45 Professional Development Books to Level Up Your Career and Your Life

UPDATED: May 14, 2024
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2024
Woman reading a book while holding a cup of coffee

In a world with countless ways to level up your professional development, books are one of the most underestimated tools. 

Professional development books give insight on how to grow in our careers, grow as people and better approach work-related challenges, shifting work environments and new opportunities. In this post, we’ll dive into books that speak to the three following categories:

Read on to discover 45 of the best professional development books. 

Professional development books on habits, attitudes and approaches

1. Take the Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life

By Sara Bliss

If you’re tired of your 9-to-5 job and often find yourself daydreaming about pursuing something else, Sara Bliss’s Take the Leap features more than 60 stories of people who did just that. You’ll meet Jon Deng, a U.S. Army officer turned software engineer; Ge Wang, a lawyer who became the owner of a menswear business; and Monique Greenwood, a magazine editor-in-chief turned innkeeper.

Bliss doesn’t just share the stories of others, but also her own. She was working at the front desk of a Manhattan auction house “helping move art from one fancy apartment to another.” So she left to become a writer.

The stories Bliss shares are important because “people who have radically changed their lives provide serious inspiration to… everyone who has ever wanted to switch gears but worry they are too old, too young, too broke”—and the list goes on. If that sounds like you, this is a must-read. 

2. Success Habits: Proven Principles for Greater Wealth, Health, and Happiness

By Napoleon Hill

Though Napoleon Hill died more than five decades ago, there is still much one can learn from his teachings. His work these days is managed by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. In their newest production, Success Habits, you’ll find never before published insights from one of the godfathers of personal development.

To create this book, a series of radio talks delivered by Hill were transcribed and edited for cohesiveness. The book is divided into 13 chapters filled with gems of deep insight, such as, “Mental attitude attracts to you the physical counterparts of your dominating thoughts as surely as an electromagnet attracts steel filings. Keep your mental attitude positive at all times and you may make your life pay off on your own terms.”

Hill’s principles are candid, some coming from his own experiences and others in the form of entertaining stories. 

3. Wise Guy: Lessons From a Life

By Guy Kawasaki

Whereas many people write memoirs in a linear fashion, Guy Kawasaki tells his story in vignettes, giving the reader entertaining tales from his life with important takeaways. He also imparts a personal development spin. Rather than leaving the reader with vague lessons learned, Kawasaki spells it out with tips, advice and quotes.

Among the best nuggets: “Do the right thing, not what you can get away with when you achieve a position of power and wealth,” Kawasaki writes. “Money can’t buy scruples—indeed, money may prevent scruples. With money comes the responsibility to act magnanimous—not abusive.”

With advice ranging from where to go for college (away from your hometown) to knowing when to keep your mouth shut, Kawasaki offers useful wisdom no matter your age or profession. In Wise Guy, Kawasaki shares important stories that can be valuable to anyone looking to take the next big step in their professional or personal life.

4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic is all about the habits, attitudes and approaches people can take to live their most creative life. And while this book is often recommended to artists, writers and other creative people, it’s also perfect for business owners who want to approach their everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion.

5. The Alter Ego Effect: The Power of Secret Identities to Transform Your Life

By Todd Herman

Life is full of moments that involve reinventing yourself and taking a step forward into the future. In The Alter Ego Effect, author Todd Herman suggests that we add another element: creating an alter ego to boost our confidence and skills. Just as Clark Kent has Superman inside him, we all have a hero inside us waiting for the time to put on a cape. I fully endorse this book so that everyone can unlock their potential.

6. Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content

By Mark Levy

Accidental Genius is a book that describes the power of “freewriting.” Freewriting is the technique of writing continuously, without editing, for a fixed period of time. It allows your mind to expel “junk thoughts” before paving the way for truly brilliant and creative thoughts

This is a great book for anyone who needs to find creative solutions or wants to improve their writing in general.

7. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown

You won’t fulfill your dreams, change the world or make an impact if you’re simply reacting to everyone else’s expectations and requests through a bombardment of emails, meetings, calls and commitments. 

Essentialism is a great guide for narrowing your efforts in order to proactively control your day, so you can spend more time on what will produce the most success and happiness.

8. How to Make Sh*t Happen: Make More Money. Get in Better Shape. Create Epic Relationships and Control Your Life

By Sean Whalen

Nearly all the topics that matter most to us are covered in this book—How to Make Sh*t Happen. What happens is this: Thanks to the chaotic environment and harried lifestyles society has made the norm, we cannot figure out how to strike the right balance to achieve everything we want to achieve.

Sean Whalen’s own successes among this varied and full life—as a father, entrepreneur, public speaker, podcaster and business coach—make him an excellent candidate for helping the rest of us be in control of our lives and get more done.

9. Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals 

By Michael Hyatt

Your Best Year Ever is a great mindset to adopt, something that will be easy to do after you check out Hyatt’s actionable steps for making it a reality. Rather than just being a cheerleader, the author delivers the reasons life should matter and how you can develop your own purpose for reaching your full potential.

Hyatt’s approach is to develop a research-based process for determining how to set your individual goals and take the steps needed to achieve them despite feeling overwhelmed by daily stress. It’s a system you can apply to your business, personal, fitness and/or relationship goals.

10. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better and Achieve More 

By Morten T. Hansen

Doing less and achieving more is an ideal we all share about work and life. Great at Work was written by the co-author of New York Times bestselling Great by Choice. Thanks to Hansen, we now have a road map for how we can work in a smarter way through his seven “work smarter practices.”

To illustrate each of these practices, Hansen includes specific stories from all types of people that show the wide range of jobs and perspectives out there. To include you in the process, he also provides quizzes and questionnaires, making the practices relatable so you can enact change immediately.

11. Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life 

By Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard

With the decline in regular face-to-face interaction and so many people hiding behind social media, it seems as though politeness is often lost at work and in daily life. Penned by two former White House social secretaries, Treating People Well is committed to bringing civility back so we can start treating each other better.

Berman and Bernard talk about their experiences while working at the White House, including interactions with celebrities, foreign leaders and other staff members. They focus on how you can incorporate what they learned into your own relationships with your boss and colleagues. This includes ways to develop important social skills, whether you use them online or in person.

12. Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less

By Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu has a common story, the one about the new mother who thought she could do it all, only to run smack into reality. To put this in perspective, here is a partial list of Dufu’s accomplishments: launch team member for Lean In; chief leadership officer at Levo, a career and social media website; president of the White House Project; associate development director at Seattle Girls’ School; and member of the Women’s Forum of New York.

As much a memoir as a how-to, Drop the Ball recounts Dufu’s struggle and solution: letting go. She learned to recalibrate expectations, concentrate on her to-do list and accept help from others. Dufu urges women to embrace imperfection and marshal the energy to develop a rich, balanced life—one that includes professional goals. It’s a practical kind of feminism for the 21st century, one endorsed by Gloria Steinem’s enthusiastic foreword.

13. What Motivates Getting Things Done: Procrastination, Emotions and Success

By Mary Lamia

Getting things done is not a matter of willpower. That’s the good news. A clinical psychologist and a professor in the doctoral program at the Wright Institute, Mary Lamia says procrastination is not a mental problem but a problem centered in human emotions. In fact, she says, some high-achieving people are procrastinators, but they have learned how to use procrastination as a source of motivation, and waiting for the spur of pressing deadlines is part of their productivity cycle. Others feel the need to start on projects immediately. One strategy is not necessarily better than the other, so long as things get done.

In What Motivates Getting Things Done, Lamia shows how anyone can harness their own personal work style for maximum productivity. She takes the reader on a tour of the emotional lives of high achievers, those who procrastinate and those who don’t, and surveys the current science on motivation. Humans, she says, are motivated not only by the pursuit of positive emotions but also by the desire to avoid negative ones. Therefore, managing negative emotions—shame, fear, guilt, anxiety—is key to her approach. Fortunately, it’s something anyone can learn. 

Professional development books about mental health and work

1. Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance

By Emily Fletcher

When she was 27, Emily Fletcher was the understudy for three lead roles on Broadway, but it wasn’t all that it was made out to be. Whenever she had a bad performance, she was devastated. Then she met another actress who was understudying five lead roles, yet—unlike Fletcher—seemed “calm and centered.” The actress told Fletcher it all came down to meditation.

At first she didn’t believe it, but eventually Fletcher tried it, became hooked and ultimately quit acting to travel to India to learn more about meditation. That’s what led her to create Ziva Meditation and the Ziva technique, which consists of meditation, mindfulness and manifesting.

Fletcher makes one thing clear. “Stress Less, Accomplish More is not another meditation book heralding the benefits of higher states of consciousness without giving you any real tools to get there,” she writes. “This book is all about extraordinary performance.” Meditation, Fletcher argues, can not only improve your health and peace of mind, but it can also help you excel at whatever it is you do. 

2. When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want 

By Mike Lewis

We’ve all been in a job where that voice in our head is telling us it’s not the one that will give us what we want out of life. Maybe you’re there right now. If so, then this is a great book to pick up today. Lewis has been in your shoes; it’s why he wrote When to Jump. He knows everyone wonders when they should go ahead and make such a huge change in their life.

In the book, he shares stories from people with various jobs and backgrounds who made big jumps in their careers. They share why and how they did it, as well as when they realized it was time to go for it. There are more than 40 different stories in the book—any one of which might inspire you to finally make that jump for yourself.

3. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

By Florence Williams

As Homo sapiens become an increasingly urban species, evidence for our dependence on nature continues to grow stronger. Florence Williams, who has been a contributing editor to Outside magazine, scoured the latest science while traveling the world for examples. 

In The Nature Fix, Williams explores how Scotland offers “ecotherapeutic” therapy for people who are mentally ill, and in West Virginia, being outside has been found to help children with ADHD. Williams is an elegant yet witty writer, and she makes a terrific guide.

4. The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era

By Amy Blankson

Technology makes us more productive, but it comes with a cost: multitasking, 24-hour availability and the incessant sensation that we are falling further behind. In The Future of Happiness, Amy Blankson says there’s good news. Technology also gives us the tools we need to find balance, and even happiness, amid the distractions of the digital age.

Blankson proposes five strategies for managing a coherent 21st century life: Stay grounded because distraction is a choice; think smaller and use technology to understand the world; train your brain to use emerging technologies to cultivate a positive mindset; create a habitat for happiness and declutter your space and your mind; and be a conscious innovator to make today’s technology shape the future you want. The wise use of technology can help us achieve happiness right now, she says, not in some distant future.

Professional development books for entrepreneurs

1. Crushing It! How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can Too 

By Gary Vaynerchuk

Crushing It provides you with incredible ideas from a super influential social media sensation, motivational speaker and author. Vaynerchuk pulls no punches in his live and social media events, and the same is true in this entertaining book.

Vaynerchuk tells some of the best stories from entrepreneurs who continue to add to their wealth and influence. This includes offering principles that readers can implement in their own lives and businesses. The book breaks down each social media platform to make it easy to understand how it can be used to build your empire.

2. Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Relationships That Matter 

By Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

You might not want to hear that the approach to networking you’ve been accustomed to is in need of an overhaul, but Gerber and Paugh show you why it doesn’t work and how to look for a different type of connection: the superconnector. Superconnectors make things happen by leveraging the power within social platform communities.

The authors also teach you how to become a superconnector yourself, offering advice on practicing habitual generosity and the importance of open communication and Google-proofing your reputation, all of which can help pave your path to success.

3. What’s Your Presentation Persona? Discover Your Unique Communication Style and Succeed in Any Arena

By Scott Schwertly and Sunday Mancini

Science used to indicate you were stuck with the brain you were born with. Actually, it is possible to rewire the brain through practice to support healthier habits, eliminate bad habits and give yourself lifelong learning. “Neuroplasticity can even make it possible to retrain your brain’s physical abilities simply by imagining those changes,” the authors write in What’s Your Presentation Persona? So don’t give up on that air guitar just yet.

We live in a golden age of public speaking. The thing is, most speeches are delivered to small groups and are known as “presentations” or “sales pitches.” Co-author Scott Schwertly, founder of Ethos3, a presentation design and training boutique in Nashville, Tennessee, offers a proprietary test to determine each individual’s strengths. By classifying you in one of several categories, from scholar to scientist to entertainer, Schwertly promises to hone your presentation skills. You can even become a well-rounded presenter by trying other personas.

4. Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains

By Sam Weinman

Sports reporter Sam Weinman didn’t know how to guide his sons through losses at school and on the field. To learn more, he interviewed high-profile achievers who had survived public defeat, including athletes, entertainers, politicians and executives. Weinman learned that real success comes not in spite of but because of loss, humiliation and rejection.

Weinman says, being a good loser “implies perspective and resilience and the quiet confidence that the world will not crumble around you because of a fleeting setback.” In Win at Losing, he supports the point with the stories of golfer Greg Norman, politician Michael Dukakis, actress Susan Lucci and others.

Professional development books for managers and founders

1. Brave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization?

By Aaron Dignan

Wherever he goes, organizational consultant Aaron Dignan meets workers and leaders who are frustrated by pressure to grow, deliver and execute, all while being hamstrung by endless emails and meetings.

“This isn’t the way it has to be, or even the way it always was,” Dignan writes. “Our way of working was created, brick by brick, by gurus, industrialists, robber barons, unions, and universities—generations of managers and workers who came before us. We can thank them for what is still serving us, and we can change the rest.”

In Brave New Work, Dignan offers a number of solutions. Not all of his advice will be popular with everyone: Dignan’s idea to eliminate bonuses likely wouldn’t go over well in some offices, for example. He invites you to use what you can and what you need and to experiment in your workplace. Dignan presents his ideas in an accessible manner with worksheets, checklists and questionnaires to help. 

2. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

By Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton

Everyone needs to have negotiation skills. Most people think of negotiation as an “us-versus-them” situation. But Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton shows how you can find common interests that lead to great outcomes for all parties. 

This is an excellent book for business owners who want to have a better relationship with their partners and customers.

3. The Replaceable Founder

By Ari Meisel

The Replaceable Founder by Ari Meisel begs the question: How much notice do you need to give your team to take a last-minute vacation? How much notice would they need to give you? If the answer is more than 48 hours, this is a red flag and means there are bottlenecks within your company that are preventing you from communicating effectively and having redundancy and safety in the organization.

4. The Making of a Manager, What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

By Julie Zhuo

Sometimes we’re asked to become leaders regardless of whether we’re ready for it. That was the case for Julie Zhuo, who at 25 found herself a first-time boss with more questions than answers.

“This is the book that’s here to tell you that your fears and doubts are normal,” Zhuo writes. “And, like me, you’re going to figure it out.” Using clear-cut examples of how great leadership looks in the workplace, Zhuo creates a practical guide. One example is the art of feedback and how to make it as effective as possible for bosses and their reports. Feedback should be specific, clarify what success looks like and inform next steps, she explains.

Although most of The Making of a Manager focuses on leading others, Zhuo also writes about leading yourself. Whether you’re a first-time boss or you’ve been doing this for a while, there’s something to take away from the book, including tips on growing a team and a culture. And, as a designer, Zhuo uses illustration to creatively explain some of her most important points. 

5. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

By Kim Scott

Alice Roosevelt Longworth is famously connected to the phrase, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” But that’s not what consultant Kim Scott means by “radical candor.” No, she’s talking about the “unnatural act” of delivering honest criticism—and praise—to employees. Praise sounds patronizing, Scott says, and criticism can be brutal. As a result, most bosses avoid genuine open communication altogether, which makes them bad bosses.

Scott has worked as a CEO coach at several Silicon Valley outfits, including Google, Dropbox, Twitter and Apple. She has developed three simple principles for hitting the “Goldilocks” zone between obnoxious aggression and ruinous empathy: Make it personal, get [stuff] done and understand why it matters. In Radical Candor, Scott shows how to receive criticism as well as give it and how to encourage multidirectional feedback.

6. Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters

By Anthony Tjan

In Good People, Anthony Tjan brings a timeless human question into the modern business world: What is goodness? In the workplace, goodness is often limited to competence and productivity. Tjan says real goodness includes integrity, compassion, generosity, gratitude and kindness. Sometimes dismissed as “soft,” these characteristics actually enable leaders to create business cultures of real value and longevity.

7. The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

By Kristi Hedges

Executive coach Kristi Hedges says that just as any child can grow up to be president, any employee, manager, or CEO can become a real inspiration to others. The behaviors that make for the kind of active listener and motivational conversationalist people want to follow are not a matter of born talent. They’re the result of skills that can be learned.

In The Inspiration Code, Hedges argues that inspirational leadership comes from a few consistent routine behaviors: investing in each conversation with full attention, speaking authentically, displaying the emotion and energy appropriate to each situation and helping others find meaning in their place within the big picture. Hedges refutes common myths about executive leadership. She says what really moves people to action is genuine communication. With this message, Hedges delivers an exceptional leadership book.

8. Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing 

By Robert Glazer

As a leader in affiliate marketing, Robert Glazer understands how this concept has been misunderstood and dismissed over the years. Yet he continues to focus on this marketing tool because his decade in the industry has produced actual quantifiable results that he shares in this book.

In Performance Partnerships, Glazer goes beyond the surface of affiliate marketing. He delves into the history of the field and how it has evolved into a results-oriented form of direct-to-consumer digital marketing. The book is filled with incredible advice on how to tap into the power of affiliate marketing. This is the year to add it to your marketing strategy.

9. Never Lose a Customer Again: Turn Any Sale Into Lifelong Loyalty in 100 Days 

By Joey Coleman

Joey Coleman is a business consultant and public speaker who has woven his theory of customer loyalty throughout this book. He believes companies that cultivate customer loyalty will reap the benefits for years to come.

In Never Lose a Customer Again, Coleman walks readers through each of the emotional phases customers experience within the first 100 days after they have made a purchase. This examination of the customer journey can help you identify what you can do to ensure buyer’s remorse doesn’t set in. The book gives you the tactics to create the type of memorable experiences that will keep customers coming back for more.

10. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love 

By Marty Cagan

Everyone wants to create the next iPhone. It’s the dream of every startup founder to build a successful company that rivals brands like Apple, Google and Tesla. This book tells you how to approach technology product development and management in a way that directs everything you do around what the customer would want.

In Inspired, Marty Cagan covers every factor that counts, such as talent, skill sets, market research, customer input and more. He bases all his insights on his own personal stories, as well as stories from Adobe, Apple, BBC, Google, Microsoft and Netflix.

11. Shortcut Your Startup: Speed Up Success With Unconventional Advice From the Trenches 

By Courtney Reum and Carter Reum

The faster you get your startup going, the faster it can grow and offer a return, right? But it often feels as though it can’t go fast enough. That might be because you have not yet discovered all the ways you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In Shortcut Your Startup, brothers Courtney and Carter Reum, former Goldman Sachs investment bankers and investors, have delivered a helpful guide full of shortcuts you can use to accelerate your startup’s development.

They leverage their experience of investing in more than 130 companies to give you shortcuts and tips that will help you speed past certain steps, avoid specific mistakes and take advantage of particular partnerships to piggyback on others’ resources. The book is intended for all kinds of entrepreneurs at every stage in the startup process.

12. Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World

By J. Kelly Hoey

The world has never been so tightly knit, thanks to digital technology, but as we all know, connections on social media can be superficial and unsatisfying. In Build Your Dream Network, J. Kelly Hoey shows us how to master the new tools. 

She’s been a columnist for Inc.com and a commentator on CNBC and was named among “25 of the Smartest Women on Twitter.” She’s also learned the hard way that good old-fashioned quality relationships are as important as ever, and she’s devised a detailed plan for building them in our brave new electronic world.

13. Extreme Teams: Why Pixar, Netflix, Airbnb and Other Cutting-Edge Companies Succeed Where Most Fail

By Robert Bruce Shaw

Consultant Robert Bruce Shaw isn’t the first to examine successful 21st-century teams, but his observations are fresh and insightful. The trick is hiring the right people to create the right atmosphere and maximizing profits by choosing to not make profits what matters most. Extreme Teams shows you how. According to Shaw, Pixar uses constant feedback, whereas Whole Foods fosters super-autonomous teams. What all these successful businesses have in common is the willingness to toss conventional wisdom overboard to make room for innovation.

14. Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success

By Esther K. Choy

Leadership expert Esther K. Choy says everyone knows a story is a great way to hook attention and convey a message people will remember. But it’s hard. In Let the Story Do the Work, Choy illustrates the skills that make storytelling work: giving raw experiences narrative shape, finding the right structure and ending on the right note. A few basic storytelling techniques, she says, will aid in a range of situations, from interviews to fundraising and from changing minds to establishing strong relationships.

15. Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette

By Rosanne J. Thomas

When Steve Jobs traded a coat and tie for turtlenecks and jeans, he gave too many younger professionals the idea that the only etiquette that matters anymore is be-yourself casual. This is a huge miscalculation. Etiquette in business is more important than ever, warns Rosanne J. Thomas, founder of Protocol Advisors, an etiquette-training consultancy. Sure, it might not be the same as in the day of the gray-flannel-suit crowd, but good manners are indispensable for avoiding confusion and social blunders in today’s fast-paced workspaces.

The collapse of clear-cut rules of etiquette and the advent of open-plan offices and increasing connectivity spur energy and creativity. At the same time, the chance of unintentionally offending someone (even your boss) can skyrocket. In Excuse Me, Thomas offers guidance on such up-to-the-minute issues as cellphone use in meetings, proper office attire, electronic manners, business dining, telecommuting and more.

16. Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons From Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World

By Joann S. Lublin

Only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and Joann S. Lublin, former management news editor for Wall Street Journal, includes many of them, as well as other female business leaders, in Earning It

Most were “firsts,” just as Lublin, in 1969, became the first female summer intern at Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. “They dismantled the old boys club, destroyed myths about the capabilities of female leaders and continue to serve as role models.” Lessons are to be learned, but Lublin, a first-rate writer, makes the stories of this “unique elite” a pleasure to read.

17. UnBranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption

By Scott Stratten and Alison Stratten

Given the shiny tools of the digital age, it’s easy to be distracted from those things that, shockingly, have not changed. In UnBranding, the husband-and-wife duo Alison and Scott Stratten explain that no new app can fix bad customer service, poor products or damaged branding. New business technologies and strategies work better when they are married to certain timeless values.

18. The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places From Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

By Eric Weiner

Renaissance Italy was a hotbed of creativity and innovation. Viennese coffee shops of the 19th century hosted a generation of intellectuals, such as Sigmund Freud. Ancient Greece birthed philosophers aplenty. Why? “Certain places, at certain times, produced a bumper crop of brilliant minds and good ideas,” writes Eric Weiner, author of the best-selling The Geography of Bliss

In The Geography of Genius, Weiner takes readers on a delightful armchair road trip to visit these genius “clusters” and learn about the relationship between culture, creativity, geography and history. Weiner’s snappy writing and unique observations round out the enjoyable adventure.

19. The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve the Well-Being of Your Employees—and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line

By Leigh Stringer

Everyone would like to promote employee wellness, but does it really boost your bottom line? Leigh Stringer, a workplace strategy expert and founder of WomanUp, marshals impressive evidence that it does. Studies, she says, show that staring at computer screens, eating unhealthy meals at a work desk, long hours, stress and other consequences of squeezing employees too hard is bad strategy. Not only does it result in time and productivity lost to sick days, but it also reduces workers’ efficiency when they are on the job.

While vast numbers of workers “are already trying hard to be healthy at work,” most companies remain “fairly reactive when it comes to employee health.” In The Healthy Workplace, Stringer uses herself as a guinea pig, trying new techniques, nutritional ideas and up-to-date behavioral science. It’s a fun trip, but it’s also an effective way to provide lots of research and information. Stringer concludes with a detailed chapter called “The Business Case for Health” that convincingly argues that proactive health strategies result in an impressive return on investment.

20. Make Your Own Waves: The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

By Louis Patler

Surfers have produced a number of innovative products and successful businesses, including the GoPro camera. Louis Patler, who is both a consultant and surfer, offers a 10-point plan on how to develop the characteristics successful surfers and entrepreneurs share, beginning with learning to swim. The other nine include getting wet; deciding to ride; always looking outside; committing, charging and shredding; paddling back out; never turning your back on the ocean; daring big; never surfing alone; and staying stoked. These metaphors prove to be surprisingly powerful teaching tools that stick in the mind in Patler’s book, Make Your Own Waves.

21. Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You

By Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary

The authors of Platform Revolution, two academics and an analyst, argue that digital platforms will continue to disrupt legacy businesses for the foreseeable future. They acknowledge that this is not altogether good and can lead to unemployment, such as when Craigslist demolished newspaper classified advertising. But the shift will also generate billions in value and provide unforeseen opportunities for those who know how it works.

22. Scaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth

By Ash Maurya

Just as almost no one waits for yesterday’s news to arrive on the doorstep, startups in the digital age cannot afford to rely on yesterday’s metrics. Ash Maurya, creator of the one-page business modeling tool Lean Canvas and author of the startup guide Running Lean, subjects every angle of business measurement to rigorous inquiry. The result is Scaling Lean, a book of efficient tools for entrepreneurs to measure the feasibility of their business models.

23. Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed

By Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood

The prescription Richard Koch delivers in Simplify boils down to two tactics. The first, “price simplifying,” means ease of manufacture, minimal product variety and the widest sales distribution possible. For example, at the beginning, McDonald’s shrank the traditional diner menu to nine items, eliminated waitstaff and co-opted customers into clearing their own tables. Henry Ford and IKEA are well-known price simplifiers too.

The second principle, “proposition simplifying,” has three components—a product should be intuitive, useful and beautiful. The master of this was Steve Jobs, who famously simplified Apple products by removing controls, leaving out software features and discarding interface options. Other companies that have used this principle include Uber and Google. Simplify is a practical book that can help entrepreneurs improve their business.

24. Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent

By Sydney Finkelstein

Sydney Finkelstein possesses a big brain, gaudy credentials (consultant, speaker, professor of management at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business) and a clear, entertaining writing style. Perhaps the most striking thing about Superbosses is how optimistic—even sunny—Finkelstein’s tone is. An influential restaurateur and chef, Finkelstein spent 10 years investigating business leadership in search of patterns across a range of industries.

And he found them. A superboss is not what Finkelstein calls a “bossy boss,” the Donald Trump-style of outsized personalities who “crack the whip and push employees to their limits.” A superboss, regardless of other qualities, is someone who develops talent. Finkelstein identifies 18 primary superbosses and a few dozen “likely superbosses,” including comedy’s Lorne Michaels and Jon Stewart, musician Miles Davis, NFL coach Bill Walsh and fashion’s Ralph Lauren. Each has spawned generations of talented leaders. What’s more, Superbosses is that rare business book that does more than inform. It’s positively hard to put down.

Photo credit: PIC SNIPE/Courtesy of Shutterstock

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