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In my recent post, 7 Habits Of Highly Successful Market Researchers, I argued that modern insight professionals should seek out fresh insights. In particular, I suggested that successful researchers read more than others—that they keep their industry knowledge fresh by immersing themselves in books, magazines and blogs related to their practice.

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Since summer is a great time to catch up on some reading, I want to expand on that point. Here’s a list of seven books that can help market researchers become more successful at their jobs.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Over the last four years, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow has become a must-read for marketers and market researchers seeking to explain human behavior. Terms from this book such as “System 1” and “System 2” (Kahneman’s terms for the two modes of thought) and “loss aversion” have already entered the business lexicon. Released in 2011, this award-winning best seller promises to be an important reference for market researchers in the decades ahead.

2. Answers to Contemporary Market Research Questions - ESOMAR

I had the pleasure of editing this book with Sue York, Research Services Manager from the University of Queensland. Answers to Contemporary Market Research Questions provides an overview of 20 different market research topics, including social media and pricing research. It covers basic questions (such as “What is Qualitative Research?”) as well as more complex topics like implicit measurement. If you have colleagues or clients new to research, or if you are new to a specific technique, this book is a great starting point.

3. Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature - Mark Earls

A provocative counterpoint to Kahneman, Herd explores the mechanics of mass behavior. The book’s premise is this: If behavioral economics governs what happens between our ears, then social interactions, such as sharing and copying, govern what happens between people. This book highlights the extent of sharing and copying and shows why the answers to many problems are not to be found within individual minds but across and between minds.

4. Talk Like TED - Carmine Gallo

Increasingly, public speaking is becoming a critical skill for today’s market researchers. Thankfully, there are many great books about developing this important skill, including my favorite, Garr Reynolds’s Presentation Zen. The big plus with Gallo’s Talk Like TED is that you can watch the TED presentations he is describing on the Internet, allowing you to see her tips in action.

5. The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver

Nate Silver is the leading voice for the opportunities and limits of big data. In The Signal and the Noise, Silver shows why and how data can predict the future in some situations (like baseball and weather) and why it can’t in other situations (such as earthquakes). Silver’s book is an eye-opening work on what data can do and what it can’t.

6. The Curve - Nicholas Lovell

This book challenges the way most people look at markets, fans and freeloaders (people who would use products for free but aren’t willing to pay for them). Lovell shows that in many fields, the companies that win are those that release their products for free while finding a way to get their brand’s fans to pay more. The popular mobile game Candy Crush is an example: it can be played for free, but earns revenues of about $1 million a day from people who chose to pay to access in the way they want.

7. Lean In - Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In is a timely read for market researchers for two reasons. The first is that is illustrates how data can be used to examine real world phenomena and determine what is really happening. Sandberg uses data to show the problem of gender inequality in the corporate world and to suggest solutions to the issue.

Secondly, Lean In is a wake up call to high-tech industries that the world is not as prejudice-free as we would like it to be. The world Sandberg is talking about includes market research and marketing—just as much as software, social networks and the broader society.

What books would you add?

I recommended seven books here, but I could have easily listed 20, including such gems as Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, The Cluetrain Manifesto and Predictably Irrational. What three books would you add to my list, and why?

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