BooksAs Joseph Addison was to have said, “reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” To that end, please find some books recently used to exercise this mind. Admittedly, some might fall into the brain candy category, but the best exercise is also enjoyable, no?


It should come as no surprise that yours truly is a sucker for all things propaganda. There is something about the blatancy of propaganda that is appealing. The message is usually clear. Propaganda doesn’t lie to you about its motives. The colours and imagery openly solicit an emotional response. It’s nearly scientific.

The beautifully compiled Spinfluence: The Hardcore Propaganda Manual for Controlling the Masses is a visual and mental delight for lovers of propaganda.  (Well, and for people who love the black, red and white colour scheme – let’s admit the additional heuristic bias.)


Filled with accurate, if tongue in cheek, descriptions of the dark art, Spinfluence also features quotes from famous propagandists. This book is a great as a crash course on the subject – provided you possess a good sense of humour – or as an afternoon pleasure read for those in the trade. Spinfluence is written by Nick McFarlane under the guise of Wolf & Co.

The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture

age_of_persuasion_can_pb_coverAn oldie but a goodie, The Age of Persuasion is marketing legend Terry O’Reilly’s colourful look at the recent history of advertising. Building on his popular radio show, this book is an entertaining look at how marketing has developed in North America. Full of insightful examples and anecdotes, it is a must read for anyone in the business.

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation

41WnoRjQ1aL._SL500_Audiobooks have been hitching a ride on my commute to Ottawa. For the most part, they simply cannot compare to reading a book – such is the drawback of being a visual person. However, the discovery of books read by the authors themselves has opened up a strange new world. The voice and intonation of an author-read audiobook brings so much more vivacity to the recording.

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead is a great example. Her book is an engaging study of the triggers that cause fascination, providing tips on how people and brands can foster these cues to captivate others. And Sally clearly knows her craft, given how easy it is to listen to her relay the entire book orally.

The only drawback about the audiobook is how Sally uses it to promote her online fascination quiz – which throughout the book is touted as free, but in reality runs at $37 even for owners of the audiobook.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English

51l651ruqNLAnother great audiobook is John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. As a polyglot and linguaphile this book was a true delight. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a veritable rabbit hole of etymological and grammatical fun.

Much of the charm of the audiobook – beyond John’s personality and love of the subject – is the narration of multilingual examples. It brings to life the colour of language in a manner reading the old-fashioned way just couldn’t – unless you spoke every tongue he references, and in which case you deserve a gold star.

As with Spinfluence, my praise of this book might be coloured by a background in languages – so I would love to hear how a monoglot finds this book, if you care to share.

About Author

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia is the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With a growing international multi-stakeholder community, the Partnership aims to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats within the information environment. Wanless is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College London exploring how the information environment can be studied in similar ways to the physical environment. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and was a tech advisor to Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Her work has been featured in Lawfare, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, and CBC.

Comments are closed.