Beach Reading

I'm on the coast of Maine this week recharging and getting ready for the fall. As always, I'm toting several books, both paper and electronic, to keep the brain in shape. I'm also thinking back on some business classics that I've brought on previous trips. Whether you're thinking big industry thoughts or just looking for a few new tactical sales moves, you may find something on the summer reading list worth downloading.

The Shallows (Nicholas Carr) explores the effect of all this internet searching and skimming on the structure and process of our brains. Our very ability to consume and process large amounts of information all at once has been compromised. And the kicker is, it's not a generational thing: even if you're over 50, your cumulative internet usage has changed the way you process. They're not fully formed for me yet, but there are lessons here for everything from product marketing to web page design to e-mail.

The Go-Giver (Bob Burg and John David Mann) was recently suggested by a new friend in the industry, and I'm very grateful for that recommendation. Told as a dialogue-intensive 'fable,' the book will take you all of about two hours to finish, but the sales - and life -- wisdom is so significant that you'll want to read it again immediately. What happens when you base your personal strategy on generosity instead of the zero-sum thinking that drives most sales behavior.

Six Pixels of Separation (Mitch Joel). I picked this one up for two reasons. First, because Mitch was coming to speak at a local gathering in Burlington, Vermont, where I live; second because I felt I really needed to check my assumptions and trajectory where it comes to the social media future of my business. If you're living on the periphery of social media, as I am, there's a ton of great tactical insights and some good reality checks on your strategy and motivation. Favorite quote so far: "Social media isn't about getting known; it's about being 'knowable.'"

The Comanche Empire (Pekka Hamalainen). Those who know me well know that I'm a major history geek. This book won the 2009 Bancroft Prize (the Pulitzer of American History) and offers a fresh revisionist look at this remarkable international power. Any connection to the internet or media? Not really, except for this: The story that's always been told about Native American History has been one of inevitable conquest and perpetual, incremental retreat. But the real story is far richer. What happens at the borders of these civilizations is where the really significant stuff happens. When I read this passage, I immediately thought about the "clash" between digital and traditional media and the "inevitable" advance of digital. The really significant stuff is happening at the borders where we engage one another.

Make What You Say Pay and Metaphorically Selling (Anne Miller). Anne is the consummate pro who's spent decades studying our sales language and how to make it pack more of a punch. "Make What You Say Pay" is her most recent book, but "Metaphorically Selling" is also very much worth having close by whenever you're writing to a customer. In my line of work, I see far too much time spent on e-mails and other correspondence that simply has no effect with the client. If you fear you might have this particular disease, Anne is your Jonas Salk.

The One Thing You Need to Know (Marcus Buckingham). The single best and most useful management and leadership book I've read. I quote from it constantly, often to myself as I struggle to manage my own business.

Engaged Leadership (Clint Swindall). Great follow up read to "The One Thing..." Written as a series of parables, it gives the sales manager some good tactical guidance on cultivating employee engagement, which is the soil in which success and excellence grow.

I'd love some more recommendations, so please add yours below in comments. Whether you're on the train or on the beach, have a great week.