You’ve heard it a million times: reading is fundamental. And the adage isn’t just an old wives tale or faded wisdom that’s no longer relevant in our technology-driven environment. It’s actually the opposite, books are more important than ever: there’s no blinking, flashy ads, no distractions, and no photos. It’s just you and the words, the only picture is what your mind conjures up, and whatever you’re soaking in, the impact is on a deeper level than scrolling listlessly on your phone while bored.
Books help us grow emotionally, spiritually, professionally, and are a continual source of joy for those that fall in between their pages. When you’re working on self-improvement, trying to level up at the job, or looking for the Zen you’ve been missing, the answers usually can be found in the pages of a book.
We’ve put together a list everyone needs to read if they’re searching for that next professional level, or in search of a point of view, they might have missed somewhere down the line. Some of the titles are non-fiction, fiction, along with some old school journalism. The works collected are an eclectic mix of thoughts, points of view, but also demand the reader challenge themselves.
In no order, these are books that will change the way you work, but also the way you see yourself in amongst the community at large.
Acting as a guidebook on the principles of human reasoning, The Art of Thinking Clearly asks us the question of “why” are we caught up in a moment, are we acting emotionally when we should have taken a step back and analyzed our actions? We react to situations with cognitive biases, errors in our daily thinking that cause us to cloud judgment despite the proof sitting at our feet.
The Art of Thinking Clearly shows readers how to think through situations by exercising smart choices instead of reacting without premise.
This book is something of a Rubix cube; it’s a novel written by DevOps and IT pros, but somehow manages to weave a narrative of actual working principles into the prose. There’s a working process known as “The Three Ways” that endless tech companies have studied thanks to its feet firmly placed in the elements of working agile, a streamlined way to run any team.
Check out the description from Goodreads, “Bill, an IT manager at Parts Unlimited, has been tasked with taking on a project critical to the future of the business, code named Phoenix Project. But the project is massively over budget and behind schedule. The CEO demands Bill must fix the mess in ninety days or else Bill’s entire department will be outsourced.
With the help of a prospective board member and his mysterious philosophy of The Three Ways, Bill starts to see that IT work has more in common with a manufacturing plant work than he ever imagined. With the clock ticking, Bill must organize workflow streamline interdepartmental communications, and effectively serve the other business functions at Parts Unlimited.”
For something written with a technical mind, The Phoenix Project incredibly readable and accessible but adept at transferring the message of scalability to any industry.
Widely considered one of the most important American books of all time, Sinclair’s foray into the Meat-packing industry changed how food was handled and how work was before the government stepped in and mandated food safety laws. While it’s an older work, it doesn’t lose any of its importance, given no matter what industry you’re in, there will always be bad bosses, The Jungle serves as a timeless testament to the human spirit carrying on and putting in the work to change things for the better.
A deep dive into how low wage, working-class culture can get a raw deal, Nickel and Dimed explores how hard it is to get ahead for some folks, and the barriers put in place for moving to the next level. Every manager who’s never had to wait tables or work with people would do well to read Nickel and Dimed for its frank discussion on the perception that low-wage jobs can be performed by anyone when in fact, they require focus, stamina, quick thinking and the ability to adapt and overcome obstacles constantly. If you’re a manager that’s focused on the “what NOT to do” Nickel and Dimed is a must read to help keep your team working in a positive, open environment.
Being quiet can be a virtue that many of us overthink and make assumptions about. The book examines how Western culture evolved from character culture into one that’s obsessed with over the top extroversion, and in the wake leaves quiet, thoughtful introversion seen as weak or inferior. Quiet offers a scientific point of view that just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean that you’re inferior.
“Asserting that temperament is a core element of human identity, Cain cites research in biology, psychology, neuroscience, and evolution to demonstrate that introversion is both common and normal, noting that many of humankind’s most creative individuals and distinguished leaders were introverts. Cain urges changes at the workplace, in schools, and in parenting; offers advice to introverts for functioning in an extrovert-dominated culture; and offers advice in communication, work, and relationships between people of differing temperament.”
No matter what you’re trying to buy, whether it’s a good or service, you’re inundated with choice. From a cup of coffee to a new ballcap from your favorite team, there are a lot of voices competing for your dollar. The result can leave the consumer feeling stressed and anxious because of the paradox of “am I making the right choice?”
At the heart of The Paradox of Choice, it’s about making the right choices with an informed, yet honest point of view rather than rely on hype or flashy results. The result is a long, psychological breakdown of how we view too many choices when we should systematically group things and whittle them down based on personal preference but also a reliable outcome.
Nike wasn’t an overnight success. The early years of the super brand, there was a lot of struggle and indecision and in Shoe Dog, Knight opens up about the hard times before the iconic Swoosh was just an abstract idea. Touted for many as the original startup, the book is a candid look into what it takes to create a profitable brand, but more importantly, that success is rarely ever easy and a lot of hard work goes into every move the consumer doesn’t see.
Cialdini looks at what it takes for a consumer to give the all-important “yes” – but also how to apply the idea to how a business of any size operates. Written before the influencer craze took over on social media, Cialdini examines trends over a multi-year trajectory and presents information based on what he saw based on six universal principles and how to apply them across the board, but in a variety of situations from management, but also makes pitches to prospective clients.
The seminal book on professional creativity, The Artist’s Way is an invaluable guide to living as a creative. Cameron takes the reader through her ups and downs as a creative and what it takes to make doing art, in any of its various forms for a living. The book looks at what it’s like when you’re not creating only for yourself, but also as a source of income and what to do when the juices aren’t flowing, but the deadlines are near. If you’re contemplating a career as a creative, this is a must-read.
Translated into a whopping 56 languages, The Alchemist finds a new audience every generation. The basis of the story is one of personal exploration and hope, the book has been touted by Oprah, President Obama, amongst many others a seminal work that inspired them to do good, but also work with the flow of the universe. The central theme of The Alchemist is to accept the energy of the universe and allow for the good vibes to find you. It’s an optimistic tome that asks the reader to let go of their negativity and see the light within the struggle of anything they’re facing, a lesson many of us could certainly use.
Because life doesn’t always go as planned, it’s important to keep a positive mind, but also maintain a meditative, thoughtful plan of attack when faced with the ups and downs that come with adulthood. Written by buddhist scholar Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart is a beautiful collection of thoughts on reversing habitual patterns, working through chaos, finding ways to open up instead of shutting down, and most importantly, using a painful situation to rise above. Startups lose funding, people get fired, businesses shut down, or change completely – all of these things require a clear head and, in this collection, Chödrön helps walk us through the tough times.
Widely considered the most important non-fiction book of all time, Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir reckons with the trials of the life and what we’re capable of going through. Frankl saw the worst of humankind through his experience with the Nazi’s but maintained an outlook of positivity, despite experiencing grief and loss most of us will never know.
Frankl held a point of view that we can’t avoid all of the bad things in the world, but we can cope, find meaning and move forward better and stronger. With over 10M copies in print, the Library of Congress cited Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the “most important books of our time.”
The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate – Fran Hauser
In the world of business, many women struggle with the negative perception of being too nice, which results in co-workers, especially men thinking they’re weak, but if they’re too forward and opinionated, they’re a problem. Hauser takes aim at popular conventions and proves that women should be their authentic selves at work without compromising their values. The Myth of The Nice Girl is a fascinating read complete with personal stories, anecdotes, and strategies to change perception, but also problematic office culture through empowerment.
Known for her namesake news site, Arianna Huffington has tackled one of the most significant issues of American working life: we culturally don’t value sleep. Because of our obsession with burning the candle at both ends, the “first one in and last one out” mentality, we’re sacrificing a major restorative process that our body craves. In this book, Huffington explores how valuable sleep really is, but also shows the scientific proof that no matter how many “leadership seminars” you sit through, getting a regular full eight hours will make you a lot sharper and better in the long run.
Another book widely considered one of the greatest of all time, Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way is a testament to humankind. The book stresses that need for balance in our lives, how to share our wealth both tangible and emotional, but also to work to find a center when things seem insane.
Through her behavioral studies, clinical psychologist Dr. Meg Jay argues that while your 30’s are an critical decade, the person you are is cultivated in your 20’s. While many consider the 20’s a collection of mistakes, it’s scientifically proven that it’s a critical time in life to establish habits and personality traits because they’ll carry over for the rest of your life.
Back in the day, Studs Terkel was the man on the spot. The legendary Chicago journalist worked every medium from radio, print, and television as they came of age and in the process establishing himself as a master of the interview. Working is an insightful journey into what it means to work, what the purpose of work is and why we’re motivated for success. Terkel interviewed everyone from a gravedigger to a professional car parker, a grandmother who drives a taxi and men who worked in Chicago’s unions. The book showcases what our work means to us and that when it comes to how we perceive ourselves, we’re all pretty close when it comes time to the effort we put into what our achievements look like, no matter how small.
When something goes viral, it’s not because of the advertising, it’s because people are talking about it. Jonah Berger, a professor at Wharton, took a long look at why things catch on, why people click and ultimately buy things. Ultimately the power lies within word of mouth, and how social influence creates the biggest buzz. Contagious explains why things, even the most boring of products catch on out of nowhere, by science. If you’re on a marketing team, Contagious is a must read.
What are your must-read books? We’d love to hear about what changed your life, what moved you, let us know via social media or a comment. Maybe we’ll do a part two! For everything else, be sure to check the Adia blog.