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Great books to read over the holiday break

Dec 28, 2018

Book reviews

It’s the Christmas holidays. You’ve had your turkey dinner (or whatever alternative you went for this year), ate most of the chocolates, gone out with friends, spent time with the family.

Now you’re starting to check your emails and are tempted to do a little work – make the most of how quiet things are.

I’m not necessarily opposed to that – I love the feeling of checking emails after two days and finding I only have ten or twelve new ones. But I tend to encourage people to either take a proper break (and don’t work at all), or else use the time to start thinking ahead to 2019.

One of the ways to do that is to read some really good books – those ones you’ve been meaning to read during the entirety of 2018 and haven’t got round to yet.

My goal over this holiday period is to finish “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. I’ve taken it with me to multiple countries and although Ann has enjoyed seeing my social posts about where her book has gone, I’m pretty confident she knows it will be much more use to me when the content is in my head, not only in my handbag.

Here’s a quick list of some of my favourites. These are either ones that I’ve read and loved this year, or ones that are still on MY reading list!!

They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan:

It’s (still) THE book for accountants who either 1) aren’t sure where to start with marketing, 2) want to do marketing but don’t know where to start, 3) aren’t convinced they can actually do marketing at all, or 4) anyone in any other category, basically.

I’ve never seen any other book actually inspire accountants to start writing, start creating, start doing marketing themselves. I used to say I wished I’d written the book, but now I’m glad I didn’t, because I can basically command you to read it and you won’t think I’m being self serving. I really, really want you to read it because your marketing will be better as a result. No question.

Oversubscribed by Daniel Priestly:

The principle on which this book is written is that it’s good to make people wait to do business with you. Those who really want to work with you are happy to wait; those who don’t care will go elsewhere. Win win. This book revolutionised my own perspective on marketing, and released a lot of stress about “getting in new business”.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon:

It’s short. There are illustrations. It’s simple. And it’s incredibly encouraging. You don’t have to “be creative” to do marketing; you can look around at what others are doing and get great ideas for your own firm. Almost every accountant I talk to says “but I’m not creative”. Fine. I disagree, but whatever: read this book and you’ll see a little differently. We’re all artists.

He also wrote “Show Your Work”, which I’m taking with me to Arizona and intend to have finished by Christmas Eve. My last experience with his other book was that I sat down to read it and was done in less than half an hour.

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rhode:

For anyone who loves my sketchnotes, this is the book that got me going. The best principle of all in this book is “Ideas, not art”. You don’t have to be “artistic” or good at drawing to do sketchnoting. You can capture ideas – from conferences, from events, from webinars, from anything – better. I also recommend “The Sketchnote Workbook” alongside this.

Remote by Jason Fried:

Since my company is a virtual one, I felt this book was simply telling me everything I already agreed with, but I still found it refreshing. The core principle is that you don’t HAVE to have an office these days, to have a successful business. You can if you want to, and at some point as a virtual business you may move to that stage, but it’s not required. It’s a favourite of mine, and regardless of what level of remote working you have at your firm, I highly recommend reading it. (Jason has a few other books out now which are on my list – both “Rework” and “It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work”!)

The Digital Firm by Will Farnell:

Whatever level of digital you feel your accounting firm has reached in 2018, there are probably greater heights you can reach in 2019. Highly recommend this book by an accountant who did digital back when it was a new thing, and shares his failures and successes to help you have less of the former and more of the latter, in your own firm!

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley:

This is the one I’ve been carrying around for months (okay since June when I bought it and had her sign it at CMA Live). I love the concept – it’s similar to ‘you don’t have to be a marketer to do good marketing’ and ‘you don’t have to be an artist to take great notes’. Anyone can write. If you want to write better, read this book. And ask me in January if I read it.

Known by Mark Schaefer:

Another one that is started-but-not-finished on my bookshelf. It’s about your personal brand, having influence, and finding “the one thing” that will make you stand out. One of my favourite sections is when he quotes the world famous Gary Vee who says you don’t have to worry about the audience or the money or anything, just do what you love and it will all work out. Mark says that’s all very well but “I don’t think you should blast headlong into any lifelong commitment without at least a bit of forethought. Maybe you should even have a plan.” The accountant in you will love that. Moving forward, but not at breakneck speeds!

The Bible, by God:

Regardless of your religious persuasion (or lack thereof), there’s a lot of good stuff in there. Phrases and stories you’ve heard thousands of times and didn’t know where they came from. “Going from strength to strength” is in there. “Going the extra mile”, “the powers that be”, “Nothing new under the sun”, those are all in there too. David & Goliath of course, and Noah and the ark, and Jesus healing a blind man, and raising people from the dead. After all, it’s Christmas. May as well read a little from the Book that started it all, the content that has lasted 2000 years and then some.

There are hundreds more books on my shelves, on my Amazon wishlist, and in my “Books to read” note on my phone…but those are the ones that came immediately to mind. If you’ve read every single one of those books (or even if you haven’t), I’d love to hear your suggestions too!

Have a beautiful end-of-the-year: see you in 2019!