Our 2021 Book Recommendations for Content Marketers (Work/Life Balance Included)

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    At 3 Aspens Media, we’re creators, we’re curious, and we each bring different strengths and talents to the team. We’re always looking for ways to improve our knowledge and skills, both in the big picture and within our separate roles.

    But we also deeply value our work/life balance. So, when you read through our list of book recommendations for content marketers, you’ll find some of the most lauded reads about the work itself – writing and designing meaningful content, distributing it thoughtfully, connecting with customers, listening, meeting objectives – but you’ll also find books we treasure for the value they provide us as individuals, team members, leaders and humans. Books that make us laugh, shake our heads and pause to think.

    Add one or more of these books to your must-read list this year, even if it’s just Colin Jost’s memoir because you need a break from more serious ventures.

    Our team recommends:

    1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

    Cover: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

    “For anyone who feels the constant pull of notifications, social media feeds and email (which is almost everyone right now), Cal Newport’s book offers a philosophical and practical guide to tuning out the constant noise of the digital world and tuning into the work that we want to do most.

    Reading the book, I was inspired to minimize my daily distractions and set aside time for deep work tasks like writing and editing that require sustained concentration and singular focus. I also shifted my shallow work like checking email and notifications to times of the day when my focus levels naturally wane.

    The book encourages individuals to think carefully about how they spend their time and what it takes to really succeed at tasks that require high levels of intellectual engagement. Newport provides a guide at the individual and organizational level for those who want to think intentionally about the way they approach the digital world.

    In short, this book provides wisdom for doing the work you actually love better.” – Lindsay Tallman, Client Success Manager

    2. They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing and Today’s Digital Consumer by Marcus Sheridan

    “This book was originally a breakthrough in the world of marketing – a tome that encouraged marketers to connect with buyers online by, simply, answering the questions they have in the content you provide. It’s moving from a brand-centric to a customer-centric approach to content. It’s really the core of content marketing, and the testimonial by the author is compelling in that he was able to save his swimming pool company after the collapse of 2008 with this approach.” – Lindsay Young, Founder and President

    3. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web (and Mobile) Usability by Steve Krug

    “This book is essential reading for anyone working on redesigning or creating a new website for your business. It’s NOT just for web developers or designers. Anyone who sits at the decision-making table and is offering opinions on how your website should look and function should read this book.

    It puts you in the frame of mind of an average website visitor/user and shines light on your own habitual assumptions about how to organize and design a website (or any digital product). 

    ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ is written by usability expert, Steve Krug, who has spent over 30 years improving websites and software for companies.

    This is an incredibly visual book and written for the layperson. It is a short, scannable read. I pick it up all the time, project after project, to remind me of usability basics and to point out my own blind spots. It’s a must read!” – Jennifer Kern, Director of SEO and Client Analytics

    4. Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

    “Yes, ‘Big Friendship’ will have you wanting to call all your best friends, but it is also a crash course on how healthy relationships support healthy careers. Especially for women. Authors Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman create a world within their friendships where the expectation is not only to encourage one another, but to actively share resources and information like how to fight for an appropriate salary and warnings about toxic work environments. At its best, this book can reveal new ways to invest in your relationships, leverage personal success or the success of others, and move through friendship conflict with honesty.” – Abigail Paxton, Senior Content Manager

    5. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., and Amelia Nagoski, D.M.A.

    “There was a lot of buzz about this book as 2020 came to a close, and I thought I knew what to expect just from the authors’ podcast interviews and from the praise I was hearing.

    I’d latched onto the concept that our bodies don’t know we’re safe unless we find a way to signal that we’re safe, so I was expecting techniques and science related to that string between work and life, and how to signal that the workday is over or that a certain personal conflict is resolved. I thought this was the “stress cycle” the authors were talking about.

    However, this book challenged me to think outside of the singular areas I was comfortable viewing as ‘burnout’ catalysts.

    The authors broadened the stress cycle to encompass all of the factors contributing to our being constantly overwhelmed and overexerted, the way our expectations of ourselves and others’ expectations of us constantly loom and oppress, and science that often contradicts what we think we know and shows how stress acts in our bodies.  

    I had to read it again to understand the obvious. You have to look at the whole picture – really look at the whole picture – because your working self does not operate separate from your whole self, it is your whole self. And your whole self is carrying a lot.” – Lauren White, Senior Content Manager

    6. A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir by Colin Jost

    “Colin Jost, Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update co-anchor, provides an unflinching view into his life as a comedian and writer. What I loved about it is that it is funny – it better be, coming from a star comedian – but that it also lays bare the very hard work that goes into being a good writer and a great comedian. The behind-the-scenes look at Saturday Night Live is a bonus.” – Lindsay Young, Founder and President

    7. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

    “This book might annoy you if you love order, structure, rules, grammar… you know, the essentials of good content.

    However, anyone who’s been in a writing workshop might remember being told: If you’re going to break a writing rule, break it well. Writers have caught high praise for breaking rules well. They might masterfully forego certain punctuations or integrate a strong dialect into the text. If they don’t do it well, it’s glaringly obvious and won’t gain the respect of many readers.

    To me, Lawson is a superb rule breaker. And the outcome is well-rounded-and-rounded-again storytelling: the story being told matches the voice telling the story which matches the tone and the sentiment of the storyteller.

    Sometimes, we have to artfully throw out the manual, and that’s what Lawson does in this book. Her voice may not be the exact one you want to adopt yourself, but it will show you the very edges of what you can do with language, tone and all caps… Also, it’s hilarious.” – Lauren White, Senior Content Manager

    Other great reads:

    8. Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at the Heart of Your Brand Story by Miri Rodriguez

    In this highly praised book, Miri Rodriguez gives her insights into brand storytelling and what it really means – versus how it’s often perceived and used. She goes in-depth on the effect storytelling can have on audiences when you execute it well, how you can tell your stories in a more “human” way, and the role of empathy, so you can learn how to capture authentic brand loyalty.

    9. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

    Donald Miller is an icon in the marketing world with several books, workshops and a podcast based on his StoryBrand process. Miller developed the StoryBrand process to help leaders and professionals develop a brand identity and message that truly connects with their customers. In this book, he discusses essential story points that effectively resonate with people, and what inspires them to take action.

    10. Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin

    Seth Godin is another marketing icon with several excellent books to his name, including “All Marketers Tell Stories,” “The Big Red Fez: How to Make Any Web Site Better,” and his latest book “The Practice.” “Permission Marketing” is over two decades old, yet it still holds court as an essential read for marketers. In this book, Godin outlines how marketers and advertisers can shift away from what he terms “interruption marketing” toward a marketing style that customers can more readily invite in and enjoy, or “permission marketing.”

    11. Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry

    Todd Henry is an expert on creativity with several successful books and a popular podcast who also does consulting and training with creative teams. In “Herding Tigers,” he prescribes a different approach to leadership for those managing such teams, claiming it requires a separate set of skills that you might not typically hear of. If you lead a group of creatives, chances are you’re already nodding your head. It’s different. In this book, Henry gives his expert insights and gives real-world examples so you can lead well and provide an environment in which your creative “tigers” thrive.

    Our 2021 Book Recommendations for Content Marketers (Work/Life Balance Included)