The Books that Defined My 2017

One thing I realised very early last year was that I no longer read as much as I used to. I wanted and needed to change that, and thus, I embarked on a year-long journey to read more actual books (rather than articles) – and perhaps inspire you to pick up one today.

2017 in 20 Books

When 2017 started, one of my biggest commitments to myself was to get back, seriously, to my first love of a hobby: reading. So I decided to publicly commit, on Facebook, to reading twenty books all year.

So here they are, in chronological order, and best enjoyed with a cup of coffee on the side:

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” by Austin Kleon.

For some reason, I wanted 2017 to be the year when I would become “more creative”, and since this book had great reviews, I picked it up. It wasn’t a life-changing book but an entertaining read nonetheless.

Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered” by Austin Kleon.

This was the companion book to the first one, and I enjoyed this much more. It was also a book that validated much of how I have been carefully cultivating my career over the past six years.

What is a 20th Century Brand? New Thinking from the Next Generation of Agency Leaders” by Nick Kendall.

A collection of academic papers, all brilliantly written, rather than just a book. This was a very long read, and I spent many lunch hours reading and re-reading the essays and chapters repeatedly. I was immensely inspired to be a better marketer through this book.

How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know” by Byron Sharp.

One of the most influential books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Many of the ideas here would influence and impact the work that I do for my clients and what I teach, and I even ended this experience by writing a three-page “reflection and evaluation paper.”

I Have a Strategy, No You Don’t: The Illustrated Guide to Strategy” by Howell J. Malham, Jr.

A single-day read that was easy on the eyes but heavy on the thought-provoking impact. The illustrations I found a bit distracting, but nothing could take away the value this book has for thinkers and strategic planners.

Confessions of an Advertising Man” by David Ogilvy.

It took a while for me to finish this book, re-reading chapters as I went along. I found myself, with humility, disagreeing with many of the ‘rules’ Mr. Ogilvy set (it was a different time) but I will still steal a few and hopefully evolve them for the present and the future. This is a required read for advertising people.

One Great Insight is Worth a Thousand Good Ideas” by Phil Dusenberry.

A direct recommendation from my best friend, himself a strategic planner by profession. It was well-written, despite the numerous back-pats, though it’s difficult to say Mr. Dusenberry didn’t deserve them. It’s a fantastic read, and will be useful for anyone who needs an insight now and then.

All Marketers Tell Stories” by Seth Godin.

Ah, my first Godin book. Irreverent at times, and often entertaining, it’s one of those “industry books” that would actually be useful for virtually anyone and everyone. As a storyteller, I found myself agreeing with many things in this book while giving me thoughts on where I could improve, too.

Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results” by Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo.

I must credit this book for much of the positive feedback and commendations on my performance as a leader over the course of 2017. It inspired me to no end to work on how to lead my teams, and to understand – deeply and genuinely – how to best coach and be coached, to best mentor and be mentored. This book has become one of my leadership bibles!

Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A New Guide for New Leaders” by William Gentry.

An easy book to get through, and while it doesn’t contain world-changing ideas, it’s practical for newer leaders. The points, summarised into six key ideas, are also easy to remember and apply.

Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

I have watched the TED talk version of this more times than I can remember, so reading the book gave a completely different experience. Each chapter has wonderful insights, and you cannot help but be inspired by Mr. Sinek’s narration and storytelling. 

Meaningful: The Story of Ideas that Fly” by Bernadette Jiwa.

This book and I, from its title alone and my personal motivations, were meant to be. The book is elegantly written, and the ideas were repeated often enough throughout the journey as to be memorable. There were also a ton of case studies within the pages, making it much more useful for real-world application.

Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.

I was disappointed with myself that this was my first Gladwell book. It was so darn good. Many of the ideas in the book were also quite personal to me, provoking me to look back at my life so far, and to recognise the times where opportune moments happened (and were grabbed), and when good fortune played a part (and were made the most out of).

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” by Seth Godin.

Inspirational read, with many soundbites that were both quotable and memorable. My only wish is that more leaders in any industry would be exposed to this book, and be open to the ideas it promotes.

The U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual: Battle-tested Wisdom for Leaders in Any Organisation” by The Centre for Army Leadership.

Fans of military history (myself included) would find this a great read. It dives into case studies of leadership successes and failures (even issues on morality, such as those experienced by leaders during the Vietnam War), pulling no punches.

Nikola Tesla: Imagination an the Man that Invented the 20th Century” by Sean Patrick.

A bit thin as far as historical reads go, but it provides just enough to satisfy one’s curiosity about this amazing man who isn’t as well known as he should be. This book is free on Amazon, and its length is perfect for a short-haul flight.

John F. Kennedy: A Life from Beginning to End” by Hourly History via Amazon Kindle.

I learned to stop reading free e-books from Amazon through this book; it was bare-bones, Google-able stuff, and I felt like I should have spent that time reading one of the heftier and more popular tomes about this great man.

What’s Your Story? Storytelling to Move Markets, Audiences, People, and Brands” by Ryan Matthews and Watts Wacker.

The book that pretty much filled my December holiday hours. Contrary to its title, it wasn’t the greatest storytelling I have read, as far as books go. The case studies and real-world experiences were mostly good, even if some were quite dated. I think this would have been much more useful for newbie marketers, or those with passing interest for the industry.

The Call of the Wild” by Jack London.

I read this when I was a kid, so reading it as an adult was much more satisfying. I finally saw the deeper messages in Mr. London’s parallelisms, and reminded me why I’ve loved the outdoors growing up, too. The masterful crafting were also unforgettable: “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.” Gorgeous.

Red: My Autobiography” by Gary Neville.

I wanted the final book of 2017 to be special. A book by one of my favourite players from my favourite sporting club in the world? Done. The stories and pictures in this book made me feel like I was growing up with Mr. Neville and the rest of “the class of ’92”. I was there – and as a fan, that was simply indescribable. His sense of duty inspires me, as well as his leadership.


Have you read any of these books? Are you inspired to grab one and start reading? Or do you have books to recommend to me for next year? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment or shoot me an email.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the kind words Jason. We’re thrilled you got so much out of the book. Thanks for recommending it to others. If you have a moment, we’d love to have the above comments copied/pasted into an Amazon review. Thanks in advance! Let us know if we can be helpful in any way.

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