Recommended Summer Reading

Ah, summer!  What a great time to grab some books and a beach chair and head out for some leisurely reading!  Or you could be like me, working away this August and trying to live vicariously through other people’s posts of vacations, excursions, and other summertime fun.  My work has actually involved a lot of reading, though, as I’ve made my way through many texts in the research for my upcoming book.  Mostly I’ve been reading business books focused on brand, culture, or both — and some have been absolutely terrific.  So what follows are not the typical top business book recommendations (you’ve already know about Option B, Shoe Dog, and Tools of Titans) — rather, here are five books as recommended summer reading if you like business books about leadership, culture, and brand-building.

  1. The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate by Jacob Morgan. I discovered this book while researching Airbnb and Mark Levy, the company’s Global Employee Experience Officer. Levy is one of over 150 executives Morgan interviewed for this, an extensive examination of the what, why, and how of employee experience.  If you’re among the 70% of executives around the world surveyed by Deloitte’s Human Capital Group that said employee experience was an important or very important trend, you should read this book — if you’re not, you should read it even more.
  2. The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman. Rossman, a former Amazon executive, takes you on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the mega-company and how it lives out its core values.  You learn why the people at Amazon readily accept that “leaders are right — a lot,” how they “practice frugality” so they can do more than keep their prices low, and how brilliant minds and big egos co-exist at the company because they “disagree and commit.”  Although it’s clear the culture at Amazon isn’t for everyone, the way it operationalizes its values is something every company should learn from.
  3. Living the Brand: How to Transform Every Member of Your Organization Into a Brand Champion — by Nicholas Ind. This book deftly gives definition and structure to many of the ideas and concepts that I’ve been working on at the intersection of external brand identity and internal organizational culture.   The chapter entitled “Bringing the Brand to Life” provides a particularly helpful examination of all aspects of brand-building including management actions, human resources, and brand innovation.  Ind recently released a new book, Brand Desire: How to Create Consumer Involvement and Inspiration, with Oriol Iglesias, which provides another excellent deep dive into brands, focusing on the six drivers of brand desire:  innovation, storytelling, participation, leadership & culture, and experience.
  4. Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition by Ann Rhoades. Rhoades is the former VP of People at Southwest Airlines and EVP of People at JetBlue Airlines so she knows a thing or two about building a business and a brand based on culture. The step-by-step instruction, personal stories, and robust collection of tools make this book a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand how to use core values to transform their organization.
  5. American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce Hoffman. I actually read this book last year when I thought I was going to be writing a book about brand turnarounds, but after I put that idea aside and started working on the topic of aligning brand and culture, I found myself re-reading it because the story was just as relevant when viewed through that lens. Mulally led the company from near death to industry prominence by championing “One Ford,” a single vision for the organization and its mission.  The book is an extremely insightful, instructive, and inspiring text.

The following three books are great companion reads to the above recommended business books:

  1. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. You won’t believe this incredible story of how the Oxford English Dictionary came into being. It will make you appreciate the OED, the lengthy process of book-writing, and the fact that genius can come from the most unlikely sources.
  2. Between You And Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris. Having worked in The New Yorker‘s copy department for more than three decades, Norris weaves wonderful tales and relays writing principles that every verbifore will enjoy devouring.
  3. Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz. Luntz provides a tome of advice, direction, and examples for speakers and writers and unpacks “Ten Rules Of Effective Language” including simplicity, brevity, aspiration, and context.

Of course, there are so many other books that I have read and want to read, so this is just a sampling.  And as I stated before, they’re skewed toward brand and culture, because that’s my current focus.  If you’re looking for other recommendations, please check out my series of Brand Book Bites.

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