Issue 80: The Best Books of 2019
From Serial Marketer: "The Cutting Edge of Marketing”

You're getting this earlier in the week as I (and I hope you) wind down ahead of the holidays.

I'm actually not sure which books were the best published in 2019, but below is a roundup of the best books I read or listened to in 2019. Most weren't published this year. They are still great books.

I keep track of the books I read in a book report journal, which I write in by hand. It's not searchable, but it does wonders for helping me crystallize what I've read, and I've been doing this religiously since 2004.

Here are some of the highlights in barely any particular order. We can also connect on Goodreads to compare notes. 


The Old Drift
by Namwali Serpell
I read this because of a review of it from Salman Rushdie, one of my favorite authors (whose new book, Quichotte, I also listened to this year, but it wasn't his best). This audiobook was perhaps the first I listened to twice in a row just to process the whole story, and then I read some passages on the Kindle and realized I missed even more. This multi-layered saga of intertwining families in Zimbabwe over a century is so rich, so beautiful, and so complex. Also, Sarah Jessica Parker liked my review on Goodreads, so that was a first.

The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas
I read this several years ago but wanted to again, so this time, I listened to it. Clocking in at nearly 47 hours in the John Lee recording (at 1x speed, at least), I couldn't want to keep tuning in, even knowing some of what was coming next. It is practically perfect and satisfying storytelling.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
I hadn't read this since I was in high school. I didn't previously appreciate just how daring Twain was with his characters and how vivid he was conjuring each character's essence through his or her dialogue. Also, if you're into Twain or want to be more into Twain, listen to any of Nick Offerman's Twain recordings on Audible. They are so much fun.

Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire
by Amitav Ghosh
This trilogy follows the fate of those sailing from India to Mauritius on the Ibis, a ship whose owners trade in opium and indentured servants. It then expands to follow some of them and their family members across India, China, and beyond. It is a haunting tale of imperialist trade, and the joy of reading it now is that you can read all three consecutively. 


A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
by Sonia Purnell
Virginia Hall was an American with a wooden leg who happened to outrun and outsmart almost all the Nazis she encountered and happened to keep the flames of French resistance burning during World War II's darkest hours. What a hero, and what an inspiration. We should name elementary schools and airports named after her. 

The Radical King
Edited by Cornel West
I listened to this around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and got a little bit more woke to the resonance of Dr. King Jr.'s words read by LeVar Burton, Wanda Sykes, Leslie Odom Jr., and others.

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope
This story seems unreal, and it's another tale of terrific journalism tracking down one of the world's biggest con artists, Malaysia's Jho Low. 

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy
by Paige Williams
It's sort of like Billion Dollar Whale but with dinosaurs and a less elusive protagonist. Given dinosaurs are more exciting than derivatives, it's hard to pick which book is better. Also, this book has cameos by Nicolas Cage while Whale has DiCaprio.

Digital Minimalism
by Cal Newport
What I thought could have been a blog post stretched out to book-length wound up being one of the more influential books I read this year and inspired several columns.

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution
by Peter Hessler
A favorite author of mine for his work on China, Hessler is a marvel at combining investigative journalism with deep humanity and empathy. Read any of his work, including is New Yorker articles, and you'll see it right away.

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America
by Jared Cohen
A book I learned about after watching him speak at Techonomy, it's insane how many times America has changed presidents mid-term or has been on the verge of doing so due to assassination, injury, or illness. We are still not prepared for such changes.

Designated Hebrew: The Ron Blomberg Story
by Ron Blomberg
Somehow, growing up, I missed that professional baseball's first designated hitter was Jewish; maybe it's because Blomberg played for the Yankees, and I was a Mets fan (more likely: my dad didn't know either). This concise autobiography is a treat for anyone who loves the game. 

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
by Ronan Farrow
This book, narrated by the author, is one of my favorites I've listened to, and I'm not even finished yet as I write this. I could only read so much news about the Harvey Weinstein scandal as it happened (and continues to unfold, with the settlement), but this story is more about the power of journalism, and it helps that Farrow comes off as so manic, driven, and maybe a little bit nuts in all the right ways. 

These Truths: A History of the United States
by Jill Lepore
What makes America America? Well, slavery is part of it. Reading Oxford History's "The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789)" as I did this year, you'd think slavery and racism were minor inconveniences for a subset of the population (Native Americans were given short shrift too, as usual). Lepore's book, full of love for the US, doesn't flinch from its biggest missteps and controversies. 

Ego, Authority, Failure: Using Emotional Intelligence Like a Hostage Negotiator to Succeed as a Leader.
by Derek Gaunt
I loved "Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss, and this was basically the sequel. It is almost as good as the original, and a welcome refresher for what Voss covered.

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day 
by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
Make more time in your day and Kondo out the time clutter. I dare you not to find a few tips you embrace here.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
by James Gleick
It's a wonky book on the evolution of information, but very readable and timely.

The Willpower Instinct
by Kelly McGonigal
This should climb the sales charts again over the holidays. Some of my favorite sections were about why self-compassion is so much more effective a strategy than self-criticism, and how mindfulness can effectively overcome many of the worst temptations. If you prefer to think of this as a psychology book instead of a self-help book to motivate you to read it, do whatever works. 

Added Kudos

I had a hard time picking favorites among friends' books I read this year. But here are some other terrific reads to check out:
-Built to Suck by Joe Jaffe
-The Disruption Mindset by Charlene Li
-Indistractable by Nir Eyal
-Savvy by Shiv Singh

Which of these have you read, and what's at the top of your list this year? I'm curious to hear. And as you wrap the year, I'm curious what you're making of yourself.

This is the last newsletter of the year. There will be many more ahead starting January 8 onward. If you're in New York that day, details on our next First Wednesday event are below.

May you have wonderful, peaceful, fulfilling holidays with your loved ones or even yourself. Thanks for all the support you've given me this year, even just by opening these missives. 

Happy New Year.



84% of B2C marketers surveyed by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs are focused on brand awareness, and nearly as many are educating audiences, but more than 61% are focused on using content to generate demand and leads. Learn more in this detailed report (no registration required) .

Marketing lessons from Gymshark, online retail stats, Google's March algorithm change, and financial services disruptive trends top this list of most-read articles from Econsultancy, which I've cited here frequently this year.

I'm not sure if this is my first Baby Yoda reference in the newsletter. If so, sorry to disappoint you, but I have been avidly following his every move. And in a very short period of time, he forced himself to the top of Google's search trends.


Want to include your event below? Just reply with the details.

Submissions due December 19 for regular submission (€25), December 31 for late submission (€47)
Awards ceremony: March 27, 2020, in Venice, Italy

BOLD Awards recognizes top companies, projects and individuals powering breakthroughs around the world.

January 6, 2020
Via Jay Mandel of The Collective NYC: "Join me for an intimate live workshop where I will share with you my proprietary method for defining your core values. The process starts with defining your core values and then uses those values to anchor your business in terms that drive meaning for you and connect with your customers and prospects." Exclusive here: use the code 'serial' for 20% off.

January 8, Royalton Park Avenue (29th St)
Serial Marketers has teamed up with First Wednesdays to bring back this long-standing tradition in NYC. Every month, we meet at the top-floor penthouse bar from 6-9. While Zack Rosenberg and Rachel Herskovitz post the event links on Facebook, if you want the recurring invite on your calendar, just let me know, and I'll add you to it. I'm also now sending updates via Meetup.
(Given the January 1 holiday, this is a rare Second Wednesday.)

Gotham has several terrific events coming up that you should check out:

-January 16, 6:30pm: VC Forum 2020
Gotham Media's annual VC Forum brings together leaders in the world of venture capital for a discussion of what's hot and what entrepreneurs and investors can look forward to over the year ahead.

-January 23, 6:30pm: Health & Wellness Pitch Night
Please join us for a great evening of discussion and pitches from the world of HALO (Health, Active Lifestyle, Outdoor). HALO is now a $4.2 TRILLION dollar industry. Our panels of mentors, investors will discuss what they're doing in the market and then hear from a cross-section of vetted companies who will pitch to our audience in a "quick pitch" format.

-January 30, 6:30pm: Startup & Early Stage Shark Tank
Don't miss an evening of quick pitches by some of New York's most exciting startups and early stage companies as well as Gotham's Media's signature food and drinks. Join investors and seasoned entrepreneurs to learn what's hot and what's not in the City's vibrant startup community.

(I'll have more updates on SXSW as we get closer.)
March 11, 2020
Austin, TX
Attention Designers! Place by Design is a pitch competition aimed at showcasing innovative and invigorating design in the public sphere. Urbanists, artists, architects, and designers have the opportunity to present their scalable solutions for improving our shared landscape.


Reach out to me if you want introductions or any additional information, and let me know if you have other job postings you'd like to share. There have also been many job updates within the Slack community, so if you're part of that, be sure to check the #jobs channel for more. 

Social Media Managers (x4)
Yes, I know some folks there; as mentioned in Slack, they need four for a certain key account. "The Social Manager’s role is to define and execute the social media strategy for 360i brands across platforms. This person will lead all social media and advertising initiatives to increase overall engagement with the brand and brand positioning, driving social media strategies that fuel the business with best in class creative execution."

Director, E-Commerce - B2B Mobile
Ridgefield Park, NJ
My friend is the hiring lead, so I can refer you if this is relevant and interesting, and I also have a full job description that can be shared:
"The Director, eCommerce B2B Mobile (aka Head of eCommerce – B2B Mobile) will serve as a strategic-thinking, goal-driven head of merchandising, product, CRM, analytics/forecasting, social media management, affiliate/partnerships, and customer experience.  The Demand-Gen marketing team will provide customer insights/research, acquisition marketing content and media, and PR support. The Head of eCommerce – B2B Mobile will be responsible for building an ecommerce business within the B2B organization with external Samsung corporate support in the areas of web development and cart-checkout, fulfillment, and customer service."

Social Media Manager
The founder of KIND and other endeavors seeks a social media lead, ideally with around 4-7 years experience. "As the Social Media Manager you will be responsible for building Daniel’s social media platforms and engaging with Daniel’s community across multiple social platforms." See the #jobs channel in Slack for details and a warm intro, or let me know if you want to be connected directly.

Senior Social Media Insights Analyst
Via Chloe in Serial Marketers:

Other job resources:
-Ad Ops Online: Job listings for ad operations, programmatic account management, sales operations, and more
-ExecThread: Senior roles spanning a range of verticals and cities; membership is free but fully vetted
-TechNY Daily: While more technical typically, there are also some sales and marketing jobs at NY startups

Do you run or enjoy other job resources? Let me know, and I'll share them.


David Berkowitz, publisher


100+ TECH RECOMMENDATIONS (updated regularly)

18 TYPES OF STARTUP MARKETERS (now in quiz form, thanks to Riddle)

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(c) 2019 Serial Marketer
PS: Thank you so much for reading this.


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