The essential reading list for a cultural marketer

This is the first in a series of portfolio posts as part of my final assignment for the Cultural Leadership program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. I have tried to make some positive shifts over the duration of the program and as part of my final portfolio, I am using my website to document the good, bad and ugly. 

I stopped watching TV at some point last year. I slowly realized that the total daily screen time I had with work, on my personal social media platforms on my phone and then watching Netflix in the evening and on weekends was sucking hours and hours away from life. I am also a fidgety person, so I need time in the evening to unwind and need to get up early every day (a yellow lab will change your life forever), so a good night’s sleep is really important.

I started reading for an hour or two every night and ended up going to bed earlier, sleeping more fitfully and being able to apply this knowledge to my learning, my work and my life in general. PSA: books and libraries are great. 

Using book recommendations from faculty and colleagues, I have been able to read an acceptable amount of books over the past six months. Almost all of them were from my local library or found in thrift stores, so some of them are not new releases, but valuable nonetheless.  As always, I appreciate recommendations of books to read, so please comment any of your favourite recommendations below. 

The art of leadership

Art of Relevance by Nina Simon
Read this book. Actually, read all of her books and read her Museum 2.0 blog too. This woman transformed the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and now is changing the world with her Of/By/For All organization.

Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl
A friend of mine met me at a diner recently for a lunch. She gave me this book with a handwritten note over an omelette. The gesture of offering a book as a gift is a special one, and this book about food and love was an easy, but delightful, read.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of an Audience, Carmine Gallo
I have always been a weak presenter, so I started to look for some books to help me up my game. Carmine Gallo deconstructs dozens of Steve Jobs’s most iconic speeches and breaks them down into simple, and very effective teaching tools. I have already passed this book onto a friend, and would highly recommend this if you want to give compelling, passionate and memorable presentations.

Stories of this country

Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese
This late Richard Wagamese is a masterful storyteller, and this novel was one of my favourites of the year. Medicine Walk recounts the last week of life of Eldon, the father of Franklin Starlight, and their journey as they both search for answers before it’s too late.

Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead
This stunning debut novel by Joshua Whitehead captivated me from the first page. Jonny’s life after the reserve, his connection to the land, and his struggles and beautiful moments as a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer are chronicled on Jonny’s exploration of love, trauma, sex and perseverance. I look forward to see what is next from Joshua Whitehead.

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, Darrel J. McLeod
This book is the McLeod’s memoir, and chronicles his life from its origins in the village of Smith, Alberta and the impact of generational trauma can have on a family. I found this memoir sad and touching, and came away with an admiration for the strength and courage found in McLeod’s words and his ‘mamaskatch’, the Cree word used as a response to dreams shared.

In the Shadow of a Saint, Ken Wiwa
When you are the young adult son of a famous martyr, how do you write your own story? Ken Wiwa, both blessed and cursed with the same name as his prolific Nigerian father Ken Saro-Wiwa, shares the story of his life and growing up under his rightful, but unwanted, inheritance. As Wiwa writes, “[s]o where does Ken Saro-Wiwa end and Ken Wiwa begin? I don’t know. I have no idea where he ends, but I’m learning to accept and realise that I am my father’s son.”

Marketing at its core

The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier
Big words and lots of photos are a selling point for design-loving marketers. Neumeier’s website asserts that The Brand Gap is “the world’s most-read book on marketing”. You can download the PDF of the book for free here.

Marketing in the Groundswell,Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Although written more than a decade ago, the three core principles of communicating with customers have stood the test of time:
market research, marketing, and spreading word-of-mouth among your best customers. This is a little book and an easy read, and worth picking up from your local thrift store.

What Customers Crave, Nicholas Webb
As someone who digs marketing research, this was a fantastic read. There are excellent tools that go through the ‘Five Customer Touch Points’ that would helpful for any performing arts organization mapping the journey of its customers or niche arts organizations who have to personalize their offers for a small audience.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, Clay Shirky
This book is ten years old, so the impact of crowd-sourced digital media was in its infancy at the time of its publication. I found this book a bit academic, but enjoyed the history of grassroots movements such as Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exposure of abuse in the Catholic Church and the creation of the Passenger Bill of Rights. As someone who works in an institution, this gave me a different perspective of the power of citizens working collectively to affect change.

Being a woman in 2019

She Wants It: Desire, Power and Toppling the Patriarchy, Jill Soloway
Jill’s parent came out as transgender, and she used that story to create the award-winning Amazon TV series Transparent. This memoir of an author and director shares Jill’s evolution from a straight, married mother of two children to identifying as queer and nonbinary. A great read from a creative mind.

Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani
This book is inspired by the popular TED Talk by the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. I was immediately struck by the title of the book, as there are so many girls and women I know (myself included) who have thought they are not good enough, they are too afraid to fail, and desperately try to please everyone all the time. Saujani encourages us to try bravery, over perfection, and delivers a simple lesson that I will always remember – just try.

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, Soraya Chemaly
I left this one for the last because this book has truly changed my outlook on my life. Chemaly’s statistics about the impacts of bottling up anger on women’s physical, emotional and mental health are staggering. I was so fired up reading it and will insist that both of my children read this as they are old enough, as both boys and girls need to understand the centuries of patriarchy that is still very much alive in our world, and the lasting impact that it has on our lives every single day. Buy a copy for every woman you know!




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