Ever since I got my first job a thousand years ago, certain books have been really helpful. For example, Garlic & Sapphires, Ruth Reichl’s hilarious memoir of her years as the New York Times restaurant critic, showed my twenty-something self a woman who had big ideas and took risks. And I still keep a copy of George Lois’s brilliant Damn Good Advice at my desk. Here, 9 more women share the reads that inspired them…
Stella Bugbee, Editorial Director, The Cut
I have a VERY, VERY unlikely book that I often reference as a boss: Siblings Without Rivalry. It’s not about money or business per se, but I’ve found since reading it that I put so many of its lessons into practice managing my team at work. I love the way it teaches you to listen, repeat the issues without taking sides, empathize and then teach the parties involved to solve their own disputes. It also helps at home. (Duh.)
Emily Henderson, Stylist and Interior Designer, Emily Henderson Design
There is something inside us, especially women, that tells us that if our work is something we love to do it should somehow be worth less. But, the exact opposite is true: the more you love to do something, the easier you make it look, the faster you are at it, the more VALUABLE you are because of your passion. So, while we all love to get paid in kisses, praise and genuine appreciation, The Business of Design, which I’m reading now, is a book that offers a great reminder that your value is worth cash money. Money that will support your business, your family and your entire life. And it teaches you how to determine your rates and how to approach a lot of otherwise uncomfortable money and client situations.
Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, Co-founders, Of a Kind
As it turns out, the ability to say no is seriously critical to your success. That is the lesson behind The Power of a Positive No, one of our favorites. It teaches you how to say no in a way that makes clear you’re doing so not because you’re, like, a jerk but because saying yes would be rejecting things that you and your business value and need.
We also keep The Power of Habit on our shelf. It’s a guide to why companies and individuals do what they do and act how they act — full of fascinating anecdotes. (The very first one will make you feel like you’re 100% capable of running the New York City Marathon a year from now.)
Rony Vardi, Founder and Owner, Catbird
I regularly read the Corner Office column in The New York Times, which I find to be endlessly inspiring. (There’s a book, too, which I should probably get.) I think of it as a weekly business horoscope. And, lately, my biggest business inspiration has come from the excellent A Chef’s Table on Netflix. Each episode focuses on one brilliant, revolutionary chef, who, despite not defining themselves this way, is a business owner in one way or another. Watching them make big decisions, take huge risks and problem solve in creative ways is fascinating and it’s what business owners do all the time.
Molly Wizenberg, Blogger and Author, Orangette
I’ve probably read Bird by Bird three times now, which is saying a lot, because I’m not normally a repeat book reader. Anne Lamott is a national treasure, period. And though this book is ostensibly about writing, I find myself thinking about aspects of it nearly every day. My mother just moved from Oklahoma to Seattle, where I live, and last week, in the midst of helping her to unpack what felt like a billion boxes, I kept reminding myself, “Bird by bird, Molly. Just take it bird by bird.”
Leandra Medine, Founder, Man Repeller
The Hard Thing About Hard Things helped me reorient my way of thinking and get more business savvy. I naturally lean toward creative/right-brain thinking, which works well for producing editorial content but doesn’t satisfy my need to be a good boss and a smart, strategic thinker who can anticipate the needs of a successful business. Also, in terms of creative thinking, there is literally nothing that David Sedaris has written that I have not considered seminal to my own writing process.
Eva Jorgensen, Owner and Founder, Sycamore Street Press
After I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease in January, Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive, really hit home for me. We all wear our hours at work and sleepless nights as a badge of honor. But, studies show that we’d be more productive (not to mention happier) if we actually took care of ourselves. I’ve realized that I can’t afford to put myself last anymore.
Also, twelve years ago, when I was in college, I read Art & Fear for the first time. It had a huge impact on me and set the course for my artistic career. I recently re-read it and was surprised by how applicable it still is. Among other things, it has taught me that, 1. Art is made by ordinary people, so stop worrying about talent and just get to work, 2. If you act out of fear, your fear comes true, and 3. The only work that you can do well, and that’s worth doing, is the work that focuses on things you really care about.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, Founder, Tattly
The book that had a huge impact on me was Give or Take, in which Adam Grant explains why the most successful people are givers. It helped me better understand what motivates my co-workers and the companies I work with. And, it has helped me realize that there’s nothing wrong with running a business with a mindset of generosity. In fact, it might as well be the secret to success.
Which books have helped guide your career? We’d love to hear…
(Photo of Maya Angelou by G. Marshall Wilson; photo of Kate Winslet by Wes Anderson/American Express.)