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5 Influential Books All Bloggers Should Know

Posted By Darren Rowse 17th of June 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Today Chris Garrett (my co-author from the ProBlogger Book) shares 5 influential books that bloggers will find useful – all of which heavily influenced me (Darren) in my blogging).

Blogging is relatively new in the scheme of things, but even so, there are some conventions and ideas that are already well embedded in blog “culture”.

For example, how many times have you heard the phrase “content is king”? It’s pretty clear where that idea is meant to lead, for some other phrases some more context is required. The following five books have become not just best sellers and famous, but actually launched whole new ways of thinking about what we do and their titles have become mainstays of blogging conversation.

I am not saying you should go run out and buy these books right away, but knowing about the books and the concepts they put forward can help you understand better when someone tells you that “your blog needs to be a Purple Cow and leverage the Long Tail”!

1. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Seth Godin could have appeared on this list quite a few times. He is the bloggers blogger, the guru of gurus and the master of the short, strangely titled, mind expanding best-seller.

Whenever you hear someone talking about being unique, saying you should aim to be “remarkable”, you can almost guarantee they have read and absorbed this book.

Seth’s advice is to stand out, be noticed and memorable, make being remarkable the core of what you do. That’s basically it, the book is pretty much a long essay to get that point across. While I have summed up the entire book in not many words, reading the book helps you understand and inspires you to take the idea and run with it.

2. The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Before Tim Ferris there was the E-Myth. You hear about “passive income”, “outsourcing”, “working on your business and not in it”, and you can bet at some point E-Myth (the Entrepreneur Myth) will pop up. He says that many people considered entrepreneurs are really technicians and craftspeople creating their own “jobs”.

In some ways Michael E Gerber, Mr E-Myth, is the anti-Seth. Rather than saying you should be remarkable and hire remarkable people, he says real success comes from creating systems that remove the need for you to be present and working 24/7.

People try to do everything, achieve their goals through their own efforts. Equate success with “hard work”. Great systems mean you maintain quality and can take vacations.

The E-Myth books basically teach you that you don’t have to work yourself into an early grave. That with good systems and shared load you can achieve more by working less.

3. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual

“Markets are conversations”

“It’s all about the conversation”
“join the conversation”

You can blame the Cluetrain for these sayings. I actually asked if Cluetrain was still relevant and got some interesting answers (http://www.chrisg.com/cluetrain-social-media/). It seems most fondly remembered by old-timers (those who started blogging in the 90’s) but you still see the phrases used over and over.

Unlike the others you can actually read Cluetrain online and for free so you have no excuse for not at least dipping in and seeing what you are missing.

4.The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

This phrase turns up everywhere now. At one time I only heard it in SEO circles, now I hear it on TV business bulletins. Chris Anderson has created a monster!

He says that we are increasingly turning away from the mainstream and instead going further and further into our own niches. The Long Tail is used to justify and champion the cult-favorite book that isn’t going to be a best-seller, the band that never charts but does OK live, and the blog about obscure 1960’s pulp science fiction with ten readers. Unfortunately the premise can be stretched further than was likely intended. Don’t give up your day job for that blog about walrus polishing just yet.

The idea for is that you can make money from many seldom searched for phrases or rarely purchased items. In aggregate these long tail pages or products match or beat blockbusters and best sellers. So Amazon, with their million-strong inventory, can make real money from selling a lot of items a few times, as much as selling Harry Potter over and over. A blogger can have one or two super-performing pages that bring in hundreds of thousands of page views, or millions of visitors by having thousands of pages that bring in fewer visitors each.

5. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

We use the phrase “Tipping Point” to indicate when our fortunes seemed to transform, that instant when everything changes for the better (or worse). The book is about how tiny changes, sometimes seemingly unrelated, can have big knock on effects.

Malcolm Gladwell basically wrote the book on Memes that everyone could follow. He talks about other subjects you might recognize, such as “Mavens”, “Connectors” and “Stickiness”. If you ever wanted to read more about why “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is important, this is the book for you.


As I say above, the main point of this article was to show where some popular and much-used blogging sayings came from. Understanding how the ideas originated helps you work out when and if they apply to your situation. Some phrases are thrown around just because “everyone knows it’s true”, which is as you know something we should always be wary of online!

Should you read these books? While they are absolutely not “essential” purchases, I think any one of these books would both give you some fresh ideas and perspectives, and be entertaining light reading.

Have you got any suggestions for influential books I have missed? Please share in the comments.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Seth’s Audio CD “the DIP” is also good. I also liked “4-Hour Work Week” by Ferris.

  2. Good list, but I agree with elamb: “4-Hour Work Week” should be on this list.

  3. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White: this book will help any writer.

  4. All of Seth’s books are worth a read if you have the time. Right now I’m reading “Free Prize Inside”, which the concept alone can turn you from a nobody into an authority figure.

  5. Thank you for this list. It’s always interesting to read what books people recommend.

    I’ve read the two last books on the list, “The Long Tail” and “The Tipping Point”. While Gladwell’s tipping point book was interesting in itself, in my opinion it didn’t have the same clear connection to blogging or other online activities as Anderson’s awesome classic book does.

    I can really recommend “The Long Tail” and go one step further and state that it should actually be required reading for anyone serious about creating online contents.

    I haven’t read “The Purple Cow” yet, but other books by Godin have always been thought provoking, so that one is definately on my “must read” list for the future. “The E-Myth” sounds very interesting too.

    If I may add one title to the list it would be “Made To Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath. It’s a great book about a very practical way to not only get your message across, but to make it stick in the mind of whoever you’re communicating with.

  6. Excellent post! However, Gerber’s message is not necessarily in conflict with Godin’s. Gerber is all for providing a remarkable product/service but then taking the business of providing that remarkable product/service and systematizing it so it can basically run without your daily intervention. E.g., McDonald’s remarkable product/service is not their hamburgers, it’s that their hamburgers are exactly the same all over the world! Truly remarkable and one that I appreciate when I’m traveling. : )

  7. “The Shack” is fiction that makes you think and put life into perspective.
    “writerspeaker.com” is a resouce book for internet research and marketing.
    Both worth having your own copy!

  8. I recently read the book Blogging Heroes by Michael Banks in ebook form, and I thought it was terrific. In the book, Michael Banks interviews 30 influential bloggers who reveal their philosophies and secrets for success. Definitely a must read for any serious blogger.

  9. For me, the “4-Hour Work Week” should be on the list as well. I would have paid handsomely to have that book 15 years ago in graduate school, would have saved me a lot of time and money.

    I already run my own web based business, but this book allowed me to understand where my efforts should be focused, and what could be.

  10. Steve says: 06/17/2008 at 5:59 am

    Great post! I’m always looking for good books.

    Anyone else have a book recommendation?

  11. I highly recommend anything by Seth Godin and The Cluetrain Manifesto. Great list!

  12. Great list! there are great ideas in there. Yeah “4-Hour Work Week” should be inclusive.

  13. Excellent list – I am not as big a fan of Tim Ferris’s book as I once was, but it does contain some excellent material. Seth Godin has excellent material in all of his books – but read them at the library or in the bookstore. You may feel cheated for having spent money for them when they are so short.

    I would, of course, add Problogger to the list!

  14. I’ve personally read three of these five that are listed, although my close friends have read the other two and gave me brief summaries. I have to say that all of these books are absolutely essential. These depict the necessity for:

    1) Originality – How your business/site/blog/etc. should have a unique sense: one that should be recognized and have people say “Wow, that’s cool!” instead of “Oh…another one of those”. Purple Cow is best. I’ve read this one, and the way Seth puts things is simply spectacular and really gets my mind going on how I should improve my site (http://lolstupid.com). I still have ideas going even after I’ve shelved Purple Cow for a while now. I need to pull that one back up.

    2) Exploitation – Making full use of what’s available. On the internet, everything is available. We have the most popular products and sites (ProBlogger :D), but there are untapped resources that people should be tapping in to. The Long Tail is my personal favorite out of the five. It’s very strong in that it shows just to what degree these “mini-products” can take things. We can have a two-word phrase that has 50 million results and we’re taking in TONS of visitors a day from that search. Alternately, we can have, say, 1000 five-word phrases that take in maybe 10 visitors each a day? This is purely taking and using what’s available and I strongly recommend The Long Tail. Darren, thanks for putting that on there.

    3) Details – I’m talking about Tipping Point on this one. Once I read this book, I understood how everything ties together. The wordings of sentences, the designs of templates, the little things that literally /chip away/ at the big picture. I once set up a blog that was absolutely horrible in terms of design (like the one at lolstupid.com, eugh) and I just said “Ahh forget who cares?”. But my friends said “Dude, your design is probably the worst we’ve seen. Here we’ll fix it.” and they did. A month later, I improved my hits TENfold and things were going great. So Tipping Point is also something that I love to stress.

    Thanks Darren for this great post. All of these books, I’m sure, are definitely invaluable resources that everyone should pay attention to.

  15. “Write Is a Verb” by Bill O’Hanlon is a book every blogger should take a look at.

    While it is intended for people looking to write books, O’Hanlon’s advice on how to be an effective and consistent writer is fantastic for bloggers as well.

    Plus, all of us bloggers would love to write a book at least one day, right?

  16. I read “The Tipping Point” a few years ago and thought it was great. I’m going to have to re-read it since I see it popping up all over the place. “Rich Dad/Poor Dad” also explains that most people who start a business continue to be employees, they’re just self-employed. If you want to create passive income you need to set up a business that can continue to run even if you’re not there.

  17. I also recommend “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink because it talks specifically about how right brain thinking is becoming more important than ever, and in blogging you have to really use your creativity to stay on top of the game. Finally! Let’s hear it for the right brain ;-)

  18. Since I blog more than ever these days, I barely find time to read much (when books were my first true love…).

    This is an excellent selection of books though. You’ve given me a great excuse to take a day off each week to read :)

    Like Mark Dykeman, I would also add “The elements of style” to this list. It’s quite a lot to take in, but an excellent resource for learning to write well (I wish I’d read this before taking my English degree as it would have helped me so much!).

    I’ve not read “The Four Hour Work Week” but will certainly take a look based on these recommendations.

  19. There seems to be a new revival of the printed book. Everybody seems to write a book these days and bloggers (including me) are writing a lot more book reviews than they did one year or so ago.

    I reviewed 6 marketing books in April, main focus on search marketing, but also touching some other subjects.


    I don’t know if Chris send you the link, but he commented on my review of your book that I wrote about a week ago.

    Just FYI, in case you missed it :)

    Oh, I own 4 of the 5 reviewed books… they are good books. Mhh.. I will now go and check out the one that I do not have already hehe.


  20. Wow, now ProBlogger is starting to assign homework. :-)

  21. It’s probably just me, but this felt like shilling of books for Associates instead of an acutal post. Probably in the minority on that though. If they were topical books, like the Pro Blogger book, yeah, I could see posting them. But most of these come off as “self help” books that sit on people’s coffee tables and never get read.

  22. Yes, Seth Godin really challenges the status quo, excellent author!

  23. You forgot to add your own book :D

  24. There aren’t many books that specifically deal with blogging, but I always recommend ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ to anyone doing anything with web design.

    And Wikinomics and Join The Conversation to anyone doing anything 2.0ish…

  25. Most comment here recommend Ferris “4-Hour Work Week” book. I will check this out ‘coz this book seems an excellent stuff all blogger must have and read.

  26. I read The Purple Cow just because it appealed to me, and I never regretted it. I am not from a marketing background, and it really helped to get my mind onto that front.

    I can also recommend any book that reprints quality reportage. I have “The Penguin Book of Columnists” on my desk that I dip into regularly. It has 600 pages of historical newspaper columns (single articles) in varied styles. It is inspiring and educational to read examples of good opinion writing that differs from the “blog style” that sometimes creeps into a lot of blogs.

    (I’m not saying that “blog style” is wrong, but having external influences hopefully helps my writing to stay fresh and original)


  27. 4HWW is a great book and I would consider it on this list.

    ProBlogger is an amazing book. You both did a great job, and I couldn’t believe that there is a better book on how to create and maintain a successful blog. If “content is king” you guys are sitting on thrones right now!

    Great work!

  28. Chris, these are all good books for *pro* bloggers.

    *All* bloggers need to read The Elements of Style.

  29. Great list. These books are all a great balance of good inspiration and information!

    lol to the commentor above..

  30. >>While they are absolutely not “essential” purchases…

    I disagree.. anyone trying to make money blogging who is not willing to buy and read these books (and several others, including yours with Darren) has no right to expect to succeed.

  31. Informative post, I think I will definitely need to check out that purple cow book. I like being different and standing out!

  32. Sometimes oldies are goodies. I go by “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill.

    It’s more of a personal effectiveness and personal mastery book rather than a book relating to blogging but the principles described inside are timeless because,

    “Thoughts are things…”

    Be well and prosper.

  33. At Make Something Happen, which is the blogging arm of “The Point,” we’re clearly big fans of “The Tipping Point.” Another book that I became exposed to through this work is Micromotives and Macrobehavior. That is well worth a look for a gander into the economics of behavior (and behavior of economics).

  34. Out of the list, I have only read the E-Myth, however it would be on my top 5 as well. I second Chris’ opinion that you should read it.

  35. On the social media front, I would add Age of Conversation ;)

  36. I know Tim Ferris was mentioned above but I do want to mention that his book really has helped me in a number of ways. Namely with re-looking at what is that inspires me. By reworking priorities I’ve been able to devote more time to my passions without missing a step (or income!)

  37. Like your list a lot. I’m with Stephanie — “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink.

  38. Great list
    I am going to look into these books for my financial blog

  39. David says: 06/17/2008 at 4:53 pm

    @ Ryan – Continually seeing mention of your ‘financial blog’, without there being a direct relevance to the post, is actually making me want to avoid your blog. Couldn’t you be a little more subtle? I don’t mean to seem harsh but you’re getting on my tits.

    Sorry, but I got out of bed on the wrong side this morning.


    The good news for me is that Purple Cow and ProBlogger arrived in the post yesterday.

  40. I read almost all the books on the list and probably many more. I think “Blog!” by David Kline and Dan Burstein should be included.

    There are also some interesting publications in other languages.

  41. Seth Godin is really one of the entrepreneur that I admire a lot. I had his book couple of months ago and still I reread it everytime..

  42. This is a great list. I haven’t read all of these but I know of all of them and have heard their praise before.

    Sometimes people get too caught up with reading about one particular subject (i.e. blogging). By reading about related subjects or topics that can be put to good use in any pursuit, such as the books listed above, we can really find great value.

  43. Chris, I am quite impressed by your ability to put the essential nugget of a book into so few words! This not only gives a clear idea of what each book is about, but the post stands alone as a mini-list of 5 separate business/blogging ideas to ponder.

  44. The best book to read for bloggers is The Bible. Then read all the others.

    Lots of inspiration and ideas.

  45. Great list.. really appreciate it. Have you read “The Dilbert Principle” by Scott Adams.. its great management book. Things apart, I wanted to suggest to make your Problogger book available in pdf format, so that people living in far away countries (like me in India) can download it instantly. I guess Amazon has the option to convert the book to ebook.

  46. I recommend every book from Seth. The Dip is outstanding. I’m getting Meatball Sundae.

    Awakening The Entrepreneur Within by Michael Gerber is also a great reading.

  47. Not directly related to blogging or anything on the internet, but I think everyone can learn something from Robert Cialdini’s – The Psychology of Persuasion.

  48. I am an avid reader, when I am not writing, and think that this is a great list. Like all lists there are going to be a few books left out (on purpose?).

    I am half way into ProBlogger and think that you should definetly add it to the list. Chris, Darren, I congraulate you on a great work. This is a book that I will be recommending to everyone who asks me how to start a blog….And I get asked that a lot, usually at the bar.

  49. I especially second the Cluetrain Manifesto as a book all bloggers should read – it was ahead of its time. And it is free on the web, so there is no excuse.

    I’d also recommend the Medici Effect by Frans Johansson (http://www.themedicieffect.com/). It’s not about blogging, writing, or even the web per say, but about the “intersection of different cultures, fields, and industries” (like in Rennaissance Florence). The concepts really can apply to blogger – consider how most bloggers have a rather unique variety of skills and talents.

    At the very least, it is inspiring and encourages readers to look at old ideas in a fresh new way (or at least I did).

  50. I have read both the pipping point and E-Myth, both of which I found very good reads and I have recommended both of them to people who I know.

    The others mentioned above in the post look interesting, I will look out for them in the future.

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