10 Books To Read (or Re-Read) This Summer


The crappy thing about being laid up is that you miss awesome search conferences. The silver lining is that you get to catch up on your reading or re-read old classics to suck out extra nuggets. As search marketers, many of us learn by reading. It’s why we take to blogs. We read, we get ideas, and then (hopefully) we go out and test those ideas. This industry grew from forums and sharing information and books are another way to do that.

With the summer upon us, you’ll be traveling more, hitting the beach and you may need something to throw in your beach bag (or your Kindle. iPad?) to accompany you on your trip. With that in mind, here’s Outspoken Media’s summer reading list. As always, if you have something you think the community should read, please add it in the comments. I’m a book nerd so I’m always looking for more good stuff.

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

The same way you should be required to pass a parenting class before you conceive a child, you should be required to read this book before you’re allowed to touch a Web site. It should just be law. This one stands the test of time for telling you everything you think you already knew, but you often forget in your quest to be “advanced” and “smart” and “expert”. Don’t Make Me Think reminds you that while bells and whistles on your site are nice, you’ll get the most return if you, imagine that, don’t make people think and simply act intuitively. It’s that little “be human” lesson we’ve been trying so hard to beat into companies again. There may be a difference of opinion about the responsibilities of an SEO, but at least we can help clients better understand what they need to change on their site to get the most out of our work.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

In the spirit of full transparency, I haven’t read this one yet but after reading an adapted version of Why I Sold Zappos on Inc.com, I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to get my hands on it. In the book, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is said to give a really compelling account of how he used “Tony’s social experiment” (Love. It.) to build a company that was not based on short-term profit but on long-term success through company culture. Though I haven’t read it yet, I’m fairly confident it’s going to be one of my favorite reads of the summer and I feel pretty confident recommending it.  If it totally bombs (which it won’t) you can beat me with your copy the next time you see me.

E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

When we formed Outspoken Media, Rae ordered both Rhea and me to go out and read this book. And we did.  I found so much truth in it I even gave my Dad a copy for Christmas last year to get his take. I think this book is an absolute Must Read for any independent consultant and Rae actually credits it for changing her opinion on how to build a business, which I think is pretty impressive praise. To be fair, the books starts off a little slow for some, but stick with it. You’ll be more than rewarded in the end.  It may even change your entire business model.

Web Analytics: An Hour A Day by Avinash Kaushik

The entire “An Hour a Day” series is phenomenal, but the godfather of Web analytics, Avinash Kaushik, does an incredible job of explaining why it’s so important to track your site’s performance and how you should do it. Pair this book with a course like Fundamentals of Online Testing and search marketers can quickly pick up advanced tracking methods including AB and multi-variate testing, how to collect data and what that data tells you once you’ve got it.  If you haven’t read this one by the sexiest analytics guru around, get on it.

Words That Sell (Richard Bayan)/ Phrases That Sell (Edward Werz & Sally Germain)

Both of these books are Must Reads for anyone focused on conversions (which, really, should be all of us). They’ll help you pick up and master the type of verbage proven to make people respond to your calls to action to increase the effectiveness of your landing pages or site copy. Whether you need help even forming the call to action or you think it could be stronger, Words That Sell and Phrases That Sell are two excellent resources. They’re easy reads and worth the investment.

Referral Engine by John Jantsch

More full disclosure: I received an advanced print copy of this one from John Jantsch and I’m thankful he sent it my way. Otherwise I would have loaded up Amazon and promptly ordered my own copy.  I’m a huge fan of John and, most recently, of this book.  No surprise given John’s history of excellence, but I think this book is especially great for small business owners looking for practical ways to turn their audience into a referral engine that they can continue to count on in the future. You can do it, there is a proven method, and it’s not going to break your budget. I also like that John offers quick suggestions for a bunch of different fields to show you that it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, you can turn your customers into an army of referral agents. Rock on.

The Dip by Seth Godn

Another classic. This book is about pre-defining the breaking points of a project to prevent you from making an emotional decision you’ll regret later. (My dad always told me these were bad.) Identifying your breaking point for a project before you hit ‘the dip’ forces you to determine the reasons you’d quit a project before emotions, laziness or frustration gets involved and you start seeing fuzzy. Are you abandoning that site because it’s a no win or because link development is stressing you out? Are you stopping work on a new venture because it doesn’t have potential or because the idea of writing all that content makes you want to cry in a corner? Reading The Dip will force you to lay out your boundaries up front. Which is always a good lesson.

Think BIG & Kick Ass by Donald Trump

This is a Rae recommendation (which means its not really me recommending a Donald Trump book. Heh) and she assures me it has nothing to do with real estate and is, instead, about how Donald Trump has approached difficult situations in his life. Rae promises it’s a good look into how Trump has handled business and delivers the lesson that nothing is impossible, you just have to change your mind set. I guess that’s something I can get behind, though I prefer to tell people they just suck.

BBQ Makes Everything Better by Jason Day and Aaron Chronister (pictured above)

What? While you’re getting a solid marketing education, crank up that BBQ and give this one a read over. Your belly will thank you.  Your cardiologist, however, may have some concerns.  Either way, yum!

What’s missing from my list? I’m hoping to soon check out Engage, Social Pollination and If You Have To Cry, Go Outside. Anything I should add?

Note: None of the links provided are affiliate links. The FTC doesn’t trust me and thinks it’s really important that I let you all know that. I wouldn’t rob you for a candy bar.

Your Comments

  • Randy S

    Thanks for the list! I was looking for a few good reads!

  • John Jantsch

    Thanks for the kind words on my book, but also very impressive mix of oldies and new releases.

  • netmeg

    Anyone who’s doing anything at all with AdWords needs to have Brad Geddes’ (brother from another mother but no relation – honest!) new book “Advanced Google AdWords” Lisa can drop the link. Even old PPC bitches like me can find tons of useful information here; I keep it right next to my keyboard, between the 15″ original Kenner Alien action figure and the USB heated gloves. I can give it no stronger recommendation than that.

  • Courtney Wiley

    Sounds like a great list. Will have to start w the first 2 and work my way down this summer.

    Would also add “Twitter Marketing An Hour A Day” by Hollis Thomases and “Think Outside the Inbox” by David Cummings & Adam Blitzer. Not 100% through these, but what I’ve read thus far, good stuff…

  • Rhea Drysdale

    Great list! One of those came in the mail this week, but it was the one wrapped in delicious thoughts on bacon. Two more I open up when I need to find something more technical or very SEO-specific: “Webbots, Spiders and Screen Scrapers” and “The Art of SEO

  • Dawn Wentzell

    I just finished reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Totally inspired me to go work 10,000 hours. I just need someone to invent more hours in teh day now.

    After that, I plan on raiding Rae’s shelf of internet marketing/business books. I packed up them all up last week to move, and really just wanted to find a corner and start reading instead.

  • Brian Rogel

    Great List! I especially like the recommendation for Don’t Make Me Think. The two that I would include in the list would be: Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah and The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. Thanks for the great information.

  • netmeg

    Oh yea – I got this one for my birthday last month (I’d asked for it) and it’s next on my list; I can’t really recommend it yet as I haven’t read it, but it looked interesting enough for me to add to my wish list:

    Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart

  • Jeremy Victor


    You have got to read –
    REWORK by Jason Fried.

    Best book I’ve read since
    When Growth Stalls by Steve Mckee.

  • Willem Knibbe

    Hi Lisa,

    Great post — can you send me your address and I’ll send you Greg’s awesome AdWords book? I’d also love to send over Avinash’s new Web Analytics 2.0, an instant classic.

    Willem Knibbe
    Acquisitions Editor
    Sybex, an Imprint of Wiley Publishing Inc.

  • Rae Hoffman

    Also, for any Outspoken junkies… worth mentioning that Outspoken Media appears in Branding Basics for Small Business by Maria Ross and uh, I also have an interview with me that appears in Turning Clicks into Customers by Duane Forrester.

  • TJ

    Recently read two great books Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson from 37Signals and Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk great books for people that hate to read books like me.

    http://37signals.com/rework/ & http://crushitbook.com/

  • brad

    Thanks for the recommendation Meg.

    And Willem meant Brad not Greg (for some odd reason that gets confused a lot) – he’s the editor for Advanced Google AdWords.

    I’ve read about half the books on this list; and can’t agree more about Steve Krug’s book.

    The other books that I really enjoyed was: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Jack Trout; and Ogilvy on Advertising.

  • Peter Winchester

    Hi Lisa, I’m always out for good book recommendations, so thanks for putting this together. Maybe you should have got this post sponsored by Amazon?! I’d like to add What Would Google Do (by Jeff Jarvis) to this list. It took me ages to read as my mind would wonder off every time it raised a good point (which seemed to happen quite regularly!)

  • Lauren Garcimonde-Fisher

    I agree with Dawn, but I’d also add Malcolm Gladwell’s older books “Blink” and “The Tipping Point”

    Super informative and entertaining.
    Great list, Lisa!

  • rumblepup

    Of course, I’ve come to this list waaaaaayyyyy too late and a dollar short, but I’ve got three that I would consider must reads.

    The ClueTrain Manifesto

    David Ogilvy Ogilvy On Advertising

    And Mike Moran’s Do It Wrong Quickly is a great read for startups, and re-learning what you thought you knew.

  • Andrew@BloggingGuide

    Great List! I think I’ll start with the first book on the list, Don’t make me think…

  • Ryan Jones

    Ambient Findability – the quintessential search book.
    Freakonomics – teaches you new ways to think
    Outliers – or anything by Gladwell
    How to win friends and influence people – these principles apply IRL and on the web
    Getting real – the 37 signals book
    The Fark Book – if you do anything related to Media
    The art of war – amazing how much it paralles business.
    Net Words – you won’t find a better book on copywriting.
    the 4 hour work week – work smarter not harder
    and, if you like fiction: Doctorrow’s “little brother”
    Book I’m currently reading and can’t rate: Atlas shrugged – philosophy disguised as a novel.

    Oh, and “Internet slang dictionary” too – it’s on amazon and I can use royalties :)

  • Mal Milligan

    Search Engine Marketing – by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt is my favorite from the “classics” (2nd edition now). But I’m definitely going to buy E-Myth and Referral Engine now that you mentioned them. Gotta keep readin in this business. So much good stuff out there now. Regards !

  • Thomas Schmitz

    I like the E-Myth Revisited, but you have to be careful with its advice. Not every business is McDonalds or a Ford assembly plant. Creating systems and manuals and tools is a viable way to get things done efficiently, but the E-Myth fails to balance this with leadership and creativity and innovation.

    To get the other side of the coin I suggest Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin. Yes, Linchpin is like every Godin book, remarkable (It will make you feel remarkably unproductive and remarkably far astray from your potential.).

    Joking aside, I think that the E-Myth and Linchpin are two ends of the same free weight, and need to be lifted together.

  • nana

    my book Powder Necklace — a transcontinental coming-of-age adventure — is a great summer read too!