My wife was recently sharing that a friend wanted to tackle a list of 33 books every professional should read by the time they are 30. I’ll be 10 years beyond 30 in just a couple months, so I thought I’d share the 10 books that completely changed my life and work. This list is in no particular order and is a simple accounting of books that changed the way I think and act as a person and as a professional.
1. Leaders Eat Last (Simon Sinek)
Leaders Eat Last stresses the need for leaders to take care of the people in their charge and that the true cost of leadership is self-interest. Sinek’s storytelling is wonderful and the book acts as an invitation to view leadership as a position of responsibility instead of a position of power.
(When my friend John tipped me off to a remarkable talk by Simon Sinek a couple years ago I would never have guessed that I would eventually have the chance to interview him)
2. Tribes (Seth Godin)
This book was my introduction to the work of Seth Godin and it absolutely blew my doors off. The amount of brilliant thinking about leadership he was able to pack into such a small and accessible volume astounded me. Tribes made me rethink my ability – and responsibility – to lead.
3. Word of Mouth Marketing (Andy Sernovitz)
I read this book at least once a year. Not only is it filled with a ton of inspiring ideas about telling your story in a way that invites your audience to share it with their peers, but it’s also a comic book. What a perfect way to talk about doing remarkable work and telling remarkable stories!
4. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
Steven Pressfield is writing to writers in The War of Art, but in reality he’s writing to anyone who is doing creative work, which is most of us these days. I learned a great deal about the importance of sitting down every day to create even when you don’t feel like it. The professional doesn’t wait for inspiration, the professional sits down and does the work. The War of Art feels more like a series of easily consumed blog posts than a long-form book, so you can easily get a ton of value from reading it for just 5 minutes at a time.
5. Getting Things Done (David Allen)
To say that David Allen changed my entire life is a massive understatement. Getting Things Done provided the philosophical and practical foundation that helped me become more relaxed, organized, and effective. From capturing everything that has your attention, to creating lists for managing your projects and “next actions”, to consistently reviewing everything you’ve agreed to do, this book can help anyone attain “stress-free productivity.” (My interview with David is a great place to start if you’re curious)
6. Read This Before Our Next Meeting (Al Pittampalli)
Somehow Al Pittampalli managed to communicate everything that is wrong with meetings – and how to fix them – in a book you could read in less time than you spend in most of your meetings. Al pulls no punches and easily wins the hearts and minds of so many professionals who are tortured by poorly planned, poorly run, and poorly conceived meetings. This is a great book to drop on your boss’s desk while she is stuck in another meeting. (Al was gracious enough to chat with me shortly after we met at an event in NYC)
7. Daring Greatly (Brene Brown)
Watching Brene Brown give her definitive talk on vulnerability at TED made it impossible for me to not read this book. I simply can’t say enough about how deeply her words touched me, and reminded me that vulnerability is a necessary and powerful thing.
8. Linchpin (Seth Godin)
Most lists would avoid choosing the same author more than once, but the fact that Seth holds 3 of 10 spots here is a testament to how prolific he is as a writer and how significant his ideas have been to me. Linchpin is a call to be indispensable, a call to do the hard work and to contribute in the ways that only we can. This book will challenge you to love the work you do and become essential to your organization.
(I was a part of Seth’s Ruckusmakers event in 2015 and he granted me a short audio interview in a quiet hallway at the venue.)
9. Quiet (Susan Cain)
Introverts are more powerful than you’ve been led to believe. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an introvert. Susan Cain does a masterful job of illuminating the value that introverts add, even if they aren’t always the most outspoken, charismatic, and gregarious members of society. This book has a great many insights for anyone who is an introvert or works with introverts.
10. Permission Marketing (Seth Godin)
Seth literally wrote the book on opt-in marketing and the world is a better place because of it. Permission Marketing argues that interruptions like TV commercials and SPAM do a disservice to your customer and your brand and he was (and continues to be) well ahead of his time. This book is a brilliant guide for anyone who wants to be an ethical and generous storyteller.