Most books that share the secrets to succeeding in business read like sermons from overconfident bros hopped up on 5 Hour Energy. There’re usually about getting rich, getting promoted, or getting a little blue check beside your Instagram handle. However, the best business books will teach you, first and foremost, how to have a career you love for the sake of a life you’re passionate about. Oh, and they’ll also help guide you toward success.
Here are 11 business books The Manual loves for the sheer fact they don’t read like cheesy business books. Find the right one for you, depending on where you are in life and work:
If You Work With A**holes
The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton
Penned by respected Harvard professor Robert Sutton, this book is all about surviving workspaces overrun with, ahem, rude coworkers and the productivity that comes from building environments without these personalities. Sutton is an organizational psychologist and this concept of becoming a toxic asshole simply by being around toxic assholes is a legit phenomenon called “emotional contagion.” We dig how simple the concept is. Assholes suck to be around, so why allow them to soil (pun intended) your profession?
If You Need a Reminder That Struggle Pays Off
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
They say great successes come after great failures. Take the case of Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, who gives a strikingly honest and non-preachy account of the messy, chaotic, and failure-ridden history that set the groundwork for Nike to become a multibillion-dollar corporation. It takes sacrifice and the willingness to struggle, so keep your chin up, champ.
If You Want to Get In the Zone
Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
You know that state of seamless, high-focused operation when you knock out assignments and to-dos, fully immersed in and captivated by the work before you? It’s a psychological concept called “flow,” coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His book of the same name identifies how we are at our happiest in this state, feeling completely fulfilled and engaged. He shares how to get into and stay in that zone so you can be present and produce more work you’re proud of.
If You Have No Time
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Running yourself into the ground with myriad tasks won’t make you achieve more. In Essentialism, Greg McKeown gives you a hall pass to drop some of your workload and do less. The idea is that, by doing less, you’ll do what is the most important (aka essential). The rest is little more than static that, frankly, isn’t worth the effort. The big lesson here is to give more value to yourself and your time.
If Your Career Isn’t Going the Way You Hoped
Do Over by Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff verges on sensationalism in his delivery, but at the heart of Do Over is a golden lesson: you’re more equipped than you think. When we find ourselves at the end of a long-held career, laid off, or in a transition, we tend to doubt our abilities, not just as professionals but as human beings. Acuff issues a reminder that you’re prepared to tackle the next hurdle. A seemingly negative professional experience or step backward is really an opportunity to slingshot higher. This book is not one of those hustle-24/7 narratives, which we appreciate.
If You Want to Be More Creative
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Yes, you are an imaginative genius. You, with the pasta stain on your shirt. Austin Kleon cracks open the mechanism of creativity, showing us 10 actionable ways to tap into the world’s ever-flowing source of inspiration and genius. Take this as a sign to be a little more wild and daring.
If You’re Wrapped Up in Getting Rich
Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
From the dude that wrote Moneyball, Liar’s Poker reads like fiction but is a wise career warning to not follow the money. It’s also a scary-accurate look into the mismanagement and shameless greed percolating in Wall Street (the story is equal parts hilarious and horrifying). If you’re feeling down about how much money you make or are wracked with anxiety about getting rich quick, read this and calm down.
If You Don’t Fit Into a Normal Job
Originals by Adam Grant
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Originals by Adam Grant was inspired by the movie Office Space. Numbed from the mundane revolving door of carbon copy jobs and tasks? This book is an affirmation for the non-conformist that the people who go against the grain are the ones who move the dial. The great news? We’re all non-conforming “originals” deep down. Major achievers from Richard Branson to Malcolm Gladwell to JJ Abrams agree this is an essential book for your shelf.
If You Think You Don’t Deserve Success
The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young
“Imposter syndrome” is an effect in which you don’t believe you are worthy of success and accomplishment. Highly capable people experience this mental deception, and Valerie Young was sick of seeing it. In this award-winning book, you’ll learn to pooh-pooh self-doubt and take ownership (even feel pride!) for your achievements. This lesson translates well beyond work and is not just for women. Almost any other book about owning your success involves too much shouting into mirrors. Young’s writing is provoking, insightful, and pep-free.
If You Want to Learn the Skill of Mind Control
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
For 24 years and counting, Daniel Goleman’s exploration into the power of recognizing and understanding our own emotional landscapes has been available in the form of this groundbreaking business book that puts emotional intelligence above IQ in the hierarchy of skills that bring professional success. Goleman’s book is tremendously bright and inspiring and makes us feel better about our horrible SAT scores. You can learn the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence in about 300 pages.
If You Hate Your Job
Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt
Laurence Boldt is your own personal career consultant and sensei, reminding us that work is not just a place we go to waste the hours in a day. Work must satisfy our souls. Yes, work isn’t always fun and we need to pay the bills, but Zen and the Art of Making a Living might inspire you to finally start doing what makes you feel alive. It’s not all Buddha quotes. Boldt helps you discover what you want to do, then sets a solid action plan to get there.