7 Essential Storytelling Books: Summer Reading List

Dog days of summer are officially here in NYC! What better time to catch up on your essential storytelling reading? Below is a list of my 7 favorite reads over the last couple months. You’ll find a quick summary on each book, along with links so you can check out reviews and more details. Let me know which of these is your favorite, and if you’ve got other essential books on your summer reading list. 

Wired for Story
 by Lisa Cron

Wired For Story

The book is a seductive guidebook on how to trigger the curiosity-seeking part of the brain, and what makes for a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This book masterfully practices what it preaches: a “Writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence.” I promise, it’s a lot more sexy that it sounds. This book is a genuinely refreshing addition to the field of storytelling.

Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Trust Me I

Truthfully, I attended the book’s launch party last week, and didn’t expect much of significance from the book itself. Instead, I spent the weekend engrossed in a mind-bending confessional of the media business in the 21st century. It shows how any blogger, brand, or marketer can masterfully manipulate collective reality. Ryan Holiday’s book is a provocative, controversial, and disturbing guidebook on the mechanics of media in the 21st century. In my honest opinion, it’s a must-read.

Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs

Written by the co-founder of Free Range, a pioneering agency that specializes in viral marketing campaigns. The book explores the fertile territory of cultural myth-making and how how to go beyond the inadequacy marketing of yesteryear. Full of examples of brands and social change campaigns. For an introduction to the topic, watch my recent webinar with Jonah Sachs.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit

Just like every map has a border, stories need structure. Your life does too. In this best-selling book, Duhigg employs masterful storytelling to illuminate the power of routines and habits to generate more of what you want in life. Let’s be honest, we’re all a bit overwhelmed. This book can inspire you to create your own order out of the chaos.



Fate and Destiny by Michael Meade

Fate and DestinyThe only story you’ve come here to live is your own. In this seminal book (new edition just released), Michael Meade helps you understand the inter-related dimensions of Fate and Destiny. You can’t have one without the other. If you’re a student of ancient myth, you’ll love this book.



The Culture Game by Dan Mezick

The Culture Game

A groundbreaking book at the intersection of organizational learning, software hacking, and culture design. If you care about creating intentional cultures, this is another must-read for your library. Dan is a friend, mentor, and coach who’s had a profound impact on my work and thinking about the role of storytelling in cultures. For an introduction to this work, watch my recent webinar with Dan Mezick.


The $100 Start-up by Chris Guillebeau

The 0 Start-up

This zeitgeist book celebrates countless stories of entrepreneurs on a path of career independence. If you’re someone that’s playing their own game, and wants guidance on how to build a viable business, then read the latest best-seller from globetrotting adventurerer Chris Guillebeau. It’s full of inspiring stories and practical advice on how to build your own DIY media company for pennies on the dollar. Much of what Chris advocates is core to the DNA of Get Storied and our entrepreneurial playbook.


What’s on your Essential Reading List?

Which of the following books do you plan on reading? Do you have another book on your essential reading list for the summer? Add to the comments below.


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26 thoughts on “7 Essential Storytelling Books: Summer Reading List”

      1. Thanks, Michael, for the list. I’ve been a writer for my entire career, but I’m only now just discovering the incredible trove of research, study and scholarship that has and is being done on story and storytelling. (For me, it all started with Joseph Campbell.) I realize it’s in vogue these days to promote one’s business as “storytelling,” but I believe the practitioners who know their stuff and do the necessary reading and research will rise to the top.

  1. This is a great list, Michael, and there are some books I haven’t heard of so this is a good pleasure reading to escape the NYC crazy heat. I’d also like to add an informational product (not a book) to the list as I believe it is timely for Storytellers who want to enrich their life and business. I’ve finished (finally!) my homestudy course complete with downloadable mp3s, and eworkbook with practical exercises and learning guides, “Giving Voice to the Voiceless: A 5 Step Program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story”

    Check out the details of this groundbreaking program here.

    Thank you so much for sharing and good luck with your storytelling ventures/pursuits.

    Dorit Sasson
    creator of “Giving Voice to the Voiceless”

  2. An essential read – for a summertime during an election year – not a “how to”  – but tells the story – shows the subtle influences – not just for kids
    Duck For President by Doreen Cronin

  3. I tell everyone to begin at the beginning with “The Mind in the Cave,” an exhaustively researched history of the rock art and cave paintings created by Paleolithic shamans, the chief storytellers of their time and the originators of the written narrative. Written by the world’s leading authority on this complex topic, David Lewis-Williams, professor emeritus of cognitive archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. http://www.amazon.com/J.-David-Lewis-Williams/e/B001HD3BP0/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

  4. Excellent list, Michael. And good reads.
    The three additional books I might recommend include:
    1) CS Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”. A fiction book that tosses you back and forth between logic and emotion – and exposes the many ways you can accomplish that through effective languaging.

    2) The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield: This compliments storytelling in kicking you in the butt – adding much needed discipline to the storytelling process.

    3) The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron – A big part of rich storytelling is digging deep and finding that “thing” that may be illusive in the light of day. Julie’s “Morning Pages” is the best exercise I have found for helping resurrect your voice and seeing it as it really is. 

    A powerful starting point for your incredible storytelling process, Michael.

  5. Michael:
    Thanks for the great list. I would recommend people read “What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and The Power of Story”, by Mike Bosworth and Ben Zoldan. streetsmartprof

  6. Great list!  I second the motion on The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.  Also, everyone must read Robert McKee’s classic “Story”.  A couple others are “Save The Cat” for a variety of clever devices/techniques.  For a complex but thorough treatment, read “The Anatomy of Story.”

  7. I’d concur with the others on Annette Simmons. Also, McKee’s “Story” should be required for any storytellers library. As far as your summer reading list goes, I already had “Habit” on my reading list. I’ll add “Wired for Story” and maybe “Winning the Story Wars”, but I try to read a fiction classic or two during the summer so we’ll see how many I can get to. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wicked list mate – really love these books and the work you do. Here’s to the revolution that started thousands of years ago on a cave wall in France somewhere 🙂

  9. I love everyone’s selections.  Add Jonathan Gottschall’s The Story Telling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human to the list

  10. Michael, interesting list and great additional suggestions in the comments. Here are a few others that get beyond the gist of most books on storytelling (which I would describe as “Hey! Look at this shiny new object I found! Storytelling! I don’t really understand it or know how to use it but people like the word and I’ll sell the hell out of it until the next shiny object comes along!”):

    Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story by Kendall Haven

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

    Haven gets at the science, which is so essential to overcoming the skepticism of many that storytelling is just the latest fad made up by a bunch of marketers trying to sell us stuff we don’t need. Campbell, of course, artfully and compellingly demonstrates that across culture, geography and time, and regardless of income or other variables, humans have again and again told the same stories to each other.

    Two great pillars of ideas, science and history to support any real storyteller’s work!

  11. Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?: What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader [Hardcover]

    Robert Goffee

    (Author), Gareth Jones (Author)

  12. If you’re into how authentic storytelling can help build or promote your business “Storytelling – Branding in Practice” is a quick and easy read with simple tools and good stories 

  13. Definitely going to follow up on this list.. Just came upon ur name – bummed I just left to east village–> flight back to Melb Australia- you should come here and storify! Lots of interest for sure.
    If ur ever interested and need a hand tweet me @meditatecreate love helping bring #creativity to Oz

  14. Hello Michael,
    I went to La Nuit du Storytelling yesterday night in Geneva, where I was listening to storytellers from French speaking part of Switzerland. I left with mixed feelings… This morning by accident I fell into your Tedx talk. That’s what I hoped to hear yesterday night! To the point and excellent presentation! Thank you.
    Do you ever come to Geneva or Lausanne with your workshops/presentations?
    Svetlana Froidevaux from Geneva

  15. Thanks for the list. I found some of the ideas are great for presentation skill. If you want to put a presentation together, follow the story telling approach. It helps.

  16. Pingback: Wontok , Archive » Storytelling as a Language Tool

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