the Amazon description: Mark W. Schaefer has delivered a path-finding book exploring the six factors that will help you break through the overwhelming wall of information density to win at marketing now … beyond content, beyond social media, beyond web traffic and search engine optimization. The Content Code starts where your current marketing plan ends and provides the launch code for next-level success.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek

The Content Driven Product Launch: How B2B Businesses Can Use Content Marketing to Power New Product Launches (2016) by Michael Passanante

From the Amazon description: It provides practical strategies and techniques for planning and executing a content marketing program to promote a new B2B product or service. Drawing on the roadmap of an award-winning content marketing campaign, this book offers more than theory and suggestions. It walks you through the actual steps taken to develop campaign strategy, create content, and promote it across a niche B2B market.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek: “Here’s a really good – and as yet mostly undiscovered – book on content marketing in the context of a B2B product launch.”

The Content Formula: Calculate the ROI of Content Marketing & Never Waste Money Again (2015) by Michael Brenner and Liz Bedor

From the Amazon description: The Content Formula answers the biggest question currently on marketer’s minds: what is the ROI of content marketing? This book provides a step-by-step guide for marketers and is divided into three parts: how to build the business case for content marketing, how to find the budget to establish a new content marketing program, and how to measure content marketing success in business terms.

Recommended by Aqsa Tabassam, senior growth marketer, “Before delving into the content space of marketing, this book reveals the whys and hows of this field. It also describes the nature of expense you are expected to invest in content marketing. According to the authors, the measurement of ROI establishes whether your content marketing strategy is helpful for business or not.”

The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change (2016) by Bharat Anand

From the Amazon description: Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content. Companies everywhere face two major challenges today: getting noticed and getting paid. To confront these obstacles, Bharat Anand examines a range of businesses around the world, from The New York Times to The Economist, from Chinese Internet giant Tencent to Scandinavian digital trailblazer Schibsted, and from talent management to the future of education.

Recommended by Yavar Moshirfar, chief content officer, Nikstarter Official

Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Formulas of a Conversion Scientist (2012) Brian Massey

From the Amazon description: Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist, takes the mystery out of how to create high-performing sites. By walking the reader through five online formulas –  “customer creation equations” – he shows you how to determine the best formula for your own particular business structure and how to optimize it for stellar results.

Recommended by Ashley Stryker, digital content marketing manager, Liquidity Services, and  Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek 

Marketing and General Business

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way To Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones (2018) by James Clear

From the Amazon description: No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

Recommended by Mike Baker, marketing director, “File this under ‘helpful for almost every area of my life, including but not limited to content marketing.’ This author and entrepreneur dives into the foundations of healthy, powerful habits (and how to strengthen them). Since reading Atomic Habits, I’ve found myself rethinking almost every aspect of content marketing – focusing on process over results, the value of experimentation and the importance of getting better every day. In many ways, content marketing is the perfect canvas for Clear’s philosophy – creative, high volume, and constantly evolving – and his book continues to help me bring a sense of play and iteration to my work.

“When it got me more focused on the customer/reader, I realized how well our basic articles (marketing 101) have been doing. For me, I’ve been in this industry for 19 years, so anytime I write an article I want it to be new or advanced or novel, something I haven’t heard before or sparks my interest. It’s all too easy for me to overlook the fact that there are so many people new to marketing, or new to digital marketing coming from traditional marketing, and we need to serve them as well. So, we’ve focused on adding more introductory articles to the mix.”

Experiences: the 7th Era of Marketing (2015) Robert Rose and Carla Johnson

From the Amazon description: Here is a new era of marketing upon us. The time of reach, frequency, and campaign-oriented approaches is over. And if businesses don’t evolve into this new era, they may find themselves on the wrong side of history. The authors synthesized five years of research with global brands into a set of “better practices” that weave together both the “why” and the “how” of navigating this new landscape.

Recommended by Fernando Labastida, director of offering marketing, Softtek: “One of my all-time favorites.”

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007) by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

From the Amazon description: In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds – from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony – draw their power from the same six traits.

Recommended by Jyotthsnaa A. Sharma, branding and marketing consultant

Oxford’s “A Very Short Introduction” collection (2017’s Branding by Robert Jones and 2010’s Advertising by Winston Fletcher)

What the Amazon description says about Branding: Robert Jones discusses the rising omnipresence of brands, and analyzes how they work their magic. He considers the incredible potency of brands as a commercial, social, and cultural force, and looks at the many different kinds of brands that exist – from products, services, and artistic properties, to companies, charities, sports clubs, and political parties.

What the Amazon description says about Advertising: Winston Fletcher, a seasoned advertising veteran with extensive inside knowledge, offers an illuminating look at this billion-dollar business, dispelling some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the industry.

Recommended by Bethany Spence, content marketing specialist, Exposure Ninja:Although these books are short and offer a helpful introduction for those wanting to learn the basics, they are still useful for content marketing experts as they are thoughtfully written and provide excellent case-study examples. These books never repeat themselves or waste unnecessary words just to fill the page. I finish most marketing and business books with the thought: ‘that could have easily been a blog post – not a 300-page book.’ These books are expertly edited so that the entire thing is useful and succinct.”

People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business (2010) by Jeb Blount

From the Amazon description: This breakthrough book pushes past the typical focus on mechanics and stale processes found in so many of today’s sales and business books and goes right to the heart of what matters most in 21st century business. Offering a straight-forward, actionable formula for creating instant connections with prospects and customers, People Buy You will enable you to achieve a whole new level of success in your sales and business career.

Recommended by Andrae Palmer, content creator, Jamaica Information Service

Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers (1999) by Seth Godin

From the Amazon description: Instead of annoying potential customers by interrupting their most coveted commodity – time – permission marketing offers consumers incentives to accept advertising voluntarily. Now this internet pioneer introduces a fundamentally different way of thinking about advertising products and services. Permission marketing enables companies to develop long-term relationships with customers, create trust, build brand awareness – and greatly improve the chances of making a sale.

Recommended by David Meerman Scott, author, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: “It is now 20 years old and set the scene for much of what we all talk about today.”

Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends (2017) by Martin Lindstrom

From the Amazon description: Small Data combines armchair travel with forensic psychology into an interlocking series of international clue-gathering detective stories. It presents a rare behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create global brands, and along the way, reveals surprising and counterintuitive truths about what connects us all as humans.

Recommended by Dennis Shiao, marketing consultant: “The examples in the book relate to the development of products and services. I think there’s an opportunity to apply the thinking to content.”

The 1-Page Marketing Plan (2018) by Allan Dib

From the Amazon description: Serial entrepreneur and rebellious marketer Allan Dib reveals a marketing implementation breakthrough that makes creating a marketing plan simple and fast. It’s literally a single page, divided up into nine squares. With it, you’ll be able to map out your own sophisticated marketing plan and go from zero to marketing hero.

Recommended by Latasha James, founder, digital marketing consultant, James + Park: “One of the most to-the-point, actionable marketing books I’ve read lately.”

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (1994) Al Ries and Jack Trout

From the Amazon description: From the Law of Leadership, to The Law of the Category, to The Law of the Mind, these valuable insights stand the test of time and present a clear path to successful products. Violate them at your own risk.

Recommended by Daisy-ree Quaker, digital content marketer: “This short and easy-to-read book nails home the point that customer perception is everything. As a content marketer, part of our challenge is to find the content sweet spot – topics or themes a business is best positioned to talk about that are relevant to the customer and are not dominated by competitors. The laws in this book are classic, timeless, and super relevant when facing the challenge of how to talk about or position a company’s service or products.”

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, Newsjacking, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly (6th edition) (2017) David Meerman Scott

From the Amazon description: (The seventh edition will be released in May). In this pioneering guide to the future of marketing, you’ll get a step-by-step action plan for leveraging the power of the latest approaches to generating attention for your idea or your business. You’ll learn how get the right information to the right people at the right time – at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

Recommended by Ann Handley, author, Everybody Writes: “This book is a must-read foundation for any content marketer.”

(I’ll add another recommendation for this book. I was lucky that the first edition of this book debuted when I was an adjunct professor teaching a senior PR course. It was a constant on my syllabus because it clearly articulated what PR and marketing professionals should do for successful programs.)

The Rich Employee (2015) by James Altucher

From the Amazon description: This is the first book ever to detail how one can become a rich employee in our times. And there is more: companies in this new century will only succeed if they encourage their employees to develop The Rich Employee mindset. This book gives you the tools to find satisfaction, meaning, and true wealth as a rich employee.

Recommended by Andrae Palmer, content creator, Jamaica Information Service

The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) by Margery Williams

From the Amazon description: A timeless classic about the magic of boundless love that’s been treasured for generations! “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Recommended by Bethany Johnson, B2B content marketing writer: “I remembered (CMI Chief Strategy Advisor) Robert Rose quoting this excerpt from this kids’ classic. The context was how it may temporarily cost (“hurt”) brands to be genuine.”

Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator (2012) Ryan Holiday

From the Amazon description: Ryan Holiday is a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, his job is to control blogs as much as any one person can. Why is he giving away these secrets? Because he’s tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it.

Recommended by Joe Federer, author and brand strategy consultant, former head of brand strategy, Reddit: “Not only does the author share some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about epic guerrilla marketing stunts, he reveals the ugly underbelly of how fake news stories are able to gain momentum by working their way up the chain of media outlets.”

Psychology and Persuasion

Contagious: Why Things Catch On (2013) Jonah Berger

From the Amazon description: What makes things popular? If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements, they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral? Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own most-emailed list, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy to the clothes we wear to the names we give our children.

Recommended by Nataliya Becerra, digital marketing coordinator, Leadpages: “This book is a must-read for any digital media marketer, social media manager, small business owner, or entrepreneur. This book goes above and beyond explaining how to make any product (regardless of the industry) go viral or in the authors’ words become contagious and how to do it right.”

Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human (2018) by Kevin Lund

From the Amazon description: Conversation Marketing will help you connect your brands, not just to the minds of your consumers, but to their hearts. Slick slogans and catchy ads may still work in some instances, but today’s discerning consumers demand more. They want information and a reason to connect with a brand before they act. They want a conversation.

Recommended by Kenny Trinh, managing editor, Netbooknews: “The aim of this book is to help you stand out from the competition by establishing a connection, not only to their minds but to their hearts. It reminded me that it’s not just about selling my brand, but also telling my story. I’m not just writing ‘content’ for my site. I’m also having a conversation and building a relationship with my audience.

“Not only is this book incredibly well written, but it’s also such a joy to read. It felt that the author and I were having a conversation, even though I was just reading his book. That’s the magic of this book, the same magic I want to apply on my own website.”

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2014) by Steve Krug

From the Amazon description: Since Don’t Make Me Think was first published in 2000, hundreds of thousands of web designers and developers have relied on usability guru Steve Krug’s guide to help them understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject. Now Steve returns with fresh perspective to reexamine the principles with updated examples and a new chapter on mobile usability. And it’s still short, profusely illustrated … and best of all – fun to read.

Recommended by Bryant Duhon, freelance content marketer; Raquel Villarreal, content strategist consultant, Welcome Technologies

How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) by Dale Carnegie

From the Amazon description: Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, it will teach you six ways to make people like you, 12 ways to win people to your way of thinking, and nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.

Recommended by Andrae Palmer, content creator, Jamaica Information Service

Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols (2016) by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

From the Amazon description: The authors equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. They lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols. This visual and accessible communication guidebook will show you how Apple, Starbucks, IBM, charity: water, and others have mobilized people to embrace bold changes.

Recommended by Jon Pettman-Tideswell, account director, Executive Interviews: “A brilliant book about the power of storytelling to deliver change.”

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (2006) by Robert Cialdini

From the Amazon description: In this highly acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini – the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion – explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations. You’ll learn the six universal principles of influence and how to use them to become a skilled persuader – and, just as importantly, how to defend yourself against dishonest influence attempts.

Recommended by Ashley Stryker, digital content marketing manager, Liquidity Services

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011) by Simon Sinek

From the Amazon description: This book shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way – and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with why.

Recommended by Alex Girardi, director of digital marketing, Token Creative Services: “It has shaped my content creation outlook like no other book that I’ve read. That book has a lot of messages that can be applied to a lot of aspects of business, however I’ve really applied it to our content process, from inside to out.”

The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioral Biases That Influence What We Buy (2018) Richard Shotton

From the Amazon description: Taking us through a typical day of decisions, from trivial food choices to life-changing career moves, The Choice Factory explores how our behavior is shaped by psychological shortcuts. The focus throughout is the marketing potential of knowing what makes us tick. Shotton draws not only on academia, but also on analysis of ad campaigns and his own original research, supporting his discussion with insights from some of the smartest thinkers in advertising. The Choice Factory is an entertaining and highly accessible read, with 25 short chapters, each addressing a cognitive bias and outlining easy ways to apply it to your own business challenges.

Recommended by Brett Janes, content director, Salience:I find a lot of business/marketing books could have easily been (or are an expansion from) a couple of pages of good material. The Choice Factory though is different. One-third through the book I had over 700 words of notes on how it could be applied to client campaigns. Great stuff.”

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic (2011) by Dan Ariely

From the Amazon description: In his groundbreaking book, Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us to make unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term bad habit, how we learn to love the ones we’re with, and more. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home; and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

Recommended by Iain Gomersall, content marketer, Maritime Informa Connect: “Earlier in my career I asked a UX expert if he could recommend some reading to better understand UX/ CX. He introduced me to the works of behavioral economist Dan Ariely. This book is particularly brilliant and thoroughly recommend.”

Webs of Influence (2017) by Nathalie Nahai

From the Amazon description: In this second edition of Webs of Influence, Nathalie Nahai brings together the latest insights from the world of psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics to explain the underlying dynamics and motivations behind consumer behavior. This book will show you how to apply specific principles to improve your marketing, products and websites, enabling you to engage with your customers in a more meaningful way.

Recommended by Steve Linney, marketer, InformerHQ: “Penny-drop moment around website psychology.

What will fit on your bookshelf?

Don’t try to add all these books on your shelf. Not only will they weigh it down (or max out your memory space), you won’t have time or even the need to read each and every one.

Read through the titles, recommendations, and descriptions again and pick three that will help you reach your biggest goal or solve your most troublesome pain points. When you’re done with those, pick another three. (And don’t forget to share your thoughts on the books in the comments so we can incorporate in future updates of this list.)

While this list is long, it’s not exhaustive. What else deserves a spot on the must-have book list for content marketers? Add to the comments and we’ll build a bigger bookshelf down the road.

Join us for the CMI Book Club. Get all the information and sign up for the Slack group here. The next book will be announced shortly.

And join us at Content Marketing World this October where some of the presenters will be new and experienced authors of your favorite (or soon to be favorite) books. Register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute