Business Books for Your Personal and Professional Growth

By Jamie Davidson · March 25, 2019

Did you know that growing your career and improving your personal development is as easy as picking up a book? Reading has been shown to reduce stress, increase brain power, improve memory, and even help you live a healthier and longer life. The more you read about proven strategies for success and examples of how others have experienced personal and professional growth, the easier it will be for you to achieve the same results. Start your journey today by picking from one of these 22 business books every professional should read.

Business Books for Professional Development

Career Advancement

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” – Gary Keller

A #1 bestseller on numerous lists and named one the “Top 100 Business Books of All Time” by Goodreads. As stated in the title, Keller illustrates a simple, powerful concept of how to be extraordinarily successful – focus on only one thing at a time. Instead of wanting and creating more distractions in your life, learn how to cut through the clutter and focus on only the ONE thing that will deliver outstanding results. Focusing on what matters most, at work and at home will lead to increased productivity, greater success, and more fulfillment. To learn more, check out The ONE Thing blog.

“So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skill Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” – Cal Newport

Eat, Pray, Love” taught us to follow our passion, Cal Newport flips that cliche on its head and warns against this advice. By compiling his accounts of time spent with a variety of successful individuals who admit to loving what they do, Newport explains why passion comes only after hard work is put in and skills are attained. In fact, he illustrates how following your “predetermined” passion and failing at it can lead to anxiety, chronic job hopping and even depression. Newport also covers how becoming a master at any skill can lead you to new, greater passions. This book was written to help you learn how to combine your passions and skills in a way that will lead to an employable and profitable career. If you enjoy this book, check out some of Newport’s other writings, including his blog.

Managing Oneself” Peter Drucker

I’m sure one of your parents instilled the importance of independence in you when you were young. Drucker, expounds on this considering that we live in an age where competition is vast and your company may not invest in your growth. Only you are responsible for taking the reins of your career. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, know your values, and cultivate a work environment that provides the most opportunity for your success.

Business Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy” – W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Kim and Mauborgne view the marketplace as two diverse universes, a Red Ocean and a Blue Ocean. The red ocean is an existing marketplace with defined rules and a finite customer demand pool. On the other hand, a Blue Ocean is an unimagined, new marketplace with zero competition. The book outlines the strategic principles and tools that any organization can use to develop their own blue oceans. Check out the Blue Ocean Blogfor more interesting reading on this subject.

Strategize to Win” – Carla A. Harris

With the follow-up to “Expect to Win”, Harris, a 30-year Wall Street veteran and a Morgan Stanley managing director, helps to re-imagine and redirect a career path toward success. Winner of the Gold Medal winner of the 2016 Axiom Business Book Awards in Careers, this book offers tools to become unstuck, learning leadership skills and preparing for and thriving through change and successfully grow in a new direction. Watch Harris’inspirational talkto an audience of 12,000 at the 2017 Pennsylvania Conference on Women.

Principles” – Ray Dalio

To say that Ray Dalio is a successful businessman is an understatement. He is the 79th wealthiest person in the world! While building one of the world’s largest hedge funds, Dalio developed a set of unconventional principles that he claims to owe his success to. The book includes hundreds of practical lessons, built around Dalio’s cornerstone beliefs of “radical truth”, “radical transparency” and “idea meritocracy”. He emphasizes embracing technology as a means of enhancing human decision making while reducing bias and errors. Dalio shares many forward-thinking principles that anyone can apply.

Spin Selling” – Neil Rackham

First published in 1988, Rackham’s tested sales methods and techniques have been proven with real-world examples. By observing thousands of sales calls, Rackham realized that the quality of the questions asked by the salesperson can determine success. This guide lays out how to incorporate SPIN strategy using questions based on Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff.

Business Growth

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” – Patty McCord

Patty McCord was the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix where she helped create the unique and high-performing culture that the company is known for. Named by The Washington Post as one of the 11 Leadership Books to Read in 2018, this book shares McCord’s learnings from that experience. She argues that when it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, most companies are approaching it all wrong. The key to retaining successful employees is providing them with challenging work and cutting those who don’t perform. McCord illustrates how companies should focus on authenticity and “radical honesty” and break away from traditional methods to build higher performing and more profitable teams.

The Enlightened Capitalists” – James O’Toole

In The Enlightened Capitalists, O’Toole weaves together research and storytelling to create an engaging book about how successful companies can be built without trading off between profit and morals. Retelling stories of past successes, O’Toole illustrates how current companies can embrace a win-win environment in today’s environment where cause marketing and social responsibility is a priority for consumers.

Lost and Founder” – Rand Fishkin

Rand is one of the world’s leading experts on search engine optimization (SEO) and is the creator of Moz, an extremely successful marketing software company. However, his success was 15 years in the making – and it didn’t follow the rosy path that many people envision startups having. In this book, opens up about the ups and downs he struggled through as the CEO of a startup. It’s designed to share his lessons, and help readers solve problems that are relevant to all businesses large and small, new and old.

Financial Growth

The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires” – Dennis Kimbro

The Wealth Choice is based on a seven-year study of 1,000 of the wealthiest African Americans. This study was undertaken by Kimbro to better understand how these prosperous individuals achieved their success so that others can emulate their path. The book includes the stories and lessons from the experiences of Spike Lee, Bob Johnson, L.A. Reid and more to highlight their habits, mindsets and the sacrifices they made to get them to where they are today.

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth” – Jen Sincero

In her follow-up to “You Are a Badass”, Sincero recounts her own relatively rags to riches story and the lessons she gleaned from her experience. Sincero’s book is chock full of advice that is easily understandable and applicable so you can “get as wealthy as you want to be.”

The Millionaire Next Door” – Thomas J. Stanley and William D.Danko

You may be surprised to discover that most of the truly wealthy in the United States don’t live in secluded gated communities like Beverly Hills. They actually live next door to “regular” people like you and me. The glamorous people that many of us picture when we think of the word millionaire actually only make up a fraction of America’s truly wealthy citizens. In this book, Stanley and Danko highlight seven common qualities of the average millionaire. By understanding how they live, and how these qualities lead to great wealth, you can begin to adopt them for yourself – leading to greater wealth, a happier life, and more freedom to focus on work and activities that you enjoy. For more on this subject, check out the blog dedicated to Thomas J Stanley.

Business Books for Personal Development


“Year of Yes” – Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is the television producer, screenwriter, and author, known for her hit series “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” as well as her jaw-dropping 8 show $150 million deal with Netflix. In this book, Rhimes has chosen to share her story of one year of saying yes to every unexpected invitation and request that she received. This, at times, uncomfortable act, led her on a transformational journey from burnt out workaholic to a confident, relaxed, more happy human being who began to enjoy her work again. Rhimes’ book and her Ted talk on the same subject illustrate the power of how saying yes to opportunities can open you up to new ways of thinking and shift how you define yourself.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” – Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck is a psychologist (and for transparency, a college professor of mine) who has developed the concept of mindset and how it influences success. Whether it’s a personal or professional success, Dweck illustrates that people adopt one of two types of mindset. People with a “fixed mindset” believe that their abilities are fixed and cannot be further developed. While people with a “growth mindset” believe they can improve. Dweck’s research shows how to put a growth mindset into use to achieve your goals, as well as motivate others to understand their growth mindset and attain their own success.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0” – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

“Emotional Intelligence 2.0” takes the now familiar subject of emotional intelligence – having awareness of and managing emotions while also having empathy for others – and breaks it down into 4 core strategies you can cultivate for increased interpersonal success: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. These skills are invaluable whether you’re formally leading a team, part of a team, or interacting with people as part of your personal life. Learn more about EQ from the extensive pool of TalentSmart articles.

Adopting Positive Habits

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – Stephen R. Covey

Originally published in 1989, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is still very relevant today. In fact, it has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. After researching highly successful people, Covey discovered that there were seven common habits among them – habits that can help anyone achieve a better personal and professional life. These seven habits will help you become more productive, effective and successful in all areas of your life.

The Power of Habit” – Charles Duhigg

“The Power of Habit” explains why habits exist, how they are formed and how we can change them. Duhigg’s methodology shows that once you know how habits are formed, you can actively work on forming new positive habits that replace the bad ones, as well as stop any new bad habits from becoming ingrained. This book focuses on how we can use the science behind habits to transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win” – Jeff Haden

Jeff Haden wrote “The Motivation Myth” as a guide to finding and maintaining real lasting motivation. It’s hard not to believe that successful people may just have more drive or willpower than the rest of us. However, Haden outlines that motivation is actually a result, not a stimulus. By reimagining the steps to reach success we create a new relationship with motivation. Adopting these processes and habits when approaching a problem or goal will help you achieve lasting success. Haden has written many articles on this subject as well as interviewed highly successful people. Read Haden’s interviews with stars such as Serena Williams and Richard Branson.

Overcoming Obstacles

The Work” – Wes Moore

Wes Moore wrote “The Work” to share his personal story of misfortune, challenges, and a lifelong quest to a fulfilled and purposeful life. Moore relates what it was like to be in difficult situations, including being an officer in Afghanistan and a Wall Street banker during the 2008 recession. This book conveys Moore’s sense of resilience and optimism as he recounts life lessons and shares tales of inspiration. Moore also shares the lessons he learned from those who inspired him.

The Road to Redemption“- Lucinda Cross

Lucinda Cross is a motivational speaker and leadership expert. In this transformative book, Cross shares the challenges she faced in her past and how she overcame them. Cross shares strategies she developed to overcome obstacles in these 5 areas: Focus, Determination, Action, Perspective, Mindset. If you are ready for change, feel empowered and take the first steps.
Beating the Odds“- Eddie Brown

Eddie Brown is a philanthropist, business magnate, and financial expert. “Beating the Odds” is his autobiography recounting a past full of personal and professional hardship, yet how and why his persistence ultimately led him to build a billion-dollar financial company. This engaging memoir illustrates how someone who came from nothing was able to achieve everything, thanks to curiosity, hard work, belief in self and a bit of providence.

These books provide advice, actionable steps for improvement and proven strategies that will come in handy at any stage of a professional’s career. Overwhelmed by the options? Many of these books have blogs and podcasts that you can sample to see which topics and insights motivate you the most.


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