As a librarian and self-proclaimed bookworm, I’m in the business of helping to match the right book with the right person at the right time.
And if you’re reading this right now, I suspect, you’re looking for just the right book to help boost – or start – your female-led business.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been a librarian for almost seventeen years, and matching books to readers is my favorite part of the job.
I love books and believe they have the power to enrich lives so much that I currently launching my own business – and I’m using all I’ve learned from these books to do it.
In this article, I have selected some of my favorite books from my own reading list to offer actionable advice to anyone wanting to take their personal and professional growth to the next level.
The following books are must-read books that give practical advice for women starting their own businesses, navigating the corporate world and wanting to make the most of their entrepreneurial journey.
These titles focus on personal growth, creativity, and shifting mindsets which all lay the groundwork for success in your chosen business. I’ve also included key quotes from each recommendation to help, even if you don’t read the entire book.
Editor’s Note: Prices mentioned are for the print versions of these books and are as of the time of this writing.
Great for: Women who crave efficiency ($8.84)
Gawande is a physician by training, but this book has practical applications for all fields, including business. The best way to avoid costly mistakes and miscommunications is simple—work from a checklist.
If you are working for yourself or managing others, this book will show you the power of making the increasingly complex tasks we do every day simple and streamlined. The knowledge in this book will help you to think through your tasks in the most efficient way possible, saving you time, money and headaches.
Key Quote: “Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.”
2. The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power by Katherine Morgan Shafler
Great for: Women who struggle with perfectionism ($20.49)
If you’ve ever called yourself a perfectionist (and felt bad about it), this is a must-read book. It will change your life – it for sure changed mine.
As women, we are constantly told that being a perfectionist is a bad thing but we can’t deny that our drive and excellence get things DONE.
Shafler’s years of counseling highly achieving women throughout her career will help you to grow into what she calls an “adaptive perfectionist.”
Key Quote: “What’s culturally incentivized is not being healthy for yourself, it’s seeming healthy for others.”
Great for: Female entrepreneurs aspiring to adopt the millionaire mindset ($16.20)
Rodgers is a successful entrepreneur whose goal is to empower women to achieve financial freedom and success in their given fields.
Rodgers particularly empowers women of color who have been historically been disenfranchised from investment capital and business ownership.
What I love most about this book is the use of her own experience of failure to catapult her to being the master of her own financial future. It just might be the book to get you into the right mindset for making a big leap in your own personal brand or online business.
Key Quote: “Bottom line: When women earn more, all society benefits immensely. The research proves it. I’ve seen it and felt it. I’m sure you have, too. Instead of just admiring women who earn millions and change the world, become one.”
Great for: Entrepreneurs seeking to be 1% better every day ($13.79)
Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” This book is the gold standard of habit formation.
When tackling the challenge of entrepreneurship your workflow and personal habits can be the deciding factor between success and failure. Clear challenges readers to become 1% better every day. And those percentage points will add up over time.
He also takes different perspectives on habit formation, so anyone can find something that will work for them and their specific need. We all know developing the discipline to be a successful business leader is a matter of hard work, and our habits make or break us. Trust me–you won’t find a better book on habits than this one.
Key Quote: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Great for: Professionals interested in data-backed gender bias ($15.99)
We all know who *really* runs the world (looking at you, Beyonce) but have you ever stopped to think about how so much of our world is designed by and for men?
Have you ever had to wait in line for the women’s restroom while men never seem to have that problem?
From crash test dummies to medical treatments to emojis, this book takes a hard look at the gender data gap.
The business world is designed and dominated by men, but this book will help put those feelings into hard examples. Like when Sheryl Sandberg declared that Facebook needed more accessible parking spots for expectant mothers.
If your business is in any way targeted to women, this book will forever shape your thinking to challenge the status quo of men as the default.
Key Quote: “The fact is that worth is a matter of opinion, and opinion is informed by culture. And if that culture is as male-biased as ours is, it can’t help but be biased against women. By default.”
6. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney
Great for: Women in need of a bit of inspiration and also enjoy short stories ($11.59)
This book is a collection of interviews with influential women–creatives, business owners, executives, and successful entrepreneurs.
They share tips, tricks, and personal experiences on starting and growing their small businesses.
I love the intimacy of this book. Beautiful photographs paired with BFF-level insight on how they navigate their businesses make for a joyful read.
This is a great book to keep on your coffee table or bookshelf to flip through when you need inspiration and empowerment from female business owners at your fingertips.
Key Quote: “Women want to run their own company and are much more likely to do so if they have the support of other women around them…Any one of these women would inspire someone to pursue their passion, but together they are an undeniable force.”
Great for: Those who wish to work smarter, not harder ($16.69)
What if you could make the core tasks of your work and life effortless? How much more could you accomplish?
I found this book to be so helpful in many ways. I love that it approaches problems from the perspective of working smarter, not harder. It teaches the practical tips of questioning assumptions, making dreaded tasks fun, taking the “minimum viable action” when we feel stuck, and staying in a restful state by only taking on what you can accomplish in a day.
McKeown says to begin with the end in mind and work backward from there–in other words, start with done. Small changes like these can add up to big leaps in productivity and success (bonus recommendation: McKeown’s first book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less“ which is a great companion)
Key Quote: “Perfectionism makes essential projects hard to start, self-doubt makes them hard to finish, and trying to do too much, too fast, makes it hard to sustain momentum.”
Great for: Professionals who need to break through creative blocks ($10.99)
This is the one book I always insist anyone who is a creative person in the world MUST read. And if you are making or managing anything–you are creating.
This book introduces the concept of Resistance.
You’ve probably felt it in the morning when you don’t want to get out of bed, or when that annoying voice in your head says “You can’t do that. You’re not good enough.”
Creative Person, meet Resistance–your greatest enemy and, as Pressfield says, your most powerful teacher. Pressfield’s book is a classic and it works in any circumstance. This book will change your life. (Bonus: it’s super short at 190 pages)
Key Quote: “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Great for: Women who need to prioritize what really matters ($13.99)
This book is the antidote to the endless productivity hustle our culture places on women leaders. The lie of being able to “do it all.”
Burkeman’s book posits that we all have an average life expectancy of four thousand weeks. We have to realize we can’t do it all. This is a hard thing to do, but the sooner we realize we can’t get to everything we might want to, the freer we will be to do what truly matters.
Key Quote: “The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control … Let’s start by admitting defeat: none of this is ever going to happen. But you know what? That’s excellent news.”
Great for: Women in need of a little self-love ($11.99)
Is your inner critic the loudest voice in your head? Are you kind to everyone else … except yourself? If you struggle with any of these problems, this book is an essential read.
Neff is the lodestar of self-compassion research. This book has stories, case studies, and many practical steps to help you implement self-compassion into your life.
I can personally attest that this book radically changed my life and led to happier relationships and more success at work. This book gave me some of the best advice that I use daily–I cannot truly love or serve others when I don’t truly love myself.
Key Quote: “If you are continually judging and criticizing yourself while trying to be kind to others, you are drawing artificial boundaries and distinctions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation.”
11. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
Great for: Those who aspire to dare greatly ($8.99)
Brene Brown is the go-to author of some of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. There’s a reason she trains C-suite employees of the world’s biggest companies.
Her work on vulnerability can transform how you manage your company and professional life. “Daring Greatly” is the first of her books to break into public awareness, and the follow-ups “Braving the Wilderness” and “Dare to Lead” broaden and deepen her ideas. The latter is especially geared to leaders, making it a good book once you’ve read this one.
Key Quote: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Great for: Creatives looking for a quick, inspiring read ($11.95)
This best-selling book is a short read that deals with some big ideas.
It is a little bit more mystical than some of the books I recommend, but if you are in the creative field, this one is a must-read.
Whether you are a social media creative or building your billion-dollar business, Gilbert’s book will leave you looking for your muse in all the right places and empower you to heed its promptings and reap the rewards of tapping into your creative power and entrepreneurial dreams.
Key Quote: “Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything.”
Great for: Women who want to intentionally design the life of their dreams ($4.64)
Our culture is obsessed with design–fashion, houses, gardens. You probably think about how you want your bedroom to look but have you ever thought about using proven design principles to design your ideal life?
This book is based on the popular course these authors teach at the Stanford Life Design Lab. It will guide your discernment of what it is you really want, help you imagine ways to get there, and use the methodology of design thinking to get your dreams accomplished.
The authors guide you through this process by asking you to consider the four areas of life, work, play, health and love. Activities throughout the book help you to imagine different versions of your life that would all bring you happiness because all know life never goes in a straight line anyway!
Bonus recommendation–check out their newest book “Designing Your New Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness–and a New Freedom–at Work.”
Key Quote: “A coherent life is one lived in such a way that you can clearly connect the dots between three things: who you are, what you believe, what you are doing.”
14. Nice Girls (Still) Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel
Great for: Women who want to break barriers in business ($10.99)
It’s no secret that being a woman in business is hard. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t shy away from that fact but confronts it head-on.
Frankel itemizes 133 common mistakes women make in the business world and suggests ways to grow from them.
A self-assessment quiz guides you through being a “nice girl to winning woman.” I spend a lot of time thinking about what I did wrong, and this book is like having a seasoned mentor and wise friend at my fingertips.
If you’ve never done business coaching, take the first step and work through this book. It will change how you think about your gifts and challenges forever.
Key Quote: “Nice is necessary for success; it’s simply not sufficient. If you overly rely on being nice to the exclusion of developing complementary behaviors, you’ll never achieve your adult goals.”
What books would you recommend to someone starting or growing their business? What books helped you get where you are today? Let me know in the comments below.