One of the best parts about a long, winding, fruitful career is that the learning never stops. There’s always a new insight to gain, lesson to learn (the hard or easy way), and fresh ways your perspective can shift. Business and work in any field is constantly changing and shifting, and one of the best ways to gain the coveted quality that is resilience is to learn. Education doesn’t end with that final diploma, education is a lifelong journey we’re all on in pursuit of continuous improvement.
No matter how long you’ve been in business or how much experience you have, there’s always a new lesson to learn. Books of all kinds are a great way to constantly be in a state of learning as a worker and a human being. Shifting between fiction and non-fiction books is a great way to flex those left and right-brain muscles, and if you need some recommendations for non-fiction books we’ve got you covered.
Business and leadership skills are a lifelong pursuit, and thankfully many who have come before you have written their biggest lessons down for all of us to gain from. Save yourself years of making the same mistakes by diving into any of the best business books and you’ll be thankful you took the time to take advantage of the plethora of resources that exist out there for anybody at any stage of career growth. Here are the best business books for getting your career going, leveling up into a new phase or exploring a new field.
1. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
It all starts with why. Your motivation to do or achieve anything starts with the purpose you’ve got behind it. This book is the result of Simon Sinek’s movement to help people feel more inspired at work, and adapted from his TED Talk which is the third most viewed TED Talk of all time. All of the great leaders of our world, past and present, started with a why which drove their success. Their goals may have been different, but all of the most influential people in the world have thought, acted and communicated in this way that many other people miss. Calling upon his powerful idea of The Golden Circle as a framework for organizations to be built and movements sparked, Sinek provides institutions and individuals of all kinds with the catalyst for their most powerful shifts, and it all comes from the why within.
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
READING LIST ESSENTIAL
Your entire life is driven by habits, conscious or unconscious, habits run our day in ways few people truly reflect upon. This book takes big lessons from small daily habits and will motivate you to live a life you want and get out of your own way. The author, Stephen R. Covey lays out a holistic, principle-centered approach for solving the big and small problems you’re encountering in your everyday life. He strings together powerful anecdotes and creates a path for us all to follow to live with dignity, integrity, fairness towards others and the ability to adapt to change. Gain the wisdom to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you that are calling on you to make change, and actually have the strength to follow through.
3. High Output Management
Andrew S. Grove was the third employee at Intel and shares his insights from his experience as the chairman and CEO of a Silicon Valley staple. He shares the skills that are essential for starting and maintaining a new business and how entrepreneurship and managing are really one and the same in the business world. This book is a compilation of some of his most impactful and useful lessons at one of America’s largest and most impactful tech companies. It’s applicable to the work of nearly anyone in an office anywhere, as he covers how to create highly productive and effective teams, as well as the methods he uses for keeping people motivated. Think of it as a handbook for navigating classic qualms in the business world with ease, and a manifesto of powerful managing and changing the way we all work.
4. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walk Disney Company
If you’re looking for a gift to someone who’s new in business or looking for some mid-career motivation, this is a great pick. Bob Iger was CEO of the Walt Disney Company for 15 years and has served more than 40 years in the media business. This is a memoir of leadership and success in its finest form from someone who knows what they’re talking about. He shares the lessons and insights he gained from stepping into the CEO role at a tough time for Disney, and the bedrock values he set as the foundation for bringing the company into more success, financial and otherwise, than it had ever experienced before. He explores the essential principles for leading with purpose and the “decency over dollars” approach Iger applies to every pursuit in his life. He sees this record as universal, and we do too. No matter what field you’re working in or what stage of your career you’re at, this book will be a value add.
5. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
BEST FOR MANAGERS
Every organization is going to have groups. We’re humans — we crave community, connection, and the intimacy that comes from small and large groups where everyone relates. It’s up to leaders and managers to recognize and optimize the presence of groups within an organization and see them as building blocks towards a productive whole rather than divisive subunits looking to undermine a foundation. This book covers tribes in all their forms and how to upgrade the entire organization through lessons from each tribe’s individual culture. If done correctly, it can result in an organization that survives and thrives in any economy.
6. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
BEST FOR LEADERSHIP
This book is the result of a Gallup study of over 80,000 managers and the big takeaways when it comes to performance, skills and lessons for building businesses. What unites all successful management styles across differing fields, approaches and philosophies? They all embrace breaking rules held by conventional wisdom. They all push that envelope, and you can too. The managers in this study all helped each individual employee reach their threshold for high performance, and then go beyond it. This book dives into how the managers hired for talent, rather than skill or experience, and tailored each employee’s expectations to their unique set of skills. Each one took the time to understand who they were working with and thus were able to build strong, resilient and effective teams. This is a must-read for managers and those in leadership positions looking for a coaching modality that can truly change the game.
7. The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth
BEST FOR ENTREPRENEURS
This book covers essential entrepreneurial principles that will be useful to serial entrepreneurs and companies of all kinds looking to use the most innovative business strategies to drive growth. Whether you’re an established staple in your field or a start-up looking to shape the footprint you want to make, this book will teach you how to grow your revenue, innovate, modernize and expand as your business does in ways that will serve everyone and embrace the opportunities provided by the 21st century. Ries has worked in startups as well as NGOs, nonprofits and governments and has the experience to back up his expertise when it comes to entrepreneurial business frameworks that help lead a variety of organizations. This book is a healthy mix of stories, insights, tools and provides a roadmap for organizations looking to break through the boundaries to success and thrive.
8. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
BEST FOR DIVERSITY
A diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and opinions is essential to any great organization. This powerful book can help managers, associates and leaders of all kinds confront their own biases and the prejudices they may be holding without even realizing it. Self-perceptions around “knowing your own mind” and “assessing others in a fair and accurate way” are challenged by psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. who seek to explore the lifetime of racial and cultural messages we’ve received through our coded culture. Through unpacking these unconscious biases we can all break through the ways in which this education shapes our likes, dislikes, judgements of others and assessments of their potential. The authors explore the Implicit Association Test and offer a framework for aligning behavior with intention in a wide range of scenarios. This book is an essential for managers and employees alike looking to work towards engagement, tolerance and acceptance for all.
9. No Hard Feelings — The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work
BEST FOR EQ
This Wall Street Journal bestseller has been named by authors like Malcolm Gladwell as one of the “two most groundbreaking new nonfiction read of the season!” No Hard Feelings is all about the emotional minefield that is the workplace and how to navigate situations with ease, grace and use them to build towards an even stronger and more productive team. The two authors are organizational consultants and regular people who have experienced the annoyance, jealousy, insecurity, panic and rage we all have at work. Ignoring these feelings can hurt your productivity, but so can letting emotions run wild. Find a happy middle ground through the lessons in this book that include selective vulnerability, distinguishing feelings from facts and finding a healthy level of passion for your career.
10. What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
BEST FOR NEW GRADUATES
Stephen A. Schwarzman is the chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, an investment firm that manages over $500 billion after starting with a $400,000 investment from Schwarzman himself. He’s a man decked out with life achievements that are the envy of many from his finance career to his philanthropy work and founding of the Schwarzman Scholars, a Rhodes Scholarship equivalent in China. His empowering story is filled with motivational insights into the leadership, diplomatic and deal making it skills to achieve the success you want. He has lessons that will transform how you view ambition, risk, opportunity and what a relentless pursuit of success looks like. His personal reflections lay a comprehensive blueprint for success in any field, and is a record well worth your time.
11. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead
WORTH THE HYPE
Brené Brown is worth the hype, trust us. In this book she tackles the power inherent in vulnerability and the courage it takes to be vulnerable with others and go after the things we really want. In a world where we’re all afraid that we’re not good enough, and fear has become second nature in terms of how we approach most things, Brown wants to encourage us to step into the arena. No matter how fearful we are of failing in front of others, embarrassing ourselves, being criticized or getting uncomfortable Brown argues the feelings of standing outside of your life and looking in are much worse. Summon the courage to step into the arena and live the life you want whether through a new relationship, a creative endeavor, new job, difficult conversation or powerful boundary setting. Brown will help you get there, through the deep reflection this book will spark and the powerful words she uses to usher you into the next phase.
12. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
There’s nothing more motivational than optimism about the world we live in, and this is some optimism grounded in real, hard data that’s easy to understand. Factfulness was an instant New York Times bestseller and described as “one of the most important books I’ve ever read” by Bill Gates. So often we assume that our world is far worse off than it actually is, and this defeatist mindset can translate to the world we do in our everyday lives, even if the field we work in is different than the subject matter of our projections. Hans Rosling is a professor of International Health who looks to offer us an entirely new perspective on the state of the world and the mindset we approach it with. Turns out, the world is in a much better state than most people think when it comes to large-scale indicators of wellbeing such as literacy, sanitation, poverty levels and so on. Rosling also offers insight into the fear-driven media we consume daily and the ten instincts we all possess that distort our perspective for the worse. This book will pump some heavy-duty optimism into you that will carry you through even your worst days on the job and beyond.
13. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead
Hopefully everyone has tuned into this work from C.O.O of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg at least once and if you haven’t, now is the time. This is a rally cry for women to lean into their power in work and in life, and refuse to be cast aside by a society that continually devalues them. This book, although aimed at women, is an excellent read for anyone looking to understand the plight of women in the modern workspace and how they can be better ally towards equalizing the working world. This book reignited the conversation about women in the workplace and inspired a generation to take risks, make a seat at the table, seek challenges and pursue goals. She offers specific steps women can take to reach fulfillment personally and professionally, and brings men into the conversation through explaining how supporting women can benefit them as well. This call to action is filled with humor, wisdom, empowering language and the deep insights we all need to thrive in today’s working environment.
14. Good Economics for Hard Times
RELEVANT FOR ALL
We all want resilience to get through both the good and bad times. This book tackles that problem from an economic point of view, and it’s a useful model for everyone looking to build a business that can last through economic hardship as well as it celebrates economic prosperity. Renowned MIT economists Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo take us on a journey through their research into the economics of a society built on compassion and respect for others and how to take advantage of the resources we already have to combat the world’s biggest issues. Immigration, inequality, climate change, globalization and technological disruption alike are all at stake if we don’t embrace the ideas that usher us through distrust and into unity with each other towards a common goal — preserving the good life for the next generation. This book sets a foundation for everyone who hopes to build an economy, and society, that serves everyone.
15. Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System — and Themselves
BEST FOR FINANCE
In one of the most gripping and transparent behind-the-scenes accounts of the 2008 financial crisis, Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist for the New York Times and a respected financial reporter covers the whole episode start to finish in a must-read account for every person who works in finance. Through his access to some of the largest players involved in the crisis itself, his accounts offer details not shown prior and all the drama that took place during those turbulent days. It’s a lesson in what happens when decisions are solely motivated by ego, greed, fear and self-preservation, as well as how the world’s most powerful men and women in finance and government decided the face of the world’s economy post-crash. It’s a cautionary tale that everyone remembers well, but few have heard told in this way.
16. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Good to Great)
BEST FOR TECH
What differentiates the companies that make it from the many that fail? How does a start-up become a major corporation and beat out its many competitors? This book, the result of a Stanford University Graduate School of Business research project from James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras looks at eighteen different companies that did just that and compares them with their competitors to highlight what makes a company truly extraordinary by today’s measures. This book draws on specific examples of what helped companies make it and organizes them into a framework that’s accessible for managers and entrepreneurs alike. Give your startup the best chances at leveling up and prospering long into the future with this book as one of your guides.