December 16, 2019

Our Team’s Book Club Favorites From 2019

Once a month, we order in some lunch and get together around a big table to discuss the latest installment in our company book club. We’re big believers in the continual pursuit of self-improvement, and there is always something (or many things) we can learn from others in our space and adjacent to it.

With the year drawing to a close once again, we looked back on our shelf of dog-eared book club tomes and picked out our favorites. As is the case every year, not everything we read in 2019 was great, so these are just the hits.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, of Basecamp fame, have an uncanny habit for writing just the right book at just the right time. In 2010, their book Rework was the perfect guide for starting a company and establishing our agency. As we began to grow in 2013, Remote was an insightful outline about how to manage a team with people spread around the map. And today, in 2019 It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a needed manifesto on how to build a productive team in an age of buzzing and dining distractions. Each time we read something by these brilliant founders we get inspired to change our work for the better, and we can’t wait for the next one.

Make Time

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

In the same vein as the Fried and Hansson book above, Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky is a necessary little guide about how to reclaim your focus and energy in an increasingly chaotic digital world. We’re often in the business of promoting be-present-in-the-moment experiences via travel and healthy bodies and minds via publishing, so it’s important that we find a way to manage our own day-to-days to “make time” for deep and meaningful work (and play). This book is a helpful, down-to-earth, and step-by-step guide about how to have healthier relationships with our devices, platforms, and schedule.

This Won’t Scale

Drift Marketing Team

Honest and transparent storytelling about what it takes to find customers, build a team, and scale a business are what you’ll find in this quick read from the team at Drift. The big takeaway — focus on conversations with customers, not conversions (makes sense this is the team that coined the idea of Conversational Marketing). That’s one of the key topics covered in this manual, which runs through 41 key tips from the team that built this rising star in the marketing SaaS space.

Applied Empathy

Michael Ventura

We typically don’t read our client books in book club, but this one was too on-the-nose for us to let anybody get away without reading it cover-to-cover. Michael and his team at Sub Rosa are some of the best marketers in the business, and this book is the story of how they have developed a secret sauce that has led to an unbroken string of incredible work and unmatched results. Applied Empathy helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes and develop ideas and solutions that spark innovation and solve tough challenges. Nobody today has such a clear articulation of what makes great marketing.

Ruined by Design

Mike Monteiro

Lastly, speaking of great explainers, nobody working in design has a better moral compass and sharper wit than Mike Monteiro of Mule Design. Like Rework above, Monteiro’s previous book, 2012’s Design is a Job was the right book at the right time earlier in our growth — it taught us how to run a good business, how to present work effectively, and how to handle tough conversations. His latest manifesto is an angry-but-hopeful look at how technology and design have contributed to many of the ills faced by our world today. It’s a survey of what’s wrong, how we got here, and then ultimately how we in the creative and technology industries can use our powers for good to help right the ship. We’ve always been a community-minded company, but this year we have doubled-down in our pursuit of sustainability, education, and economic empowerment — and we’ve turned away work that doesn’t meet our ethical standards.

Do you have any recommendations for things we should read in 2020? Tweet us at @NativesGroup with your recommendations and we’ll add them to our list! Happy reading all.


About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just wrote his first book (Simply Put), and works with cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

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