An Ad Agency’s Marketing Book Recommendations

116 & West

The back-to-school spirit must still be in the air because we’re out here reading books! Not only are we reading, but we’re also sharing our marketing book faves with you. We wouldn’t call this list “required,” but we would definitely call it “really awesome.” No matter where you are in your advertising career, we think these books will help you out.

In addition to keeping you sharp in your chosen career, Psychology Today asserts that reading helps you develop more empathy, a better brain, and a better, more productive life.

We think you have two options: come to our awesome book party and get smarter and more fulfilled, or don’t and keep being lame.

(Just kidding, but seriously, read some of these.)

Spark your creativity

Steal Like an Artist

Written by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist details ten things nobody told you about being creative. With chapters entitled “Don’t Wait Until You Know Who You Are to Get Started” and “Be Boring (It’s the Only Way to Get Work Done),” this book will help you reframe the way you view your creativity. Hopefully, you walk away feeling more inspired and less constricted.

Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation

This book, written by Idris Mootee, boasts that it can teach you what business and design school cannot. “Design thinking” refers to the school of thought that places the emphasis on who you are creating advertisements for, rather than placing the emphasis on the product/service you’re advertising. Therefore, Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation teaches you how to apply design thinking toward strategy. (Which should ultimately result in more effective messaging. So, read it!)

Boost your strategy, and your business

Ogilvy on Advertising

Written by the advertising titan David Ogilvy, this book is an absolute must-read if you’d like to pursue a career in this industry (there’s even a chapter detailing how to get a job at an agency). Some of you might be thinking, “Wasn’t that book written in the ‘80s? How can it possibly still be relevant?” To that, our CEO Eddie Moore would reply that “the basic fundamentals of this business haven’t changed.” This book will teach you the fundamentals of making an effective (read: $$$) advertisement, the benefits of research, and how to get people to actually read the copy you write, among many, many more golden nuggets.


Another oldie but goodie, this selection, written by Al Ries and Jack Trout, was one of the first texts that explains how to speak to an informed, potentially skeptical consumer. Aptly named, Positioning teaches you how to best position your brand in a consumer’s mind and against competitors.

Being a leader

Radical Candor

If you’re looking to be a more effective leader, Kim Scott’s Radical Candor is the book for you. Honest communication, empathy, and the value of embracing our own humanity are just a few of the topics discussed. Learn how to care about your employees as people, while still being able to provide constructive criticism.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-

You can’t be a competent manager if you constantly give unwarranted energy to each minuscule problem. Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F teaches us that positive thinking may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Additionally, this book received high praise from our COO Carolyn Lodge: “I like this book because it gives perspective on what is worth getting riled up about. I appreciate Mark Manson’s humor and acknowledgment that not everything in life deserves the same level of energy.”

Read More, Learn More, Change the Globe

This reading list has us pretty pumped up. We hope it gives you a great starting point in becoming a better marketer. If you have any thoughts on the books shared in this list, or if you have titles we should include next time, drop us a line!