As we kick off this first month of an already upside-down year, I wanted to focus on the things that inspire so many of us: books! With that, I reached out to my network and asked them, what books have inspired you in your professional life?
It was, frankly, way cooler than I expected, as a LOT of folks responded quickly with their favorites, with books ranging from the super technical to the longtime business and management classics to ones on the philosophical end of inspiration. From marketing to engineering to customer service to education to human resources and many more professions, here's the list* shared by a whole bunch of cool folks I've gotten to know over the years...
* Note: I've included links to nearly all of the books at Powell's, the best bookstore in the world, primarily for used versions to promote more sustainable reading and support a truly good company rather than the billionaire-owned, union-busting, small business-crushing, tax-avoiding, employee-abusing, wokewashing that starts with an A.
Becky, a Marketing Manager, shared Susan Cain's book Quiet, explaining that she loved it because"I always thought there was something wrong with me because I'm shy and introverted, and found I have many super powers as an introvert, not only at work but in my personal life."
Tom, a Product Manager, says that the classic First Break All the Rules "set the foundation for my management approach."
April, an Enterprise Analyst, has been a busy reader as of late, who shared a variety of recommendations."Some of my favorite books I've read this past quarter are When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, So You Want To Talk About Race, and Inspired: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love."
Rob, a VP of Partnerships, explained his thought process around his choices, Shoe Dog and Only the Paranoid Survive. "Having moved from F500 companies to early stage companies in tech, I've come to appreciate that it's not just about learning and adapting. It's also about mindset. An absolute commitment to have a vision AND put it into action. If everyone agreed up front, the opportunity wouldn't actually be there because someone else would be doing it already."
Becky, who works in Career Services at a community college, recommends Cool Careers for Dummies.
Scott, a Solutions Architect, enjoyed the perennial favorite Strengths Finder 2.0.
Sarah, a Public Relations Strategist in healthcare, shared that American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company "consistently ranks as one of my favorites. It is an amazing profile of leadership in action and also an entertaining read."
Patrick, a Technical Advisor and longtime people manager, highlighted The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as his favorite.
Susan, a Vice President of Customer Success, gave me her top four, primarily focused on leadership: Managing in a Time of Great Change, Leading Change, The Leader Who Had No Title, and Customer Success.
Eric, a Data Scientist and instructor, is digging into Murphy's Machine Learning: A Probabilistic Perspective.
Betsy, a Communications Consultant, told me about a book she's starting that was inspired by an online publication. "I'm getting ready to dive into Atomic Habits after slurping up everything I could about James Clear. His 3-2-1 weekly e-newsletter is short, sweet and definitely to the point!"
Bob, a longtime CTO and consultant, shared his variety of recommendations, including Good to Great, The Prince, and I, Robot.
Kate, a Designer, also had a number of helpful works related to career development, including Linchpin, Show Your Work, The Personal MBA, and Wishcraft.
Peter, a veteran Engineering & Product leader, said that "While there have been many, the one that I would put at the top of the list (especially over the last several years) is The Four Agreements. Sooo many issues in the workplace (along with other parts of our lives) are caused by people making assumptions and/or taking things personally and/or not being impeccable with their word." I agree - this is a favorite book of mine as well!
Cindy, a Human Resources Director who has led HR in a variety of industries including sports and real estate, likes HR From the Heart, and also shared that "From a general new manager perspective, I really liked First Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently."
Naimish, a Management Consultant, was inspired by both The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business and Difficult Conversations."
Marsha, a Career Counselor, shared that "Out of the gazillion books I've read, two stand out as pivotal. Working awakened my mind to the way people relate to and gain meaning from their work. This insight focused my attention on career counseling for adults and the thought of helping people identify the work that will give their life meaning. Much later, at a cross-roads, I found The Reinvention of Work - a New Vision of Livelihood for our Time, which gave me permission to explore work as a spiritual practice. "To live well is to work well". To approach the notion of Right Livelihood, which is my ongoing practice with my clients."
Kiran, a Director of Content Strategy in the healthcare field, along with being inspired by Marty Kagan, recommends UX for Lean Startups.
Jesse, a DevOps Manager in the startup arena, is a particularly big fan of Gene Kim's books, including The DevOps Handbook and The Phoenix Project .
Jamie, an IT Consultant who's worked in renewables, consulting and now for a certain large sports apparel and footwear maker, recommends The World is Flat. "It a bit old now, but was a good call out at the time."
Danielle, a Project Manager, gave a shout out to Team of Teams.
Jeff, Technology Solution Strategist in the product and marketing arena, said that Crossing the Chasm was "inspiring in the sense that I felt I finally had an easily understood framework for new product development I could leverage broadly."
Ranisha, Human Resources Manager and fellow solopreneur, recommends a book written by Netflix's former head of HR, Powerful: Teams, Leaders, and the Culture of Freedom & Responsibility.
Chris, a Developer, was inspired by Being Geek: The Software Developers Career Handbook.
DeAngelo, an Account Executive, loves The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Holly, an Instructional Designer, recommends Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life, Living the Wisdom of the Tao. She describes how she "prefers to use it like a recipe book, turning to the topics of interest each week...After reading a section, it stays with me constantly, helping remind me when I’m being ego-driven or irritated by unrealistic expectations to stop and simply observe the situation at hand. It has helped me become more accepting of others and to see negative experiences in a more positive light," and added how "it has helped me tackle the many challenges of these times more gracefully."
Marshall, a startup founder and current VP of Market Intelligence, said that "The Technology Fallacy and Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change are two I've really gotten a lot out of lately."
As for me?
My instant reply is one that is not technically focused on my recruiting or coaching work at all, but rather how I view work as a whole! Radical Homemakers changed everything for me. Why? This book came into my life when I first started my consulting business in 2012, and is about "empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity." And when you are starting out as a sole proprietor, working from home and engaging more in your home and garden and community (because you're not tied to an office and a commute), not to mention dealing with the new world of unpredictable income? You start to reassess what's important and this book, similar to Eat Pray Love (which would be my #2 recommendation), helped me to take that next step, look at my life and my career through a new lens, and figure out how to piece together a life that fits ME...rather than how others say it should look. And during a pandemic, these lessons could not have better prepared me. Going with the flow is SO much easier when you've made the adjustments and done the work to simplify, not to mention come to treasure a way of life that pays the bills but isn't revolving around a 60 hour workweek...
BONUS: Dan, a Butcher and more importantly, the fella I've been madly in love with for almost a decade, while adoring the meat books on our shelf, shared that Attainable Sustainable helped him bring a greater 'DIY mindset' to both his butchery at the shop and his many charcuterie projects at home.