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Jessica Lauria and Karen Pfaff Manganillo, About the Reads that Inspired Them on Their Journey

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Tote lovers around the world, this interview’s for you! Jessica Lauria and Karen Pfaff Manganillo are the founders of By Karen and Jess, creators of Another F*cking Tote and other things people will never have too many, such as notebooks, notecards, to-do lists, etc.

Jessica‘s a marketing executive, coming off Chobani – she was Senior Director of Brand Communication before maternity leave. Prior to this she spent 14 years in advertising, working on multiple campaigns for major brands all over the world. She’s also an altMBA alumni – Seth Godin‘s intensive program designed for those who want to become leaders and game changers.

Karen‘s a freelance designer, owner of KLP Designs. In 2008 she left her job at an advertising agency based in New York and returned to her roots, in North Carolina. Karen wanted to see projects through, from start to finish, while also using the ten years of experience she had. She now works with individuals, non-profits and mid-sized companies in North Carolina, in order to create unique, authentic branding.

Find out more about their favorite books, the ones that changed their way of thinking and opened their mind to a creative career.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 9 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Business: ‘What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn)’ by Seth Godin

This book is my professional bible and my key management tool. It dives into our human instinct to make excuses, settle for less and complain about why we haven’t achieved success. But the main idea always rings true – that it is up to us to make change – For others and for ourselves. Nothing is stopping you but you. It’s a reminder of the awesome power of now, the power of positivity and just simple the power of showing up and moving forward. I have used it in every management review I give because Seth uses incredible insights to uncover our insecurities and provides clear actions on how to move beyond our immediate issues. It’s an inspirational book that is also a step by step guide to keep you motivated.

Non-business: ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger.

It explores great characters during a special time in New York history. I love walking around New York and thinking about how it has evolved and changed over the decades, yet so much of its authenticity remains.

Tibor, Tibor Kalman
Chip Kidd Book One, Chip Kidd
Once Upon a Time, Slim Aarons
Our True Intent is for Your Delight, Martin Parr

These are a selection of my favorite creative minds who visually inspire me like no one else.

Time & Again, Jack Finney – I’ve always had an obsession with New York past and present. I’ve probably read this book 10 times.

Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman – never have I read a book that I said “this is so perfect, amazing, hilarious, he’s thinking what I’m thinking (in a much more thought out and cool way)”.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life’ by Jen Sincero.

I bought this book because I was curious about the title. I loved it and bought it for my entire team.

The universe matches the energy you put out. It’s so true. If you put out positivity, you get it back. It’s a great reminder that you are in charge of your destiny.

Another point in this book that I love – if someone has a problem with you, it’s their issue. Not yours. We put some much weight on what people think about us, when it really shouldn’t matter.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

Truth, Lies and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning’ by Jon Steel

In advertising you can try to follow a model, or data or process, but that will never lead to great, impactful work. Great work comes from the humanity of simple consumer insights and how that comes to life. There is just a little bit of magic that happens with people come together with the same goal to create work that has meaning.

I think this is even more relevant in today’s data-rich and performance marketing environment. If we lose the consumer insights and humanity, then the relationship between brands and consumers will just be transactional. We can’t lose the art of advertising.

If You Want to Write, by Brenda Euland, is undoubtedly the book that changed my way of thinking and opened up my mind to a creative career. It validated being creative… and that that is a great thing.

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin
If you are going into advertising and marketing, remember that you want to make an impact in the world and not just be another mediocre brand.

How do you make time for reading?

It’s hard, but I do what I can. But what I’m most proud of currently is instilling a ‘two-book’ bedtime routine with my four-year old. After three years of this schedule, he can quote every book in his library.

How do you choose what books to read next?

I’m lucky to have best friends who have better literary tastes (and time to read) than me. I follow their recos without question.

Jessica, I know that you were part of Seth Godin’s altMBA program. From the books that you had as recommended reading, which one had the biggest impact on you? And how did you apply in your life the lessons you learned from it?

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle’ by Steven Pressfield.
I love this book. It simply lays out the difference between the true artist and the amateur. It is so inspiring and makes you understand see if you are doing something because of a real passion or just passing the time. It also makes you realize that true success is never an accident.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’ by Simon Sinek
It’s amazing how many companies exist without ever knowing their ‘Why’ – it’s what we are always trying to uncover for clients in advertising and as a brand, something we always are trying to answer. Understanding the why gives you purpose so you know what you are striving for everyday.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

Well I just had a baby a few months ago, so my world is being dominated with all things baby. I’m currently reading ‘Bringing Up Bebe’ by Pamela Druckerman. An American journalist who raised her family in Paris and dives into the psychology of French parenting. It’s fascinating and only reinforces how neurotic American parents can be. Great to hear all sides and theories on raising children so you take bits from here and there to create your own style, just right for you and your family.

I just bought the Environmental Protection Agency Brand Standards System on Kickstarter. It’s probably the most complex and well-rounded brand guidelines manual I’ve seen… and from a graphic design nerd, truly amazing. As someone who’s frequently creating brand guidelines, this book will be invaluable as a reference guide in the future.

Links where you can follow Jessica Lauria and Karen Pfaff Manganillo or find out more about their projects:

All books mentioned by Jessica Lauria and Karen Pfaff Manganillo in this interview:

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