The most recent Marketing Club meeting, featuring a panel of seasoned marketing researchers, was a lively discussion centered around skill set recommendations needed for a successful marketing research career. [And] During the session, multiple hard skills were discussed [but] the conversation kept shifting back to soft skills and one soft skill in particular – storytelling. I did not have a shortlist of storytelling books handy, [therefore] I knew it was time create one and share it with the group.
We all know that I am a huge advocate of the science of storytelling and DigNuggetville has featured multiple storytelling posts throughout the years. Of course, book recommendations are scattered across these posts. The following is a fantastic shortlist of the dozens of storytelling books I have in my office. These suggestions will be more than enough to get anyone proficient on the topic… quickly. Here we go!
While you could read these books in any order, I’d recommend you start with:
- Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story
- Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal
- Randy Olson’s Houston, We Have a Narrative
Both Cron and Gottschall make the case how we, as humans, are biologically hardwired for story. Randy Olson is a former marine biologist Ph.D., turned Hollywood movie-maker. While in film school, Olson realized how horrible most academics and business executives are at telling their stories. Olson’s And, But, and Therefore template (aka the ABT) is just brilliant. If you review the first paragraph closely, you will see I used the ABT to set up this post.
- Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth
- Chip Heath and Dan Adams’ Made to Stick
- Ian Leslie’s Curious
Campbell is the godfather, quite literally, to all conversations related to storytelling. It is almost impossible to have a storytelling conversation without it leading back to Campbell at some point. (I can say the same for Robert Cialdini as he’s the godfather of persuasion and all persuasion conversations will eventually lead back to Cialdini). Campbell, an academic, identified the mono-myth or Hero’s Journey (the standard template for almost all Hollywood CGI blockbuster movies) from antiquity. His books are tomes – something one would expect in a college classroom (i.e., long and dense). However, journalist Bill Moyers interviewed Campbell for a 6-part PBS documentary and the transcript from that conversation became The Power of Myth book – the most approachable Campbell book in my collection.
Speaking of persuasion, Made to Stick is one of the best persuasion books you can find. Along with Cialdini, Stick serve as the texts for my MBA course, The Science of Persuasion. This happens to me all the time; I read a book or an article on some topic and I eventually say… this is a storytelling conversation. In summary, the most persuasive people you know also happen to be the BEST storytellers…period.
Curious – the desire to know and why your future depends in it – as the book’s subhead describes, is centered on the power of curiosity, which just so happened to be the second most popular soft skill mentioned by the executives in the Marketing Club session. I love this book as this is a topic near and dear to my heart and surprise, surprise… it is also a storytelling conversation.
The final book on this list, Park Howell’s Brand Bewitchery, is the only book I have not read yet and it is first up on my summer reading list. (I’m also teaching my MBA Brand Management course this this summer). I’ve been listening to Park’s The Business of Story podcast for years and I know that while this is a book on branding, it is really a conversation about storytelling.
If you are looking for any additional details about the books described above or are looking for something slightly different, I’m sure I have a storytelling recommendation, so drop me a note in the comments section.
Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Marketing
Methodologist, Seton Hall Sports Poll
Stillman School of Business