The Essential Book List for Podcasters

10 Books That Will Make You a Better Podcaster

The Essential Book List for Podcasters

09.30.19 | Podcasting | By: Colby Schemm

The podcasting industry is for the disruptors, innovators, and people bold enough to believe they can change the world around them. It’s for people with a message, a story, and an openness to step up to the microphone and share what’s on their heart and mind. 

Podcasting is a digital frontier, and more and more prospectors are getting in on this digital gold rush. 

As the market of podcasts becomes increasingly crowded, the competition will continue to grow fiercer. Podcasting is a young medium, but I believe that the creative principles that have led to success in film, music, and books can be studied and applied to podcasting. That’s why I created this list of the 10 books that will make you a better podcaster.

It’s so easy to say we don’t have time to read only to turn around and spend two or three hours a day on our phones. But we can’t afford not to read. We deserve to invest in ourselves and our art. So let’s dive in and become better podcasters together. 

10 Books That Will Make You a Better Podcaster 

  1. So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport)
  2. Mastery (Robert Green)
  3. Rework (Jason Fried and David H. Hansson) 
  4. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
  5. Linchpin (Seth Godin)
  6. Building a Story Brand (Donald Miller)
  7. A Curious Mind (Brian Grazer)
  8. Real Artists Don’t Starve (Jeff Goins)
  9. Deep Work (Cal Newport)
  10. Essentialism (Greg McKeown) 

Side Note: You have no excuse not to read. You can check out e-books from libraries around the world for free on Libby. Alternatively you can listen to them on Audible while you’re doing other things.

1.So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport) 

In So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport (Deep Work, Digital Minimalism) sets out to dispel the myth that “following your passion” leads people to a fulfilling career. He begins by studying what makes for a happy career. Through careful study and many compelling examples, he shows that the people who are the happiest in their careers are those who have “career capital.” This capital is a sort of social currency at your workplace where you opinions are valued, you have the power to influence and shape the work culture, and you are able to turn down tasks that don’t interest you in favor for more meaningful and exciting projects that you love. 

Newport argues that there is one clear and nearly guaranteed way to acquire this precious resource of career capital: excellence. Being excellent at what you do will make more work come across your desk, and give you more control over the type of work you do. 

Acquiring this social currency requires you to have the craftsman mindset. This is the mindset of pursuing excellence in whatever job you are doing by research, apprenticeship, and practicing your trade for countless hours, days, and years. 

“When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.” 

And this leads to the next point at the core of Newport’s message: how you work is more important than what your work is. 

So what does this have to do with podcasting?

I would argue that the majority of people start a podcast because they are passionate about a message, a mission, or a story. But many people stop spreading their message because they don’t see immediate results. 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You is a call to persevere. It’s a call to embrace the tedium of building your brand, researching for your podcast, creating draft after draft of your story, and interviewing hundreds of people in exchange for the long-term payoff of respect, impact, and career capital that will follow if you are patient. 

Once you earn this career capital, then you can spend it on the things that inspire you the most. 

So there you have it: the reason that you need to be So Good They Can’t Ignore You. But don’t take my word for it – read it yourself. You’ll be inspired by the stories of real people whose lives have been transformed by keeping their focus on what they can do for their work, not what their work can do for them. 

2.Mastery (Robert Greene)  

10,000 hours. Ten years. 

These two metrics are popularly held as the minimum standard for achieving mastery of a specific craft. In Mastery, Robert Greene weaves together the common threads he has found in masters of many different disciplines throughout the centuries. 

Greene describes mastery as that point where your craft becomes an extension of your personality. It is that point where highly complex tasks that used to be handled by your frontal cortex are pushed further down the brain and become second-nature reflexes. 

This inspirational book provides a glimpse into the unique challenges and sacrifices that are required to truly achieve mastery by tracing the stories of the greats such as Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, and others. 

The book provides a simple blueprint for achieving mastery. The three core steps towards achieving mastery are (1) Apprenticeship, (2) creativity and activity, and (3) mastery. 

Ultimately, the argument of mastery is very similar to that of the first book on this list, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. This book argues that the price for attaining mastery is much higher than we like to believe, but the roi is even better than we realize in our microwave culture. 

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. And the process of learning skills, no matter how virtual, remains the same.”

3. Rework (Jason Fried & David H Hanssnon)

Rework is a book for disruptors. It’s a book for those who want to think differently. It’s a book that questions every single thing that the world of business and productivity calls normal. It’s a call to do the opposite. 

Written by the founders of Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), a massively influential tech company whose work has been a launching pad for platforms like Twitter, GitHub, and Shopify, Rework is a book about how to “run a happy and healthy business.” 

The central message of this book is how to create a thriving business. And nearly all of the principles that are presented can be translated and applied to your work in podcasting. 

The central message of Rework is simplicity. What is the most important thing that you can do right now to make your podcast the best it can be? 

The example they give in the book is a hotdog stand. If you’re running a hotdog stand you could easily start expanding to managing a full condiment bar, multiple brands of chips, different drinks and maybe even a coffee bar, magazines and PopSockets. 

But what is the core reason people go to a hotdog stand? The hotdog. By focusing on getting the best hotdogs, buns, ketchup and mustard, you will set yourself up for long-term stability and success.  

So  I guess the question is, what’s your podcasts hotdog? Read Rework and you’ll be challenged to find that core value you and your brand give to the world, and will be challenged to make it so good that nobody can ignore you. 

4. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield) 

The War of Art is a no-bs book about the creative process. Regardless of the specific craft you’re practicing, this book will help you confront your own problems of procrastination, laziness, and burnout. 

“Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy.” 

This is the ethos of the book: we are our own worst critic. This inner voice that criticizes our work and keeps us from sitting down to work is what Pressfield calls “the resistance.” This force, according to Pressfield, comes both from internal and external sources. The resistance is the price of admission to the creative arena. 

The War of Art is like a creative devotional book, with 1-2 page poetic chapters that pack a punch. 

Whenever you start scripting the podcast, writing the intro, or storyboarding the season, you are stepping into the territory where the resistance lives. You will be attacked with self-doubt, discouragement about your ideas, and more. But the powerful message behind this book is that every person who has ever created something of value in this world has faced that same discouragement and inner battle. You’re not alone. 

If you are facing resistance today, plunge into the work and fight back. And if you need some encouragement and inspiration, then read The War of Art! 

5. Linchpin (Seth Godin)

Are you indispensable at work? The new economy, according to marketing guru Seth Godin, belongs to those who make themselves indispensable. How can you be indispensable? By being an artist. 

What is an artist? Seth says an artist is someone who gives more than they take. An artist is a contributor to society. An artist is someone that cannot be adequately paid back for what they contribute to culture. 

The central argument of Linchpin is that historically, America has raised people to work in factories. We have all been trained to keep our heads down, mind our own business, and work on the assembly lines of systematic work that lacks passion and care. 

But there is another way. Seth makes the case that while in the past there were only two categories in a career, manager and laborer, the modern economy is introducing a third category. This third category offers opportunity to wield more control, and bring your passion to work to make a difference in the world. The third way is the path of the linchpin. 

So what is a linchpin? A linchpin is a seemingly unimportant piece of hardware that holds a widget together. A linchpin makes a big impact by doing the smallest things with care and excellence.

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.”

I believe that podcasting is an incredible opportunity to be a linchpin. Podcasting is a powerful platform to give away a meaningful and valuable message to the world. In exchange, you are asking for people’s attention, their feedback and reviews, and potentially their consideration of donating to your work or considering a product that supports you. 

Podcasting isn’t just an opportunity for being a linchpin, it’s a platform that optimized for linchpins. Put simply, the podcasts that succeed in the long run are those that give their listeners the most value. They are the podcasts that are giving away the secrets, opening up in vulnerability and sharing their stories, asking the difficult questions and having real conversations, and the shows that critically engage with their fan base and serve them with consistently better content. 

Whether you’re looking to level up in your career, level up your podcast, or be a more thoughtful consumer, Linchpin’s message will show you that there is too much at stake to not create art. 

6. Building a Story Brand (Donald Miller) 

Whether you host a storytelling podcast, interview podcast, or some sort of monologue, every podcast is telling a story. 

The argument of Building a Story Brand is that humans see all of life through the lens of stories. We are storytelling creatures. We need stories to understand our lives and to understand the world around us. Every one of us is a storyteller. 

Donald Miller, author of NYT bestsellers Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, shares the vital lessons he has learned in studying countless storylines in screenplays and books from throughout all of human history. He breaks down the story arch of nearly every story that you’ve ever heard into a seven-step process. 

Then, after explaining this metanarrative and showing you countless examples of how it plays out in the ads, movies, and books we see, he helps you understand how you can use this same map to clarify the message that your brand is trying to share with it’s listeners. 

You cannot afford to ignore this book. 

Building a Story Brand will show you timeless truths about why we love the stories that we love. But be warned, once you start studying story structures you will start to predict the end of that new movie, the development of that character in the novel, and see the tactics behind advertisers who want your attention. 

Reading Building a Story Brand, and subsequently going through the StoryBrand workshop online has been a valuable part of my professional development and understanding as a writer and marketer, and I am certain that it will challenge the way that you structure your podcast content, message, and marketing. 

“In a story, audiences must always know who the hero is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want, what tragic thing will happen if the hero doesn’t win, and what wonderful thing will happen if they do.”

Through Building a Story Brand, you will learn practical tactics to add more value to your listeners, learn about developing a process plan, develop better calls to action for your audience, and more. The book teaches abstract concepts about storytelling and the emotional journeys that humans relate to on a concrete and actionable level. 

“Here is nearly every story you see or hear in a nutshell: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.” 

7. A Curious Mind (Brian Grazer)

“We are all trapped in our way of thinking, trapped in our own way of relating to people. We get so used to seeing the world our way that we come to think that the world is the way we see it.” 

Brian Grazer, the Academy-Award winning producer of Arrested Development,  attributes much of his creative success to one thing: curiosity. In A Curious Mind, Grazer makes the case that asking good questions and genuinely listening to learn from the perspective of another person is one of the most powerful creative tools we have. 

Grazer presents a compelling explanation of curiosity and how it is linked to success and fulfillment in life. Curiosity is underlying every relationship. You get to know somebody because you are interested in them and that relationship flourishes or flounders based on the amount of interest you show through questions you ask.

Questions help businesses create valuable products that anticipate user needs. Questions lead the greatest authors to make novel connections between ideas, which leads to the best books. Questions keep podcast listeners engaged by guiding a thoughtful conversation between the host and guest. 

Questions are a powerful resource that we all wield. But it’s easy to forget how powerful. This book provides a hope that their is more opportunity in the world around us than we immediately see, and the best way to unlock opportunity is by asking the right questions and following through with curious listening. 

8. Real Artists Don’t Starve (Jeff Goins)  

How much do you charge for your creative work? Probably less than you should. Art is so intangible that it can be challenging to know what to charge for what you are creating. But you deserve to be paid for your creative work.

How do you stand up for what you’re worth as an artist, writer, or podcaster with a humble confidence in your work? That’s the primary question that Real Artists Don’t Starve answers. 

Should you go full time with your creative work? What steps does it take to raise your price and have a deeper confidence in the value you are providing people? How do you turn your art into a business? These are the questions that Jeff Goins clearly addresses in Steal Like An Artist. 

While this book does provide some actionable advice, it is most heavily focused on changing your philosophy and mindset about creativity. Running a creative business doesn’t have to take the art out of it. Rather, it requires new layers of creativity and discomfort to fight for your worth and push yourself to new creative heights, as a business owner and creative. 

What could this mean for your podcast? Maybe you aren’t taking your show as seriously as you should. Maybe you really could monetize your podcast if you plan the work and work the plan. 

No matter where you are on the journey of creating work that you’re passionate about, let me leave you with this call to action:  “There is no better way to improve than to put your work out there—sharing it for the whole world to see—no other way to get discovered than to risk rejection. You have to practice in public.”

9. Deep Work (Cal Newport)

Cal Newport defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” 

Deep Work is a book about focus, and makes the case that focus is a rare and extremely valuable commodity in the modern world. Distraction is the new norm due to the ubiquity of the smartphone, internet connectivity, and the endless onslaught of entertainment that these platforms have introduced. This means that reaching a state of focused work, where you are pushing your cognitive abilities to their limits is harder than ever.

But deep work is worth the effort. And Newport’s arguments are as clear and compelling as ever. Newport grounds his arguments concretely in the lives of men and women whose work has made a massive impact on society. In Deep Work you will learn about the tower that Carl Jung retreated to while in the midst of a fierce intellectual battle with Sigmund Freud. 

You’ll learn about the bimodal philosophy of deep work, the journalistic philosophy of deep work, how J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates both employed the “Grand Gesture” tactic to think big thoughts and reach new intellectual and professional heights, and the importance of intentional boredom and fun for thriving creativity and innovation. 

Deep Work is an important book for every single knowledge worker to read and apply. It challenges our concepts of productivity and provides a clear path towards mastering our craft through focused work and disciplined routines.

Whether you are struggling to keep up with your podcast’s content calendar, feeling burnt out from doing research on your next podcasts topic, or running out of inspirational social media posts to market your show, Deep Work will give you the practical tools to take control of your schedule, make clear goals and boundaries for your professional work, and persevere through fatigue and setbacks that are common to every creative endeavor. 

Even as I read back through this book in preparation for this blog post, I was struck with fresh insights on how I am letting too many ephemeral distractions dictate how I spend my time. I was convicted about how I can do a better job managing my day-to-day schedule here at Resonate, and challenged me to set up some new parameters in my personal schedule for intentional boredom and rest. 

Deep work requires investing a lot of your energy. But the only risk is reward. Newport is convinced that “to leave the distracted masses to join the focused few… is a transformative experience.” Are you ready to join the few focused podcasters who are making a real difference by shaking off the unimportant many things for the essential few?

10. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)

Essentialism is the disciplined pursuit of less. It is a concept that has been practiced for millenia by the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders, and activists. It is finding that priority, or single most important task, belief, or person in your life. 

In the digital era, this book speaks a counter-cultural message that says we need to do less, but better. We are inundated with too much information, too many options, too much instant gratification. Essentialism is a book for those who want to make a bigger impact in the world through small, calculated, disciplined practices.

The principles discussed in this book apply to all areas of life, from building healthy relationships to growing your business to creating a thriving podcast fan base. 

One of the most compelling aspects of Essentialism is found in the fourth section on “Execution.” This is the concept of buffer. McKeown writes, “These days the pace of our lives is only getting faster and faster. It is as if we are driving one inch behind another car at one hundred miles an hour. If that driver makes even the tiniest unexpected move–if he slows down even a little, or swerves even the smallest bit–we’ll ram right into him.” 

This quote is applicable even within the world of podcasting. Our team has seen so many ambitious podcasters create a content schedule for themselves that is frankly too ambitious. These overly ambitious plans, with little buffer, frequently lead to burnout and failure.

The way of an essentialist, rather, would be to build in healthy buffer room for your podcast and steadily increase your content production rather than becoming sporadic, off-schedule, and burnt out. 

“An essentialist produces more—brings forth more—by removing more instead of doing more.” 

If you’re tired of constantly feeling busy and unproductive, if you want to get unstuck, then this book is for you. If you only have the capacity to read one book on this list, then I recommend that you practice essentialism by choosing this book. 

Conclusion

There are so many books on the creative process that it was challenging to limit this list to ten books. But I hope that you find a book on this list that answers a question you have, gives you that kick of motivation you need to finish that passion project, or teaches you a new strategy to grow your podcast. Please continue to invest in your own creativity, and let me know what you’re learning along the way. I’d love to hear about what books have impacted you on your creative journey! 

Let’s Connect 

Resonate Recordings is a comprehensive podcast production company. Headquartered in Derby City–Louisville, Kentucky–we are committed to developing partnerships with our clients, not just performing transactions. Since 2014 it’s been our mission to make podcasting easy for businesses, brands, entrepreneurs, and individuals. We do this by providing support with podcast launch, podcast consulting, podcast editing, podcast production, and other creative podcasting services. If you have questions or are looking to start a podcast, our in-house team is available and ready to help! We would love to schedule a call with you and learn more about your podcast needs and answer any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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By: Colby Schemm

As a Content Specialist at Resonate Recordings, Colby creates & curates content on social media, & consults with clients to improve their podcast marketing strategies. Colby is from Roanoke, VA & now lives in Louisville, KY.