Geek Read: Fenton Staff Picks for 2010 – Part Two

(A three-part series)

Last week, we introduced you to Part One of a three-part series on Fenton Staff Picks for the best geek reads of 2010. If reading more smart stuff is your New Year’s resolution, our list has some worthy contenders.

Today, we’re featuring five more picks – some just published in 2010, those a few years older and even a blog. Check back on Thursday for our final four picks to round out our baker’s dozen. Let us know what you read in 2010 – or what’s on your list for 2011.

How We Decide (Jonah Lehrer)

Recommended by Justin Adams, Account Director, San Francisco

How do we make decisions?  It’s a loaded question and one that Jonah Lehrer works to break down in his page-turning book, How We Decide.  Lehrer uses vivid stories to bring science alive, taking you inside the mind and bringing you all the way from the instantaneous decisions of a quarterback to the performance anxiety of an opera singer and even into the brain of a psychopath.  It is most definitely recommended reading if you’re interested in the complicated dynamics of change and how to get people’s hearts and minds open to your messages.  Plus, you can pick up some tips on how to be a better poker player. Who doesn’t want that?!

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman)

Recommended by Marshall Maher, Account Director, New York

Major websites and companies are flirting more with content farms in order to drive traffic and squeeze dollars out of the “series of tubes” we call the Internet.  What may make financial sense in the short term will harm brands in the long run.  The quality of your content is paramount – and dumbing it down or outsourcing your brand’s voice to uninitiated, underpaid freelancers could be counterproductive. Content Rules not only demonstrates the value of solid content but also shows how you can make that content perform. The case studies are great.  Ignore the comically long subtitle and give it a go.

Ta-Neshi Coates at The Atlantic

Recommended by Hugh McMullen, Account Executive, New York

Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic is a perfect example of how the medium of blogging can be worlds more enlightening and truthful than a book, essay or dead tree column. He is actively engaged with his commenters, who are very smart and have a lot to contribute in discussions of race, politics, history and even World of Warcraft and NFL football. His semi-regular “talk to me like I’m stupid” blog is a great example of his style, and how curiosity and engagement can be as or more successful than controversy, rhetoric or even expertise in growing traffic and influence.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (Steven Johnson)

Recommended by Lisa Witter, Chief Strategy Officer, New York

Nearly all of us are looking for the “breakthrough” idea and we’re often impatient in finding it. Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From is a primer in innovation. He explores human history to discover what sparks great ideas. His examples are diverse – from Google’s development of Google News to the FBI’s work on 9/11. Along the historical journey, he introduces us to perception-changing concepts like slow hunches and accidental innovations. Johnson’s book explains where and how good ideas come to life. Looking for the CliffsNotes on his book? Check out his engaging July 2010 TED Talk.

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

Recommended by Mike Smith, Vice President, San Francisco

I began reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest pop psychology book, Outliers, with skepticism. I worried that another book revealing what’s really behind how we live, behave and succeed would be formulaic and lack punch. I was wrong. Aside from being enlightened by Outliers’ main points (especially in its first half), I most enjoyed Gladwell’s use of storytelling. Hypotheses, stats and trends are necessary, but Gladwell understands that it’s a powerful story that sells an idea – and makes it memorable. Gladwell uses all the key elements of a good story: important context (even if you don’t understand it as such at the time), quirky details, interesting characters (brought to life through quotes too), a visual picture of the setting, struggle, resolution and a moral to the story. His storytelling is a good model for all of us working to enlighten – or persuade – others.

Check out Part One of Geek Read: Fenton Staff Picks for 2010.