PMMs & Reading Books

I read a good book today, Victoria Schwab’s Shades of Magic, and I couldn’t put it down. Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit will cut your hands with the storytelling — and last week I devoured Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, which is the most mind-bending new story I’ve read in years. I think I’m going to read it again this weekend.

Where do you get inspiration for the stories you tell as a product marketer? Where do you learn patterns of what makes a story emotionally powerful? Where do you get new ideas about telling stories to humans? 

Product marketing is storytelling. Books tell stories. So I read books.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way. I know smart people who read mostly business books, and there are some good ones, where someone tells the story of a big shift (Radical Candor is a good one here). But most business books have all the substance of a blog post (ahem) – entombed in 200 pages of mediocre writing.

Read non-fiction and fiction books. Re-read the good ones. Make yourself a better product marketer. Go read a book.

Non-fiction 

John McPhee will pack your brain full of useful metaphors, from oranges to basketball, plate tectonics to long-haul trucking. Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek raised the bar for me on writing and on seeing. 

While I first came to Sue Hubbell for A Book of Bees, I stayed for A Country Year. Learning a ton about storytelling and natural systems… and speaking of brains, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow rebooted my thinking on how human minds function and fail.

Fiction

Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea taught me about internal struggles, Richard Zelazny, too. Leo Lionni delivered the platonic ideal of a story with Frederick. Garcia Marquez shows you how to open a story: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” Annie Proulx spins a yarn better than anyone, and is a master of the explosive pivot: “I wish I could quit you.”

And don’t stick to what’s recent. Gilgamesh, Grendel, Piers Plowman, storytelling isn’t new. Chaucer tells terrific, funny stories, and the Bible and Quran have hundreds of great stories. 

I’m conscious that a lot of these books are by white, male authors. I’m trying to expand my horizons, and am 3 books into N.K. Jemisin’s worlds (the Stone Eaters trilogy is terrific) and Nalo Hopkinson’s Salt Roads is up next, but I’d love your help to expand my horizons on who else I should be reading, especially in non-fiction and in older books. Comments are open below. 

Tenders
The Front Porch
Moss Beach, California

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