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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark Chalmers

Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark Chalmers

Posted on July 25, 2012 and read 3,469 times

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The brilliant and funny Mark Chalmers is a long-time friend of IHAVEANIDEA and its founder Ignacio Oreamuno. 

Trained as an architect in his native UK, Chalmers built installations and environments for his own amusement before doing it for Coke, Disney and Ford at Imagination. Successful stints as the top creative leader at agencies in London and Amsterdam followed his architectural endeavours, including HHCL+Partners, the original StrawberryFrog and most currently, Perfect Fools.

Chalmers holds a number of industry accolades, was named ‘Godfather of Guerrilla’ by the British TV awards and is listed as one of Europe’s top five interactive creative directors. He co-founded global digital collective, Creative Social, in 2004 with Daniele Fiandaca and the industry’s early interactive pioneers. Celebrated for their inspiration and a united vision of collaboration, Creative Social events have brought sharing back into the business.

Chalmers self-describes as liking “useful utility or the brilliantly useless. There is nothing in between.” And that, it seems, is the best possible introduction to Mark Chalmers’s “Ad Celebrity” book list recommendations.

I read a lot but everything I read seems to be about corruption, drugs and guns.

Never judge a book by its cover. I like things that make the world go round. Through books I like to follow paths, follow people and immerse myself.  What some people call trash is often my treasure, but I’ve spared you the top tens you can see on Amazon and have dug out the books that in the past 10 years have made a real impression on me. Judge me as much as you like.

Cocaine A Definitive History Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersCocaine: A Definitive History by Dominic Streatfeild

Nothing short of outstanding: I love this book.  Brilliant writing, brilliant research and what a bunch of hypocrites we are. Sound bites I like are the Incas inventing the overnight postal service where they chewed coca leaves to run 24 hours straight, and the genius of Conan Doyle and his coked up biographical ‘Dr.Jeckyll & Mr.Hyde’ that we all worship in school. I recommend this book to everyone and few take me seriously.

kitchen copy Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersKitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

What do you mean you haven’t read it?  Read it. Food and the culture of food is uniting.


heat Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersThen read Heat by Bill Buford

Then go buy a whole pig and eat every part and on that journey, reappraise what food is and stop shopping in supermarkets.



motley Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersThe Dirt – Motley Crue: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band

Think you’re crazy and have done your wild period?  You aren’t and you never did.  I thought Anthony Kiedis had done a good run but Motley Crue redefine grim and to some extent, put us all in our place.


whiteisland Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersThe White Island: The Extraordinary History of the Mediterranean’s Capital of Hedonism by Stephen Armstrong

Brilliant writer, brilliant book.  Armstrong traces Ibiza through is hedonistic roots. It’s reassuring to know that us humans like to have a good time; always did, always will, and some places just hit the right sort of ley lines and criteria to make that work.  Stand back, look at history and us human beings, as complex as we might think we are, we’re simple.  Simple and predictable.

Seven Day7days Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark Chalmerss in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

The ins and outs of another human vice.  It really is a picture of another world from many different angles, and as any psychologist will tell you; art is pretty essential to our well being, art can create our highest state of awareness.  This book presents the forces behind it.


coffee Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersThe Coffee Trader by David Liss

This is basically a financial thriller based on coffee trading. Not what you might expect goes hand in hand but a really good semi-fiction historical read and a great way to understand the city I live in, Amsterdam, and the mentality of the Dutch.

Just down the road is one of the original stock ‘markets,’ where the Dutch East India Company issued the first shares in 1602. Returns on ‘Futures’ were often pretty simple – whether the boat of goods managed to survive the seas and arrive.

The legacy of Amsterdam’s trading heritage continues today with the city being host to the most registered nationalities in the world. That means it’s more diverse than, say, London and it all happens amongst a population of around 750,000.

Shantaram Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersShantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This book is awesome. The ultimate travel book. They don’t come around at 944 pages like this very often. Based on the author’s own experience as an escaped convict ultimately taking shelter in Bombay, it reads with all the grit of an autobiography with a huge dose of heady adventure and genuine love of the human spirit.

On the author’s site, Roberts writes: “Nothing in the finite physical universe is absolute. Therefore, nothing is absolutely good or evil” and this really comes through in his story. Have a look at his site, read some interviews. Roberts is an inspiring and special man.

Skagboys  Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersSkagboys by Irvine Welsh

My reading list seems to be very predictable. I’m currently reading Skagboys. Some trepidation before picking this up, as Welsh’s books have wavered over the years, but I love reading in his dialect. He paints a great picture in characters and in this novel takes us back.  It’s a prelude to Trainspotting and for the first time I’m getting a glimmer of the plight of the Thatcher years and how the politicians changed the UK, physically with say the mining industry and economically with the juggling of numbers. News headlines for years during the 80s were all about the unemployment number, but apparently there are 19 factors that conveniently massaged it.

digital Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersDigital Advertising: past, present and future by Daniele Fiandaca and Patrick Burgoyne

Full disclosure: this is a compilation born of the Creative Social, of which I am co-founder with Daniele. It’s a book of 24 essays from top digital creatives that charts the history and future of this business. Danielle Sacks at Fast Company described it as “a thoughtful, nostalgic, and insightful romp backwards through the technology revolution and forwards to the post-advertising world. It travels from Bernbach to behavioural economics to Brazil with the personal touch of a dinner party chat, doing its best not to feel like broccoli, despite its nutritional value.”

Torn between leaving the last one open for your suggestions to me, and sharing a book many friends have been recently working on, The Best Piece of Advice Ever. Probably simplest and most valuable thing you could ever ask someone.

Here it is

 Ad Celebrity Book List: Mark ChalmersBest Piece of Advice Ever by Creative Social And Bernstein&Andriulli



Do send me suggestions. Give me corruption, drugs, biographies and art. I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @markchalmers.




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