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As a continuation of the Best Books for Girlbosses in 2015 and the Best Books for Girlbosses in 2016 (and now Books for Girlbosses 2018), here’s a list of must-read motivational books for female entrepreneurs. According to Fortune Magazine, now-a-days successful women entrepreneurs are not only matching their male counterparts; in many ways they’re outperforming them. As a reference point, a study of global entrepreneurs found that companies helmed by female entrepreneurs in 2016 had 13% higher revenues than those run by men, and finished 9% above the average for all entrepreneurs surveyed. Even with all of our success, there’s still much we need to learn in order to close the workplace gender gap, especially with the rise of millennial entrepreneurs, or “millennipreneurs,” who are starting more companies, managing bigger staffs, and targeting higher profits than our baby boomer predecessors.
To accommodate this boost in ambition and confidence, this year’s list of the best books for female entrepreneurs is a little different from previous years. Instead of pulling purely from my own library, I’ve researched which books some of the most successful female CEOs consider to be their favorite career books of all time (with the help of Forbes and tech.co). These seventeen reads will keep you motivated, inspired, and aware of how ridiculous all 89034 of your excuses for not charging what you’re worth sound.
1 Power Your Happy: Work Hard, Play Nice, and Build Your Dream Life by Lisa Sugar
Lisa Sugar founded PopSugar in 2006. How did she do it? By figuring out what her dream job was, taking risks, and believing in herself. In Power Your Happy, she shares her personal and business story with the same great accessible writing style that made PopSugar such a huge success. She gives advice on a variety of topics– from starting a company to handling breakups to becoming the world’s best boss. If you were a fan of Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht, you’ll love this business memoir, as well.
2 Get Over Your Damn Self: The No-BS Blueprint to Building a Life-Changing Business by Romi Neustadt
If you loved You Are a Badass, you’ll love the no-BS vibe of this book, too. In Get Over Your Damn Self, Romi Neustadt offers you the same direct, anti-nonsense coaching she’s given to tens of thousands to help you acquire the skills to confidently connect with anyone about your business, create a lucrative and efficient turn-key system of operations, and manifest the power that’s already within you to build the life you’ve been wanting– all while molding your mindset so you stop over complicating it all and stop letting the negative voices in your head win.
3 I Am That Girl: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose, and #BeThatGirl by Alexis Jones
In a crazy, media distracted world, I Am That Girl explains that the important questions often get lost. Examples are of these questions are as follows: What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? Who do you want to be? With the support and avid advocacy of Hilary Duff, Kristen Bell, Sophia Bush, and a handful of other famous actresses-turned-girlbosses, Alexis Jones has built a career listening to and helping girls around the world figure out those questions in order to inspire them to think for themselves, speak their truth, and discover their true purpose.
4 Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch
Are you where you want to be professionally? Are you the best boss, leader, and role model you can possibly be? Odds are that you’re hoping for growth. If you’re not developing leadership skills, there is an essential element missing from your efforts. Leading from the Front, a cornerstone on this year’s books for female entrepreneurs list, will show you how to start leading your life rather than allowing your life to lead you. So seriously, if you’re in need of formal leadership training, this is as good as it gets for under $20.
When asked which business book most influenced her career, Felicia Joy, entrepreneur and host of Ms. CEO said, “Several books have influenced me as an entrepreneur, but having to recommend just one book I would suggest Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, two women entrepreneurs who were once captains in the United States Marine Corps. I like this book because it draws upon the authors’ experience in the male-dominated Marines, which is akin to women who are aspiring to achieve success in business (also male-dominated). It’s not about women vs. men, it’s about women recognizing our unique gifts and playing to our strengths.”
5 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
I decided to give Big Magic a try after listening an amazing TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about success, failure, and the drive to keep creating. As an incredible speaker and an inspiration to writers everywhere, she encourages readers to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, you’ll feel inspired to create in the same way that Eat Pray Love made you want to change your life for the better.
6 The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
This book came out in 2009, but if you have trouble with time management (like I know I do), put this at the top of your reading list in 2017. According to Kate Morgan, the Principal and Founder of Morgan Publicity, “The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss changed everything for me. As a female entrepreneur who founded a Communications Firm with a niche in representing American based brands in the UK market (I am based in LA now), and vice versa – this book has been a bible as such, teaching me how to not be an entrepreneur stuck in my own business, but one that enjoys freedom and enriching experiences – a meaningful personal life; while running a successful and profitable PR Firm.”
7 Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Why does the name sound familiar? Because Shonda Rhimes is the genius girlboss who created Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and is the executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder. This poignant, candid, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes, from her nerdy introverted childhood to her life as a busy mother of three to the moment Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage. She shares when and how she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self in a book that persuasively negates any and all of your excuses for not living your dreams.
8 Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
I heard about these authors in a Forbes article, and I haven’t been able to get enough. From the same ladies who wrote Women Don’t Ask (which is #15 on this list), I’m genuinely upset I didn’t read this groundbreaking book from 2009 sooner. It reveals just how much women lose when they avoid negotiation and provides an action plan/guide to negotiating anything effectively using strategies that feel comfortable to you as a woman. Lois P. Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office on my 2015 reading list of books for female entrepreneurs, said, “Nice girls don’t ask, but smart women do. Ask for It provides the tangible tools and tips you need to get your fair share of the raises, promotions, and perks you’ve earned—and deserve.”
9 The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
I first heard about Ryan Holiday from my boyfriend, who has read not only all of his books, but has read virtually all of the books in this modern philosophy genre. Although his newest book Ego is the Enemy came out in 2016, I’m such a fan of the message of The Obstacle Is The Way. If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. He draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience, and shows us how some of the most successful people in history, from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs, have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations.
10 The Pocket Guide to Action by Kyle Eschenroeder
Written by the brilliant Kyle Eschenroeder, The Pocket Guide to Action contains 116 short devotionals on the nature and importance of taking action– and it’s small enough to fit in your back pocket for daily inspiration. If you spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas, making plans, and examining possibilities, but you rarely pull the trigger on any of them, this is the book for you. An excerpt reads, “Our fatal mistake is waiting to be motivated before we take action. Action motivates.” You can also check out some of his most popular published articles, including its internet version entitled Meditations on the Wisdom of Action and 10 Overlooked Truths About Taking Action, on The Art of Manliness.
11 Screw Business As Usual by Richard Branson
For those of us hoping to create something bigger than an inflated bank account, Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson, one of the world’s most famous and admired business leaders, argues that it’s time to turn capitalism upside down to shift our values from exclusively focusing on profits to also caring for people, communities, and the planet. According to Amber Kelleher-Andrews, the CEO and cofounder of Kelleher International, “The best book I’ve ever read on leadership, business and entrepreneurship is Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson. It completely changed my life and how I view my business and clients and also, more importantly how I have come to create and embrace every opportunity to make an impact outside of my typical CEO comfort-zone.”
12 Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got out of Getting It Wrong by Jessica Bacal
For readers of Lean In and #Girlboss, Mistakes I Made at Work is ideal for all professional women, from millennials just starting their careers (aka millennipreneurs) to women seeking to advance at work to anyone grappling with issues of perfectionism, and features fascinating and surprising anecdotes, as well as tips for readers. Jessica Bacal interviews twenty-five successful women, including Cheryl Strayed (whose book Brave Enough is on this list), about their toughest professional experiences. Basically, she puts the matter of mistakes in perspective, since even the most thoughtful, purposeful, and assertive leaders had to learn from their mistakes in order to grow.
13 The 10 Laws of Enduring Success by Maria Bartiromo
As a famous financial journalist, Maria Bartiromo has talked to thousands of powerful moguls, including Condoleezza Rice, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch, about business, the world, and their surprising, inspiring and uncommon ideas about the meaning of success. Even in the most grim circumstances, like catastrophic market collapses and lost jobs, people are often able to reevaluate the meaning of success and develop a life plan for building success from failure. That’s what The 10 Laws of Enduring Success is about. According to Kathy Ireland, the CEO of Kathy Ireland Worldwide, “Maria’s wisdom, genius, work ethic and guidance will help anyone shatter barriers … especially women in business. I strongly recommend this book because it celebrates vision, courage, purpose, integrity and humility. Maria is one of my heroes, and after reading her brave new book, I’m sure that she will be one of yours, as well.”
14 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lammott
This is a must-have manual for writers and creatives in general. Bird by Bird was one of the first books that Kyle ever gave me– in both physical and audio form to ensure that I had no excuses for not absorbing the content in its entirety. This book explains that all creativity comes together the same way– by taking it bird by bird. You’ll be inspired by Anne Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block, and going for broke with each paragraph, all while helping you to find your creative passion and your voice.
15 Why Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
Women Don’t Ask was Ask For It‘s predecessor, and accordingly, this groundbreaking book explores the personal and societal reasons women seldom ask for what they need, want, and deserve at home and at work. It also shows women how they can develop the crucial skill of effective negotiation. Debra Shigley, workplace expert and author of The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide, said, “In law school I took a class on negotiation, and I wish this book had been part of the curriculum! Reading this book caused a paradigm shift in my understanding of negotiating, from the authors’ very compelling research on the topic (Who knew men negotiate up to nine times more than women?) to their analysis of historical and societal reasons why women so often choose not to negotiate. This book, to put it bluntly, will light a fire under your butt to start actually asking for what you want in your life, today–from little things like negotiating where to go for dinner to getting the right mindset to ask for a big raise.”
16 How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Looking for an articulate stance against the workplace gender gap– and sexism in general? This is the book for you. With humor, insight, and verve, How to Be a Woman lays out the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself. According to Elizabeth Giorgi, the founder and CEO of Mighteor, “I read this book just as I was about to make the leap into starting my business and it truly helped me own some of the qualities that weren’t working well for me in my 9 to 5 and start to see how they could be the very qualities that saved me as I went out on this entrepreneurship journey on my own.”
17 Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
I personally believe every female should own a copy of Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed, and I included on my list of the best books to give as gifts, as well. Yes, it’s the same Cheryl Strayed who wrote Wild, except instead of a memoir, it’s a collection of quotes drawn from the wide range of her writings that capture her wisdom, courage, and outspoken humor. This book gathers more than 100 of Strayed’s indelible quotes and thoughts each on a single page. It’s really like a “mini instruction manuals for the soul” that urge us toward the incredible capacity for love, compassion, forgiveness, and endurance that is within us all. A sample tidbit of Brave Enough wisdom? Ask yourself: What is the best I can do? And then do that. Another? Forward is the direction of real life.
Clearly not all of these books for female entrepreneurs were solely released last year, so if you’re confused why a certain bestselling book didn’t make the list, check out my 2015 and 2016 lists for additional reading recommendations! My Books for Girlbosses 2018 list just went up, as well. Cheers to an amazing new year, y’all!
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I want to read all of these. Recently I was at my boyfriend’s house and his mom gave me a box of the business books he’d read in high school, which included The 4-Hour Workweek. As a college junior with CEO aspirations (currently juggling two majors, a student government position, a TAship, applying for internships, and running a style blog), just reading this post made me want to get my butt out of bed and start working more towards my goals. Thanks for the suggestions; I’ll definitely check them out!
Great list, Steph! The Hubs has a copy of Screw Business As Usual by Richard Branson lying around . I really should read it!
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