The 25 Books Every Marketing Leader Should Read According to Top CMOs

April 18, 2022

Reagan Hochmeister, Community Growth at Goldcast

If you’re a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in this brave new world, you’ll know better than anyone that no two days are ever the same. 

Because no matter how robust your annual strategy might be, it takes just a single shift to turn it upside down. Which means you have to be one step ahead of the game at all times. 

Ahead of the trends. Ahead of the news. And more often than not, ahead of your customers’ ever-changing desires.

To help you achieve that ultimate foresight, we asked marketing leaders featured on CMO Diaries which books they couldn’t live without. From inspiring biographies to marketing essentials, if you’re ready to get ahead (and stay there) these are the reads for you.

Raj Sarkar, CMO, 1Password

1. Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Want to be on da Vinci’s wavelength? This biographical study into curiosity, observation, and imagination shows you how to achieve that illustrious genius-level 100.🧠                                           

“This book is fascinating. It's amazing to see what kind of agency he has and how it drove him to write down a list of questions every morning and try to find out the answers. I now look for agency whenever I’m hiring.”

2. Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Find out all the major effects sleep can have on your physical and mental well-being and learn some practical tips to improve your own sleep cycle. 😴

“Silicon Valley glorifies that lack of sleep is good. But this book talks about how important sleep is to function at your peak. It's fascinating. I'm learning so much—I've started sleeping for eight hours and biphasically like the Europeans do.”

Rebecca Kline, SVP Marketing, Loom

3. Principles, by Ray Dalio

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Big-time investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio shares the life and business principles he’s adopted over the years to achieve ultimate success. 🙌🏼

“I read this a few years ago, and it really stood out. I love it. The work and life principles that you guide yourself by are incredible.”

Ashley Brucker Stephien, VP Marketing, Ramp

4. Play Bigger, by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, and Kevin Maney

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Learn how world-leading companies like Amazon, Salesforce, Uber, and IKEA define a new market category, develop it, and dominate it over time. A discipline these authors term ‘category design.’ 

“A no-brainer. It’s just great for anecdotes and applying actual, tangible exercises.”

5.The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Explore how your business can play, and win, the infinite game by focusing on long-term value and healthy growth. 📈

“The Infinite Game talks about how you can get into battles day in and day out, but if you keep your sights on the long game, your mission, and your vision, then you're going to get there. It's the people that get distracted along the way that do things that don't support their mission or their vision, that tend to lose.”

6. Intentional Integrity, by Robert Chesnut

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Integrity in the workplace matters. Learn how to provide your employees with the stability they need by implementing Chestnut’s six-step integrity management process. 👏🏽

“This is a great read on integrity in the workplace. How we can all show up a little bit better for one another, and how we can all take personal accountability for how we show up.”

Rob Gonzalez, Co-Founder and CMO, Salsify

7. Deep Work, by Cal Newport

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Uncover the benefits of instilling a strong work ethic within your employees and the four mind-transforming rules that will help them achieve it. 💡

“One of the greatest books ever written.”

8. Atomic Habits, by James Clear 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Find out how to form result-boosting habits and ditch the ones that are holding you back with a framework that’s proven to skyrocket your results. 🚀 

“This is just essential reading.”

9. High Output Management, by Andrew S. Grove

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Learn the techniques you’ll need if you want to build and run a successful company, with tips on how to navigate scenarios and motivate employees.

“I really love this one.”

10. The Effective Executive, by Peter F. Drucker 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Ever get stuck in the weeds of a problem? Discover the five practices that will help you ace the efficiency test and finally be able to just get stuff done. ✅

“One of the classics.”

11. 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Al Ries and Jack Trout 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Looking to understand the world of buying and selling and how to succeed in it? These are the twenty-two rules you can’t afford to miss.

“Completely outstanding.”

12. So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Want to find a job you love and make an awesome career from it? Discover the strategies successful entrepreneurs have used and the landmines they’ve avoided to achieve ultimate fulfillment. 🤗

“If you're just starting out, this is the best book on career development I've ever read.”

Gurdeep Dhillon, Global VP of Growth, Zuora 

13. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Network your way to the top with these six tips to becoming well-liked, 12 ways to authentically win people over, and nine methods to spark change in a person, you’ll be fueled with all the advice you need to reach new social and business heights.

“This is the first business book I ever read and every time I go into an important meeting, I check my notes on it as a reminder that, ultimately, it's all about people, and your brand is defined as your last interaction with a person."

Chris Koehler, CMO, Box

14. Remote Work Revolution, by Tsedal Neeley

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? More of us are working remotely than ever before. But if you’re an employee looking to elevate efficiency or a manager looking to increase team productivity, these practical tips make for an unmissable read.

“Neeley is amazing. And it's just so timely as we start to think about this notion of hybrid work versus an office at home. It's such a game plan around that.”

15. Quantum Marketing, by Raja Rajamannar

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? If you want to stay ahead of future marketing shifts, level up on innovative marketing strategies, and learn from the industry pros leading the charge on the marketing revolution, this book is a must-read. 🔮

“Quantum Marketing pushes us for a multi-sensory future and reminds us that brands aren’t just about the visuals you see. And that multisensory experiences aren’t all about the brand. I'm just like 'mind blown'!”

Jane Alexander, CMO, Carta

16. Different, by Youngme Moon

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about?  Referred to as ‘a book for people who don’t read business books’, if you’re fed up with conformity and are ready to break the mold, Moon is the tour guide you never knew you needed. 🗺️

“I love this book. It’s about this concept of trying to be more and more of the same and take best practices — how can you be different? What are the ways you can stand out?”

17. When, by Daniel Pink

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Pink uncovers the true power behind finding hidden patterns in the day and how you can use those patterns to build an uber-efficient schedule.

“It’s all about how ‘when’ you do things matter just as much as ‘what’ you do. For example, error rates for surgeons are much higher in afternoons versus mornings. The likelihood of getting parole from the same judge before lunch and after lunch is dramatically different. It might sound crazy, but I religiously take breaks now. If part of my job is to make good decisions, be a good listener, and really understand people — all of the data shows that mental acuity with no breaks is way worse. So the moral of the story is to take breaks!”

Michelle Huff, CMO, UserTesting

18. Zone to Win, by Geoffrey Moore

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Looking to branch into a new vertical or product line? Moore’s practical guide will help you navigate the challenges and set your business on the path to brand-boosting success. 🆕

“I love the Geoffrey Moore books. ‘Zone to Win’ is a great one—it’s about how you think of resourcing as a company. They provide really interesting, eye-opening frameworks that help you be a value-add to strategic company conversations for what you're trying to do as a business.”

19. A Seat at the Table, by Marc Miller

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Do you want in on budget decisions and strategy? Miller gives you the tools you’ll need to schmooze those already at the table and guides you seamlessly from salesperson to businessperson and beyond. 

“If you're on the enterprise selling side, I recommend A Seat at the Table. It’s an oldie but goodie. It breaks down what ‘consultative selling’ and ‘value selling’ actually mean. If you’re trying to scale this at your company, you need to understand what it’s trying to do. That’s how you start speaking the language.”

20. Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Get inspired by the story of Salesforce and learn how to break out, innovate, and grow with the same strategies that forged the tech giant itself. 🖥️

“If you work in tech, check this out. Sometimes you learn a lot from people who have taken a similar path. ”

Keith Messick, CMO, LaunchDarkly 

21. Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? The ultimate bible for bringing high-tech, cutting edge products to the world’s largest markets. 🌎

“I am a big Jeffery Moore fan. I loved Crossing the Chasm and his other books. Understanding and having a strong point of view on the strategy, from a business perspective, is where you’ll make the biggest knowledge and career jumps.”

Kathie Johnson, CMO, TalkDesk

22. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team for Executive People, by Kullaya Gaewprasert 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Fed up with dysfunctional teams and internal politics? 🙄 Find out how Gaewprasert identifies and cures five of the major causes of dysfunction with wisdom, courage, and discipline. 

“I make every new team I have do this together. If you have not read this book with your own leadership team, please read it — it is an amazing read, very thought-provoking. Then work with your leadership team to work through it.”

23. Nine Minutes on Monday, by James Robbins 

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? If you’re looking for practical steps to improve your focus and reduce distractions, this is where it’s at. 🎉

“This is such a great book for practical tips on employee engagement. It's very practical, hands-on, and gives you checklists for things to think about on a Monday. Employee engagement is so important. Our teams are so important. It's really worth the time to read.”

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, CMO, SkillSoft

24. The Long Game, by Dorie Clark

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Discover how to rejig your outlook to focus on achieving small things over time to reach your goal. Even if those small things sometimes aren’t the most exciting tasks. 

“This is all about how to be a long-term thinker in a short-term world. Which, if you think about it, right now, we're all in this short-term world. Are you even thinking about two years from now? Five years from now?”

Kipp Bodnar, CMO, HubSpot

25. Generation Decks, by Titus Chalk

Source: goodreads.com

What’s it all about? Discover the story behind the ultimate fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering, and the impact it had on the gaming world at the time. 🎮

“An awesome book on the history of ‘magic the gathering.’ But I look at it as a proxy for the Web3 space because that magic was one of the very early precursors to collecting, trades, rarity, and gamification — to all of these things we'll hold dear in the future world. To move fast in the future, you have to look to the past.”

Eat. Read. Sleep. Repeat.

President Truman once stated, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

We couldn’t agree more. As a marketing leader, you’re not just responsible for taking your team to greatness. You’re responsible for leading your entire customer base too. 

That’s a pretty big task. But with the help of some good habits and some great reading, you’ll be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

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