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Julien wrote a great blog post the other day about putting better stuff in your brain, stuff that will feed your brain and take it in new directions. Here are a few suggestions for things you can add to your virtual or real bookshelf, should you be so inclined.

Full disclosure: everything’s an affiliate link, probably to Amazon. Fair warning.

New Thinking

The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander. This very hard to find classic is a life lessons book disguised as a book about architecture. A great deal of it talks about qualities of building (web pages, marketing materials, houses, careers, whatever) in ways that put words to things you’ve been wanting to express all your life but never quite found. Alexandar’s book is wonderfully refreshing and helps you to develop a language of patterns for anything you’re doing in creative work.


Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trunpga. Trungpa’s Shambhala will wake you up. It will literally deliver a swift kick to your head and also explain why some things that should make you happy instead sometimes evoke sadness. It’s not depression – it’s an inherent quality of beauty, an understanding that what you’re looking at isn’t going to last. Very worthwhile. If you read, study, and master this book, you will make huge strides towards freeing yourself of many of your self-imposed limitations.


The Art of War. Sun Tzu’s military classic has been translated and retranslated more times than you can count, and most of the translations are based on the old 1910 Lionel Giles translation. While workable, Giles didn’t necessarily capture the flavor of Chinese idioms or the language as well. Wee Chow Hou’s translation does a great job of this. Even if you’ve read other translations, get this one.

Fresh Eyes

The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman. This is THE book I recommend to anyone who’s just gotten a digital camera. While it’s easy to get started with basic photography ideas like the Rule of Thirds, Freeman’s book takes you to another level. He teaches you how to SEE, how to look for photographic opportunities, recognize patterns, use built-in human tendencies for eye movement, and see life through your lens in new and different ways. Freeman’s book is a game changer, not just for a photographer, but for anyone who has to do any kind of visual work – web design, WordPress themes, marketing collateral, whatever.

Notice something else here? None of these books are sales or marketing books. There’s a reason for that. If you’re looking for brain changing, game changing books, chances are the thinking you’re looking for isn’t going to come from the sales and marketing section of your bookstore. You have to dig into much more primal stuff in order to get to those breakthroughs – art, photography, architecture, war, belief. Marketing books can interpret some of these primal things and transform them into actionable materials, but you first have to have a well to drawn on, and no marketing book I’ve ever read can provide that.

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