Am I the only one who checks out people’s bookshelves when visiting their house for the first time?
Way back in the olden days before Justin Bieber was born, checking out bookshelves was the best way to get a window into the personality of the person who owned the books.
At any social event or gathering, after suitably greeting the cat, I could always be found sidling up to the nearest bookshelf and checking out the spines of the books on display.
If the shelves were full of bodice ripping yarns, or Mills and Boon romances, I may hazard a guess that the person’s life may be missing some spark, and so pour them a few more Chardonnays while passing them family blocks of chocolate.
Shelves full of pulp slasher stories and murder mysteries suggested the person may not be the best one to babysit my children, and perhaps I should hide the kitchen knives and all other pointy objects.
For an extra dose of armchair psychology, I would ignore the pristine, unthumbed display copy of Vogue on the coffee table, and rummage through the tottering pile of magazines hidden in random corners behind furniture.
In most homes, National Geographic magazines were the socially approved teenage version of Playboy. You could also find gems such as Popular Mechanic and Readers Digests … thousands of Readers Digests.
Magazines of yesteryear were much more than stories on how skinny celebrities can become before disappearing in a pop of over-scented perfume. They were the ancient equivalent of the blog, and were filled with observations, ideas and 1001 ways to crochet bikinis.
The Modern Day Problem
These days, the only way to catch up on magazines is to visit your local doctor and hope that all the good recipes haven’t already been ripped out.
Most people now read online or on their Kindle. As a result, people’s bookshelves and magazine habits are more private than their PIN numbers.
Which is a colossal pity!
You see, I am a voracious reader across a wide range of business niches. I am always looking for books or articles that trigger me to think in a different way, or that provide clear instructions on how to do something that I want to tackle.
By grazing other people’s bookshelves, I used to gain silent inspiration. Aside from getting an insight into the other person, I would come home with a list of books and magazines I would add to my reading pile.
Now, if I want to find out what’s on people’s virtual bookshelves, I have to sidle up next to them, check that the coast is clear and mutter out of the side of my mouth “So … what are you
reading? Is the stuff any good?”
It is as subtle as the plastic surgery on Shane Warne’s face!
The other alternative is cyber stalking on Goodreads where people studiously share their publicly acceptable good stuff with other people (and hide all the really interesting bits that would have people tut tutting).
These options just don’t have the same immediacy and joy that the well-stocked bookcase of a stranger brings.
I don’t want to put you through my misery. So, as a public service, here’s the highlights of my personal virtual bookshelf for you to browse through.
I hope you find some new authors/bloggers to inspire you.
My Favourite Authors/Thinkers
These authors are in no particular order. To make this list the author has to be someone that I will automatically buy their books when I hear a new one is being released, subscribe to their emails and read their blogs.
Each one of these authors/bloggers regularly shares golden nuggets of wisdom that make me stop what I am reading, look up and just roll the words around in my head for a while.
Tad Hargrave – I have followed Tad’s work for over a decade. His tagline is Marketing for Hippies and his approach to life is that marketing can feel good.
While I am not a hippy (I don’t permaculture my backyard and haven’t worn tie dye since the 70’s), I deeply resonate with Tad’s work.
Tad’s blog posts are some of the most considered of anyone I regularly read. He reaches for ideas and explores thoughts in the same way an ancient Greek philosopher does. His work is deeply transformative and I find that I always step up to a better version of myself after carefully considering his words.
Jeff Goins – Jeff’s books and blog posts on writing, finding your calling and on living a fulfilled life are truly brilliant. I rate his The Art of Work as one of my all-time favourite books and re-read it whenever I feel that I am heading off track with my life’s work.
Daniel Burrus – If you want to understand the future trends that are bearing down on us, and how you can pivot your business to make the most of those trends, then get on Daniel’s mailing list. I always walk away from reading his blogs and his books with a handful of hyper useful insights that I can apply to my business.
Andy Andrews – The Noticer is one of those books whose ideas haunt you. My copy of the book is underlined, creased and well loved. All of Andy’s books have a beautiful flow and deeper meaning to them. Andy’s books are the books I turn to if I am feeling down and want to rediscover hope.
For non-fiction, aside from the usual suspects (JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, Terry Pratchett), I also eagerly await each new edition of Gay Hendricks Tenzing Norbu, the Buddhist detective, series of books.
Marketing Industry People and Blogs I Always Read
Blogs have replaced professional magazines in my life. Choosing my favourite blogs are tricky as my RSS feed has over 500 blogs I follow. Picking the best of the best is sort of like picking a favourite child.
I have chosen the blogs that sit in my essential reading list of my RSS feeder. Even if I don’t scan the other ones during the week, I don’t miss these! These blogs keep me on top of what is happening in the world of marketing and the internet without drowning me in hundreds of posts of varying quality each week.
WordPress & Websites
Ana Hoffman (Traffic Generation Café) – Ana puts out an exceptional weekly newsletter on all things social media, list building, WordPress and Google. It brilliantly summarises all the major happenings and announcements each week – think of it as the ultimate crib notes for the internet. If you read nothing else on my virtual bookshelf, get on Ana’s mailing list!
MaAnna Stephenson (BlogAid) – If you want to know what is happening in the world of WordPress and WordPress security, MaAnna is my number one go to source.
Peep Laja from Conversion XL – Conversion XL makes you question every tiny thing you do with your website … and if it really is working the way you think it is. The posts are well crafted with loads of examples to illustrate points that are being made.
Buffer – Buffer is more than my favourite tool for handling social media. Their blog is always filled with practical and detailed “How to” articles on social media and online marketing. Articles are only as good as their implementation. Buffer blog posts are often ones that I read with my website or social media pages open so I can follow along with the post.
Social Media Examiner – Want to learn how to do something on a social platform? Someone on Social Media Examiner will have done it and written a “How to” blog post about it! SME attracts a solid pool of talented writers who explore social media trends and new developments, as well as new ways to tackle old problems.
Jon Loomer – If you want to understand advanced Facebook advertising features, then Jon Loomer is the person to watch. He ruthlessly tests everything, and reports back his findings. This is not the usual Facebook fluff and warm fuzzies.
Neuromarketing & Psychology
Roger Dooley from Neuromarketing – I have followed Roger’ work for many years. His work is consistently excellent and intriguing. Buy his Brainfluence book, and read his blog posts and you will see a whole new mysterious world open up that makes you wonder if there really is such a thing as free will.
Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree – Want to know why you do what you do (and how to hack your brain?) Eric looks at the science behind life. Eric’s blog posts turn complex science concepts into accessible pearls of wisdom.
Nick Kolenda is another person who explores scientific research and applies the concepts to marketing in an easily accessible way.
SEO & Content Marketing
Neil Patel, QuickSprout – For everything content marketing, SEO and online, Neil’s columns are like a weekly Master’s level degree. Exceptionally detailed, thorough and incredibly insightful.
Brian Dean, Backlinko – If SEO is your thing, then Brian Dean’s work is key. He doesn’t blog all that often, but each post that shares sends massive tidal waves around the net.
Tom Fishbourne, The Marketoonist – Cuttingly insightful cartoons and reflections about marketing and business. Tom’s work is always on point and highlights both the stupidity and exceptional strength of our industry.
On looking at my list, I was interested to observe that there are no purely copywriting blogs that sit within my essential reading collection of feeds.
Many copywriting blogs have become purely a source of light weight content as a barely concealed excuse for backlinks to author sites, or are super earnest and explore the perils of dangling participles. I will not inflict that particular pain on you!
Other copywriting blogs have migrated to pretty much just podcasts – and I am not a passionate podcast consumer. I prefer to scan and speedread 500+ articles over an hour or two per week to get the insights I want. I can’t do that with 500+ podcasts!
The only copywriting blog that is always great for a giggle is my colleague Kate Toon’s blog. If you’d like a warts and all view of the world of copywriters, check out her writing.