Can’t-miss gifts for the 2009 Holiday Season and beyond—as always, with an MCE twist!

Full disclosure up front: All amazon links are affiliate links (except one to, which means if you click here, and buy there, the book costs you not a penny more but you may end up buying me a coffee. Thank you! All of the books are on my shelf right now, which means I believe in them enough to have purchased them. None of the other links are affiliate links, which means I get not a penny from them.

Everything here has been hand picked by me. If I linked to them you’d better believe they rock. Tell ‘em I sent you.


C’mon, I know you’re going to shop for everybody else in the next month, but during your down time I’ll bet you’re wondering how to gear up so 2010 is your best year ever—and so you can pay for all that shopping for everyone else.

First, the books that’ll help you Dream Big and think bigger, fine-tune your message, and rock out your Customer Experience. (If you insist, you can give these away to your own customers, too.)


Trade-Off, by Kevin Maney. We’ve talked about it here and Maney really digs into it—there’s only so many dollars in the business or consumer budget—why do they go some places and not others? My newest personal purchase, it left my jaw on the floor and had me making a million notes about what I can do with these ideas.

Why She Buys, by Bridget Brennan. I couldn’t decide if this is an actionable butt-kicker or a thought-piece. Two things it isn’t—it isn’t just for folks who want to market to women, because most of the insights will make a product or service more saleable to anyone, and it isn’t just for men to read to figure out what women want. Ladies, if you think you know it all because you live it all day long, you will be the most surprised by this one. Use it wisely, because if you see it as a butt-kicker and a thought-piece as I do, it could be a game-changer, too.

The Soccer Mom Myth, by Michele Miller and Holly Buchanan. These two incredibly talented authors give it away all the time at their blogs, and when they decided to join forces to write The Soccer Mom Myth, boy, is the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Another brilliant read that left me speechless.

No Size Fits All: From Mass Marketing to Mass Handselling, by Tom Hayes and Michael S. Malone. It’ll be years before I finish digesting all the great ideas in this book. ‘Nuff said.

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters, by Bill Tancer. Search terms and Internet activity are a window onto your potential customer’s soul. When Bill Tancer digs into that soul the results will surprise you and give you plenty of ideas for focusing your online and offline efforts.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin. By far his best work to date. Absolutely awesome.

Actionable butt-kickers:

Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. What can I say that’s fresh about a book I’ve often called life-altering? How about get off your duff and live every word of it starting today? I guess I could try that.

Duct Tape Marketing, by John Jantsch. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t fallen under the spell of Duct Tape Marketing, go ahead and get yourself a copy. This is Sticky-Ideas-101 for even the smallest of small biz.

Pow! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting From the Power of Surprise, by Andy Nulman. The guy read my mind when he wrote this book. I’m sure of it. Here, we call it delivering delight; Andy calls it Pow!—and okay, I’ll admit he’s got ideas that go way beyond mere delight. Some of the examples he gives have gotten companies fans that truly deserve to be called fanatics. I’ve plugged this book before; I’ve given it away to almost anyone who’ll stand still long enough; and I still want to know why you haven’t read it and started putting Andy’s ideas to work. Get the point?

Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, by C.J. Hayden. Practical, powerful, and in spite of the quick-fix title, endlessly useful. You’ll get as much out of it as you put into it—and then some.

Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. Because no matter how much you’ve simplified, over and over again as I audit and test clients’ sites with real users, I discover you—yes, you—haven’t simplified enough. If you’re already a proud Steve Krug follower, check out Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, by Jakob Nielsen and get your advanced degree in usability. It’s a few years old but so soundly researched and written that almost every usability rule in it is still just as viable today.

How to Become a Rainmaker, by Jeffrey J. Fox. Simple wisdom and steps you can take today or any day to make it rain customers for your business. I love this little book.

Non-business cool stuff you have to have:

I won’t lie to you. Kim Jennings is my cousin and I loved her way before her new CD came out. But the release date for My Own True North is December 1 [UPDATE 1 Dec: link now takes you right to her label’s store—I got my copy!], so you can fall in love, too—with her lilting voice and her timeless lyrics. While you’re waiting for the release, catch a glimpse of her appearing on the NECN Coffeehouse in October. And if you’re in the New England area and you’re dying to be a VIP at a CD release party, Kim would love to see you on December 4.

Other CDs I’ve gifted several copies of in the last year: the brooding, intelligent Fangless Wolf Facing Winter, by Kevin Parent (tip: the link sends you to—not an affiliate link for me but you’ll save a bundle), and the sparkling, intense-yet-peppy, self-titled Zee Avi. My books and music superstore must think we’ve got a huge Québécois and Malay population here, because as soon as the titles come in, I think of someone else with a birthday coming up and give one or the other away. My daughter’s brilliant guitar teacher is getting a copy of Fangless Wolf for Christmas (shh, don’t tell).

The Film Club, by David Gilmour. No, not that David Gilmour. If you have a teen, were a teen, remember when your kids were teens, or think that little guy who hangs on your every word now may someday be a teen, I urge you to buy this book. About once a year I read something so beautiful that I literally forget that I should sleep, and pull an all-nighter begging for the magic never to end. This totally true story of a father’s immense gift of time to his son, and what he and his son did with that gift, was just such a book.


Tired of giving the same old bookstore, Starbucks, and iTunes gift cards to thank your customers for being marvelous to work with and your best sources of referrals throughout the year? I’ve got a few great client gift ideas that should earn you more “Wow!” than “gee, thanks” this year. All of these businesses are as small as yours, so you can feel great about supporting other small businesses while you’re finding an unusual way to remember your own loyal fans:

Todd Smith Photography’s 2010 calendar is out, and like everything Todd’s camera touches, it’s evocative, observant, and filled with a sense of longing. How can photos of nature capture so much human emotion? Plus when you buy 3, you get a fourth free so you can keep one for beside your own desk. Your clients will thank you for this beautiful gift.

Lindisfarne Mead (U.K. site), available in the U.S. through Partners in Spirit. If your clients enjoy that holiday bottle of wine you bring by every year, but never seem too surprised, then this ancient delight is the perfect gift. Probably the oldest alcoholic drink in the world, mead was around even before agriculture. (The story of the drink, the company, and the beautiful Lindisfarne Island is at their U.K. site.) The flavor of Lindisfarne’s mead is out-of-this world—warm, friendly, and perfect for the holiday season.

Update: I’d been waiting on an email to be sure. Doug from Partners in Spirit just let me know that at present they can not ship Lindisfarne Mead to Canada. They’re interested, but they haven’t been able to make it happen yet. Sorry about that, my northern friends. I’ll just have to bring you a bottle the next time I’m travelling your direction, eh?

Coffee Break languages from Radio Lingua. Does your client have a trip coming up in 2010 that has them nervous, because they can barely remember their high-school Spanish-French-German-Italian? Give them the gift of language learning for the iPod, iPhone, mp3 player, or computer, with a taste of dozens of other languages including Gaelic, Mandarin, and Russian. Quick and easy lessons designed to fit into your coffee break. There’s a ton of free materials, but to really rock it out the premium materials—all incredible values—are a must. I love ‘em. It’s how I got my French in shape, and The Kid has bolstered her Spanish with the help of Radio Lingua, too. Plus Mark and the team are just fabulous to deal with.


Yours, or your clients’. Don’t underestimate the power of a gift that’s not for the client, but for those the client loves best in all the world.

Whale Rider (DVD). I know, it’s been around a while. But this little film never got the audience that the very best girl-power movie ever should have—I’ll bet you know a few people who haven’t seen it. If there’s a girl in your life who’s between 9 and 92, trust me, this movie is going to get them all fired up and ready to rule the universe.

Fresh chestnuts. I had planned to recommend a well-respected local grower, Delmarvelous Chestnuts, but wouldn’t you know it, fresh, sweet American chestnuts are such a hot commodity that they are already sold out for the season. If you and your kids have never had chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I suggest you buy a big bag from a small farm like Allen Creek of Ridgefield, WA (you may want to buy a roaster, too) and make it an evening of holiday fun. And for next year—get on Delmarvelous’ mailing list (and don’t forget to buy early like I did!).

The Kid, who’s 10, puts her stamp of coolness on The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen, The Name of This Book Is Secret and its sequels, by Pseudonymous Bosch, Twelfth Night—yes, she saw this Shakespeare play performed this summer and then read and utterly loved it in print (your mileage may vary), and The Encyclopedia of Immaturity.

She also suggests that Pokémon videos, gift certificates to Chuck E. Cheese’s or your own local torture chamber for grownups/ gaming-entertainment place for kids, and tickets to your local science museum will never go out of style for your clients’ children.

(Never let it be said that we don’t have a well-rounded lifestyle.)


For a joyous season and a happy and prosperous 2010. I hope everyone on your list lights up when they see you went to a little extra trouble to tell them how much they mean to you this year.

And because I may forget to say it later in the week, to my friends and readers here in the States:

I wish you the best of parking spots this Friday.   😉


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson