One Christmas when I was a kid, I remember really, really, really wanting a Tony the Pony.

If you’re younger than I am, you may not remember Tony. He was a battery powered plastic toy you could “ride” as he stoically moved across your rec-room floor—nothing like a real pony at all.

I guess my parents knew best and I didn’t get the pony. Yet Christmas was never disappointing at our house. There were always lots of presents under the tree (yes, I was spoiled), especially my favourite gift of all: books.

When I was very young, there were picture books and children’s poetry (Robert Louis Stevenson and A. A. Milne being two of my all-time favourites), and as I grew older, I graduated to chapter books and, eventually, full-fledged novels and non-fiction.

Today, books continue to be one of my favourite gifts—for giving and receiving. For my money, there’s no better way to acknowledge the marketer in your life this holiday season than with a book.

For help in deciding what books to put on my holiday list, I asked a dozen marketing pros to weigh in with their recommendations. My guidelines were as follows: I wanted a list of 3 books consisting of a favourite novel published this year, the best business book of all time and a favourite offline resource.

Here’s what they told me.

#1 Neal Schaffer

Favourite fiction published this year: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Redeployment portrays the many human sides of war in a way that is close to non-fiction. Neal enjoys reading books that challenge his sense of comfort with the world and give him a deeper, broader perspective on history. If you know someone with similar taste, Redeployment is a good pick.

Best business book: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

You don’t have to be an independent consultant or entrepreneur to enjoy Ferriss’ views on the new economy, the digital world, personal and work productivity and the outsourcing market. His ideas and perspectives are as valuable now as when he published his first edition more than 7 years ago.

Most useful offline reference resource: Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi, the godfather of content marketing, wrote this book in 2014. It’s an instant classic that helps us achieve improved results while marketing less by doing “epic content marketing.” Neal told me by email that “the book serves as a timeless resource and reminder whenever I embark on creating a new or tweaking an old content strategy.”

#2 Kathi Kruse

Favourite fiction published this year: Saving Simon: How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion by Jon Katz

This book isn’t technically fiction, but Katz is such a good storyteller that it takes you away from your crazy world . . . which is what all fiction books do, right? Kathi picked this book because we can all benefit from understanding others and practicing compassion. Here, here!

Best Business Book: Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

Every business owner (in fact, every person who is in business either for themselves or as an employee), needs to establish their “Why.” When you know why you do what you do and focus on your core beliefs, all the noise stops. Plus, your customers feel connected to you in richer ways, thereby building the foundation for better sales relationships.

Most Useful Offline Reference Source: The Heart of Yoga, by T.K.V. Desikachar

Yoga practice guides Kathi (wise woman) so she picked The Heart of Yoga as her go-to reference book. In it, Desikachar talks about the importance of a teacher, having a personal practice and the 8 limbs of yoga.

#3 Dan Cristo

Favourite Fiction Published this Year: Day of Wrath, by William R. Forstchen

If you are looking for a fast-paced, well-written action novel, pick up Day of Wrath by William R. Forstchen. The author depicts a frightening terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It’s a story of heroism and loss that sticks with you well after you’ve read the last page.

Best Business Book: Trust Me, I’m Lying, by Ryan Holiday

This eye-opening book examines the underbelly of the media world. The author recounts how he manipulated bloggers, reporters and media outlets into covering his company’s advertisements as news. You’ll never look at media in the same way.

Most Useful Offline Reference Resource: Fascinate, by Sally Hogshead

Fascinate explains how to capture and hold a person’s attention through the use of 7 emotional triggers. It’s a cheat sheet on how to make someone care about what you’re saying.

#4 Eden Spodek

Favourite fiction published this year: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

This book is actually a memoir published in 2012, but it reads like fiction thanks to Strayed’s engaging style. Eden read it on vacation last August and couldn’t put it down. She told me she can’t wait to see Reese Witherspoon star in the film adaptation over the holidays.

Best business book: Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Eden told me Lean In left the most lasting impression on her of any business book she’s read in a long time. Sandberg shares how she’s forged her way as a woman in the male-dominated tech workforce and encourages other working women to do the same.

Most useful offline reference resource: Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age, by Gini Dietrich, and Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, by Ann Handley

These books are both easy to read and jam-packed with actionable tips from pros working daily in the PR and content marketing trenches. Eden also recommends Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, co-authored by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, as a handy reference for anyone starting to dip their toes into content creation.

#5 Sarah Arrow

Favourite fiction published this year: Prince Lestsat, by Anne Rice

Before Edward Cullen, before Buffy and Angel, there was only one vampire, and he was mean yet loving, ambitious and bold. Prince Lestsat wormed his way into our hearts by sharing his story, which is also the story of those he hurt during his dance with darkness.

Best business book: The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield

Sarah is one of those rare people who crossed over from reading Pressfield’s fiction (Gates of Fire and Last of the Amazons) to reading his non-fiction work. This book is relatively thin compared to other business books, but the words inside are powerful.

Most useful offline resource: Do the Work, by Stephen Pressfield

Sarah had trouble picking just one offline resource. She also suggested Launch, by Jeff Walker, and 30 Days to Shape Up Your Business, by Not On the High Street, a powerful book for business women everywhere, although the business owners are UK based.

#6 Ian Anderson Gray

Best business book: Do It Tomorrow, by Mark Forster

In this common sense book, Forster goes into the psychology of why we tend to procrastinate and gives some practical tips on how to be more productive.

Most useful offline reference resource: The Tao of Twitter, by Mark Schaefer

Ian has been a Twitter fanatic since the year the platform launched, but he still finds himself regularly coming back to this wonderful book by Mark Schaefer. Says Ian: “It’s perfect for people who just don’t get Twitter as well as those who consider themselves Twitter power users.”

#7 Keri Jaehnig

Best business book: The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber

This book is a MUST READ for every entrepreneur or for anyone marketing an entrepreneur’s products or services. After reading it, you’ll truly understand the difference between working “in” your business versus working “on” your business.

Most useful offline resource: The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How to Get Big Things Done in YOUR Workshop . . . All Year Long, by Eric Harvey

A good pick for the holiday season, this book is an easy read offering lots of useful leadership tips and techniques. It’s a book just about anybody could enjoy. We’re all leaders of something, right?

#8 Brent Carnduff

Favourite fiction published this year: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Brent is a loyal Stephen King and John Grisham reader, but his favourite novel from this year is The Goldfinch. He also enjoyed the Monkeewrench mystery series by P.J. Tracy, which he first heard about in Joe Pulizzi’s book, Epic Content Marketing.

Best business book: Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk

Brent reads a lot of business books and confessed he had a tough time picking just one. He decided on Crush It since Vaynerchuk shares so much passion and possibility in it. Brent read it at a time when he was looking for something new and it had a huge impact on him.

Most useful offline resource: Social Media Explained, by Mark Schaefer

Like most of us, Brent depends a lot on online resources. He recommended Social Media Explained since it’s a great “how-to” book.

#9 Hugh Anderson

Favourite fiction published this year: Flesh Wounds, by Chris Brookmyre

Hugh told me this book is a gritty Scottish crime thriller with danger, intrigue, violence, twists and turns. It’s not for everyone, but if you like this genre it’s a cracker.

Best business book: Shackleton’s Way, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

This book is the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s incredible Antarctic adventure with lessons in leadership, team building and an insight into the depth of the human spirit. His story will make you realize no challenge is insurmountable.

Most useful offline reference resource: Haynes Car Manuals

Hugh’s business partner recommended this book after moving to New York, buying a second-hand Volvo and tinkering with it.

#10 Jayme Soulati

Favourite fiction published this year: The Enchanted, by Rene Denfield

The story opens up in an idyllic setting. Character names are not used in the book and you soon realize it’s written from the perspective of a death-row inmate. It’s a macabre, sad and love story all in a quick, short read. It affected Jayme in many ways, and she wants us to read it.

Best business book: Message Mapping: Why You Need It & How To Do It, by Jayme Soulati

I love what Jayme told me about her book: “There’s this chica I know who loves shameless plugs, and she has rebranded as a message mapping master. She wrote an e-book and it’s available FREE on her site. Ah-hem, I know it’s a book you need, 100 pages, because message mapping forms the foundation for everything your business does from social media posts and content marketing to speech writing and stakeholder communications.”

Most useful offline resource: Associated Press Stylebook 

Jayme got this book in journalism school, using it extensively throughout her Chicago agency days when she was an “upstart whippersnapper.” She encourages everyone to have a print edition alongside Merriam Webster’s.

#11 Gini Dietrich

Favourite fiction published this year: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed; The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Gini told me picking one piece of favourite fiction was like trying to name her favourite child. So she picked two. Wild made Gini want to take 3 months off work to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. The Goldfinch, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a coming of age story about a boy who loses his parents at different points in his childhood.

Best business book: Traction, by Gino Wickman

Picking the best business book was also pretty tough for Gini (she compared it to naming her favourite niece or nephew). She went with Traction, a book that helped her think through how to scale her business to another level.

Most useful offline reference resource: Content Chemistry, by Andy Crestodina; Predictable Success, by Les McKeown

Gini keeps these 2 books on her desk to refer to all the time. The former helps her keep content ideas fresh. She turns to the latter when she’s in a slump and needs to know that what the business is going through is perfectly normal.

#12 Danny Brown

Favourite fiction published this year: My Life Without Me, by Jaclyn Aurore

In an email exchange Danny told me he may be a bit biased with this recommendation (Jaclyn is his better half). The reason he chose this book is that Jaclyn is primarily known for young adult fiction. “My Life Without Me” took her into a new genre, the realm of New Adult Fantasy.

The premise of the book is “what if your whole life was a distant memory?” The lead character Jamie suffers from terrible memory loss and can’t be sure what’s real and what’s imagined. The way the book unfolds and explains Jamie’s dilemma is another reason this book tops Danny’s list.

Best business book: The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

This one was an easy choice for Danny. Although written 1,500 years ago, this classic offers more business strategy, advice and lessons in leadership than any number of books written since (and, probably for the next 1,500 years, too).

Most useful offline reference resource: Your local Chamber of Commerce

Danny still finds the local Chambers of Commerce to be among the most useful resources around. While they primarily suit small businesses and entrepreneurs, anyone can benefit from their expertise, and the networking opportunities are second to none.

Other book suggestions

A few other pros weighed in with additional book recommendations:

Books: The Greatest Gift of All

Books of all kinds are truly one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone. Not only do they inspire, entertain and teach, they also introduce us to people we’d never have a chance to meet in real life and show us new ways of looking at the world.

Perhaps author Neil Gaiman says it best: “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.”

What books do you recommend this holiday season? Let us know in the comments section below.


Written by Shelley Pringle