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Making It Big: 4 Must-Read Books About Success

The dream of writing the next mega-bestselling novel, coming up with the greatest idea for an app or computer game, or starting a successful business – and, as a result, becoming globally famous and rich – has become an obsession in the contemporary world. Sooner of later, however, most sensible people face up to reality and accept that there’s no easy formula to hitting the jackpot or turning into a celebrity. Their curiosity about success stories, however, continues unabated.

I’m, therefore, recommending the following four titles for the exact reason that they are not simplistic how-to or self-help books. They discuss and investigate the traits of success, putting forward innovative theories to explain the phenomenon, imparting original perspectives and telling compelling stories. These books may even give you some practical tips along the way, but they all avoid ready-made recipes for success.


(Published in 2008). Malcolm Gladwell, in his customary fluent and engaging writing style, puts forward the theory that the attractive – and commonly heard – rags-to-riches success stories are not exactly as heroic as they appear to be when we take a closer look at them. He claims that, despite the fact the talent and hard work are key to success, it invariably takes a unique context, with an extraordinary set of opportunities, for people like Bill Gates (from Microsoft), Bill Joy (from Sun Microsystems), The Beatles, and sports stars, for example, to make full use of their potential and earn such impressive achievements. 


(Published in 2014). The book that inspired the recently-launched Netflix series is the autobiographical account of the experiences of Sophia Amoruso, who, from an ill-fitting and apathetic shoplifting teenager, diagnosed with depression, rises to become a savvy entrepreneur, selling vintage clothes on eBay, and, finally, building a retail fashion empire, Nasty Gal, worth more the U$ 100 million. Packed with funny – if a bit far fetched – personal anecdotes and empowering advice for young women who are struggling to find their way in life, the book has delicious passages and it’s hard to put down. 

The Bestseller Code

(Published in 2016). In this book readers are offered an analysis of the DNA of contemporary bestsellers. The authors claim to have developed a precise text-mining computer algorithm – so far used only for academic purposes – to test the probability of a manuscript making the ultra selective New York Times bestselling list. The computer model focuses on specific features of the novel’s topics, themes, plot and characters to predict its success. Even if you are skeptical about the efficacy of such criteria, there’s no denying that book lovers will have a great time reading the analyses provided on the works of popular writers such as John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Dan Brown and E.L. James (you’d probably be surprised to find out that kinky sex doesn’t seem to be the reason for the success of Fifty Shades of Grey). You may even pick up some useful ideas for that book you have been dreaming of writing.

Hit Makers

(Published in 2017). Again, although the reasons given by the author to justify why only a few brands (people and companies), products and services achieve stratospheric popularity in pop culture may not sound very original (basically he puts it down to the fact that they get the best kind of distribution and marketing muscle, besides managing to incorporate the necessary balance between familiar and novel traits), his insightful telling of anecdotes about incredibly influential people such as Walt Disney, the designer Raymond Loewy, and the impressionist painter Gustave Caillebote make for compelling reading. Behind-the-curtain information on hits such as Brahms’s famous lullaby Wigenlied and the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey also contribute to the interest generated by the book. Moreover, Thomson’s penetrating analyses of the mythic phenomenon of virality on the Internet; the power of strong networks; and the psychology of why people like what they like will certainly give most readers unsuspected perspectives on these topics.

Jorge Sette is Bookwitty's Regional Ambassador for South America. He represents the company, writing relevant content for the region, recruiting contributors, contacting partners and ... Show More