December 1, 2016

12 Not-So-Obvious Books on Seth Godin’s Bookshelf

Written by Jenna Bos
12 Not-So-Obvious Books on Seth Godin’s Bookshelf

When marketers become bored or frustrated with “best practices,” they turn to Seth Godin for a more inspiring, creative approach to building awareness, thought leadership and impact around their brand. His cogent, concise lessons resonate with the marketer who is looking to align their daily efforts with a sense of personal realization.

We look to thought leaders and celebrities and examine what they say and what they do for inspiration; we pick and choose what we want to co-opt for our own lives, projects and sense of self. Can we co-opt some of Jennifer Lawrence's wit and charm by adopting her bob-style cut? Is that the secret? Why does a search for “John Lennon’s glasses” produce 231,000 results? Do they hold the secret to his success? Could he see something through those lenses that we can't?

I read Seth Godin’s books. I read his blog, daily. And I signed up for his recently-launched Udemy Master Class in Value Creation. I listen to his words, but I also try and read between the lines to glean the insights he’s not explicitly sharing.

For example, throughout the course, I kept noticing an out-of-focus bookshelf behind Seth as he covered topics like value creation, leveraging unique assets, and combining the previously uncombined. It became a bit of a distraction for me, until around halfway through the course, the bookshelf briefly came into focus. I immediately took a screenshot and indulged my curiosity by identifying some of the books. After all, Seth Godin is deliberate about these things, right? I can imagine him carefully selecting the books that would appear behind him as he spoke to his audience of marketers and leaders.

Here is a list of 12 books that I could identify from Seth Godin’s bookshelf, from left to right (if you want to compare for yourself). If you can identify more, please let us know in the comments section. The level to which these choices were deliberate by Godin is up to you.

1. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

By Seth McCloud


Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Seth McCloud


'A comic book about comic books. McCloud, in an incredibly accessible style, explains the details of how comics work: how they're composed, read and understood. More than just a book about comics, this gets to the heart of how we deal with visual languages in general. "The potential of comics is limitless and exciting!" writes McCloud. This should be required reading for every school teacher. Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman says, "The most intelligent comics I've seen in a long time."'

2. Market Day

By James Sturm

Graphic Novel

Market Day by James Sturm


'A timeless meditation on art and commerce seen through the life of an early-twentieth century Jewish rug maker. 

Mendleman's life goes through an upheaval when he discovers that he can no longer earn a living for his growing family doing the work that defines him―making well-crafted rugs by hand. A proud artisan, he takes his donkey-drawn cart to the market only to be turned away when the distinctive shop he once sold to now stocks only cheaply manufactured merchandise. As the realities of the marketplace sink in, Mendleman unravels. James Sturm draws a quiet, reflective, and beautiful portrait of eastern Europe in the early 1900s–bringing to life the hustle and bustle of an Old World marketplace on the brink of industrialization. Market Day is an ageless tale of how economic and social forces can affect a single life.

An award-winning cartoonist of the books Golem's Mighty SwingJames Sturm's AmericaSatchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, and Adventures in Cartooning, Sturm is a true visionary, having cofounded the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger and the Center for Cartoon Studies, the country's premier cartooning school.'

3. The Mating Mind

By Geoffrey Miller

Nonfiction, Psychology

The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller


'At once a pioneering study of evolution and an accessible and lively reading experience, The Mating Mind marks the arrival of a prescient and provocative new science writer. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller offers the most convincing–and radical–explanation for how and why the human mind evolved. 

Consciousness, morality, creativity, language, and art: these are the traits that make us human. Scientists have traditionally explained these qualities as merely a side effect of surplus brain size, but Miller argues that they were sexual attractors, not side effects. He bases his argument on Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which until now has played second fiddle to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and draws on ideas and research from a wide range of fields, including psychology, economics, history, and pop culture. Witty, powerfully argued, and continually thought-provoking, The Mating Mind is a landmark in our understanding of our own species.'

4. Poke the Box

by Seth Godin

Nonfiction, Business Culture

Next, instead of a book spine, what we see on Seth's bookshelf is this playful character on a cover facing us:

Poke the Box Hardcover by Seth Godin


The title was not visible, so this required a bit of digging to figure out what book it was. And lo and behold, it is the hardcover edition of Godin's own book, Poke the Box. The version you would have the most luck finding a copy of looks like this:

Poke the Box by Seth Godin


'If you're stuck at the starting line, you don't need more time or permission. You don’t need to wait for a boss’s okay or to be told to push the button; you just need to poke. 

Poke the Box is a manifesto by bestselling author Seth Godin that just might make you uncomfortable. It’s a call to action about the initiative you’re taking-– in your job or in your life. Godin knows that one of our scarcest resources is the spark of initiative in most organizations (and most careers)-– the person with the guts to say, “I want to start stuff.” 

Poke the Box just may be the kick in the pants you need to shake up your life.'

5. The Dictionary of Cliches

By James Rogers

Nonfiction, Humor and Entertainment

The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers

One reviewer writes:

'This informative, well-researched and amusing reference explains the meaning, origin and subsequent usage of over 2000 cliches, sayings and expressions made familiar through their continued, and sometimes exaggerated, use. It's a wonderful resource for writers, researchers and editors, for trivia enthusiasts, and for people who just love words, language and slang.

Each entry in this comprehensive collection is presented in a paragraph-length format, and is written in a clear, concise and humorous style that invites browsing, but is also appropriate for easy consultations, for which an index of cross-references is also included. Here you'll find the well-known "head over heels," "fit as a fiddle" and "right as rain" and also the not so common "eager for the fray" and "Simon pure."' - M.E. Volmar

6. The Tribe

Moxie Institute

Documentary, Multimedia

The Tribe Moxie Institute


This work on Godin's bookshelf is more than a book; it's a multi-media discussion kit centered around an 18-minute short documentary titled "The Tribe." 

On the Moxie Institute's website, you can watch the documentary for $1.00, and the trailer for free. This description comes from the Institute's site:

'An unorthodox, unauthorized, history of the Jewish people and the Barbie doll…in about 18min.

What can the most successful doll on the planet show us about being Jewish today? Narrated by Peter Coyote, the film mixes old school narration with a new school visual style. The Tribe weaves together archival footage, graphics, animation, Barbie dioramas, and slam poetry to take audiences on an electric ride through the complex history of both the Barbie doll and the Jewish people- from Biblical times to present day. By tracing Barbie’s history, the film sheds light on the questions: What does it mean to be an American Jew today? What does it mean to be a member of any tribe in the 21st Century? The first documentary to reach #1 on iTunes, The Tribe premiered at Sundance, has won 17 awards, and is used in hundreds of Jewish and educational institutions around the world.'

7. Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

By Derek Sivers

Nonfiction, Business Culture

Anything You Want Derek Sivers


#1 New York Times bestselling author, entrepreneur, and life hacker extraordinaire Tim Ferriss wrote the following review:

'Derek is the entrepreneur's entrepreneur. Just as important, perhaps more so--he is a phenomenal teacher. Whether detailing the fascinating rise of CDBaby, explaining catastrophic (but common) founder mistakes, or teaching me about relational databases in two minutes using analogies, he makes the complex simple. Moreover, he makes it all actionable.

If you want a true manifesto, a guidebook with clear signposts, and a fun ride you'll return to again and again, you have it here in this book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.'

8. We Are All Weird

By Seth Godin

Nonfiction, Business Culture

We Are All Weird by Seth Godin


'World of Warcrafters, LARPers, Settlers of Catan? Weird. Beliebers, Swifties, Directioners? Weirder. Paleos, vegans, carb loaders, ovolactovegetarians? Pretty weird. Mets fans, Yankees fans, Bears fans? Definitely weird. 

Face it. We’re all weird. 

So why are companies still trying to build products for the masses? Why are we still acting like the masses even exist? 

Weird is the new normal. And only companies that figure that out have any chance of survival. This book shows you how.'

9. Where in the World is My Team?: Making a Success of Your Virtual Global Workplace

By Terence Brake

Nonfiction, Business Culture

Where in the World is My Team by Terence Brake


'As the economy becomes increasingly global, businesses need employees who can work in teams that cross borders and transcend physical spaces. In Where in the World Is My Team, fictional character Will Williams shares entertaining anecdotes and practical advice to accustom readers to the challenges of a global, virtual workplace. This easy-to-follow guide, ideal for managers and those interested in succeeding in a global economy, introduces new technologies but focuses especially on the six Key Performance Zones for global team collaboration with briefing report summaries to emphasize key points.'

10. Rethink Your Marketing Questions. And Answers. 

By Long Yun Siang

Nonfiction, Marketing & Sales

Rethink Your Marketing Questions And Answers by Long Yun Siang


'Answering questions can be frightening. Why? Because you try to be right and the fear of being wrong drives you to give either very simplistic answers or overly complex ones. Get out of your comfort zones; stop answering questions in a predictable fashion. Perhaps, that will point you to the answer you need. This book captures some of the blog entries from the blog Raw Points in its first year. Raw Points is updated every work day for the past three years - it's an audacious attempt by Roar Point to share a different perspective. It attempts to poke provoke and ponder on thoughts related to marketing. This book attempts to inspire you to rethink what you know about marketing strategy and all that comes with it.'

11. Upbeat: Cultivating the Right Attitude to Thrive in Tough Times

By Rajesh Setty

Nonfiction, Management and Leadership

Upbeat by Rajesh Setty


'Recession makes it hard for everyone. Rising unemployment, weak stock markets, tough credit markets, weak demand, fierce competition for that weak demand, uncertainty about when this will all end are just a start. It seems like there are just too many things out of our control during a recession. It takes a lot to make a significant difference in a good economy. In a bad economy, it takes a significant effort just to produce something meaningful... How we survive through the recession and thrive will depend largely on what each of us did before we reached this place and what every one of us will do during these times.'

12. The Book of Questions

By Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Nonfiction, Humor & Entertainment

The final (identifiable) book on Seth's shelf comes emblazoned with a stamp of approval from Godin on the cover: "Greg Stock reminds us that what really matters are the questions."

The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock


'Originally published in 1987, The Book of Questions, a New York Times bestseller, has been completely revised and updated to incorporate the myriad cultural shifts and hot-button issues of the past twenty-five years, making it current and even more appealing.

This is a book for personal growth, a tool for deepening relationships, a lively conversation starter for the family dinner table, a fun way to pass the time in the car. It poses over 300 questions that invite people to explore the most fascinating of subjects: themselves and how they really feel about the world.'

Now what?

The books on Seth Godin's shelf remind us that we can best become great marketers and leaders by building our internal world upon the scaffolding of many different types of books on many different types of topics. In order to create content and relations that matter and to connect to an audience, we need to constantly expand, challenge and grow our mindset. 

Will you be adding any of these to your bookshelf? Have you read any of these books? What's on your own bookshelf? Let us know in the comments.

jenna bos

About Jenna Bos
Director of Marketing

Jenna leads the strategic planning for Blue Coda’s marketing efforts and advises clients as they apply digital marketing strategies to their new website. Jenna has experience in marketing and copywriting for professional associations, technical consortia, standards-setting organizations, non-profits, educational institutions, IT services, and literary enterprises.

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