7 Books That’ll Turn Your Marketing Team Into Better Storytellers

It’s Cyber Monday, which is an extremely strange thing to type since Black Friday deals now start in mid-November, the “cyberweb” is an invisible membrane that blankets every moment of our waking lives, and somehow, it is already December 2.

But as marketers, we are good capitalists. And as good capitalists, we must buy things for our teams. I’ve always liked to buy my team books—I buy every direct report a book during the holidays and right before our mid-year review cycle if I need to suck up to them.

My gifts are also self-serving—marketing is all about empathy and storytelling, and great stories are proven to make us more empathetic and creative. Whenever possible, you should trick your team into being better at their jobs with literary bribes.

Here are 7 books for marketers that will do just that.

[Editor’s note: We don’t get any commission if you click on the links. Joe just really likes marketing books.]

1. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human | Jonathan Gottschall

storytelling animal book

This book changed my life and how I think about stories, sparking an obsession with a topic that eventually led me to write The Storytelling Edge.

In The Storytelling Animal, Gottschall explores how humans are programmed for stories by detailing the incredible role they have on our waking and sub-conscious lives. It’s fun, fast-paced, and filled with memorable stories that take you everywhere—from the world of Sherlock Holmes to the sociological studies of Vivian Paley to virtual realms. Plus, the quotes from this book are incredible:

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

“Literature offers feelings for which we don’t have to pay. It allows us to love, condemn, condone, hope, dread, and hate without any of the risks those feelings ordinarily involve.”

“Fiction is an ancient virtual reality technology that specializes in simulating human problems.”

If you want your team to think deeply about storytelling instead of just parroting it back to you as a buzzword, this is the book for you.

Get it from McNally Jackson and support local book stores!

Get it on Amazon.

2. You’ll Grow Out of It | Jessi Klein

you'll grow out of it book first person

One of the most underrated skills in business today is the ability to write in a first-person voice. That voice makes everything more relatable—from your presentations to your blog posts to your explainer videos. And few people can do it well.

Reading non-fiction humor books are a great way to hone your voice. I spent the first two years of college obsessively reading David Sedaris and imitating him in my writing. Eventually, it helped me find a voice of my own.

You’ll Grow Out of It is the best non-fiction humor book I’ve read in years. Klein was the lead writer and EP on Inside Amy Schumer and is now the voice of Jessi Glaser on Big Mouth. She’s definitely one of the funniest writers on earth.

I read this cover to cover on a London-New York flight, and I was laughing so hard the flight attendant definitely thought I was wasted. (Probably because I was flying out of London, and everyone on the plane was wasted.)

Hot tip: Skip ahead and start with “Dale,” which tells the story of when Klein goes to her sister’s wedding in Florida and sets her sights on hooking up with a Disney character. It’s perfect.

Buy local.

Get it on Amazon.

3. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action | Simon Sinek start with why marketing book

I feel like such a basic business bro recommending this book, but it lives up to the hype. Every product, brand story, and blog post needs to tie back to the “why” of your company—that passion and unique perspective that justifies your company’s existence.

Start With Why will help your team find meaning in their work so you can focus on the stories, messages, and activities that really matter. It’s a book you’ll return to again and again.

Buy local.

Get it on Amazon.

4. Three Women | Lisa Taddeo

three women storytelling book

Three Women is the most beautifully written and engrossing book I read this year. The fact that it only has 3.5 stars on Amazon is a crime and makes me want to have a stern word with Jeff Bezos in which we discuss this atrocity. (In this conversation, we’d also talk about how he should probably pay taxes.)

Taddeo wanted to explore modern relationships, so she spent a decade following three women from vastly different backgrounds, chronicling each of their experiences in a mesmerizing and unique narrative voice. Not only is it a tour de force of empathetic storytelling, but it’s also as addictive as a detective novel you’d read on the beach.

Buy local.

Get it on Amazon.

5. Break the Wheel | Jay Acunzo

break the wheel marketing book

Marketing Showrunners founder Jay Acunzo has a simple theory: Marketers are sabotaging themselves by worshipping at the alter of best practices. At best, these copycat tactics get average results. At worst, no one cares.

Break the Wheel is an inspiring book that tells the stories of innovative, creative thinkers who broke the rules to achieve marketing glory. If you want your team to be more creative and innovative in 2020, this book is sure to help.

Buy local.

Get it on Amazon.

6. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life | Samantha Irby

we are never meeting in real life essays

Another highly recommended non-fiction humor book. Irby is a hilarious, self-deprecating essayist who wrote this while working as a receptionist at an animal hospital. She’s candid and open about her personal challenges and introversion. Reading her just won’t make you a more empathetic writer, it’ll make you a more honest writer too.

Buy local.

Get it on Amazon.

7. Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart | Shane Snow

dream teams book for marketers

Time for me to be a total homer and promote the latest work from my co-author/writing partner/bff Shane Snow. I’m biased, but Dream Teams is an incredible book that explores the art and science of working together. The insights are often counterintuitive and might change how you run your next meeting. For instance, Shane presents compelling research that suggests gathering everyone in a conference room to brainstorm on the spot is a waste of time. A more effective approach is to have people come up with ideas on their own and then share them with the group.

It’s not a pure marketing book, but every lesson—from the science of collaboration to intellectual humility—will make you a better marketer.

Buy local.

Get it from Amazon.

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