17 Successful Women Share the Insightful Books That Supercharged Their Careers

March 24, 2021
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In this age of information, we have everything we need to start a new business, create a website, or set up a budget right at our fingertips—Google is a powerful tool. But sometimes you need a deep dive into the topic to truly understand the scope of what’s required from every angle—that’s when we turn to books. In our series, Turning a Page, we ask successful people to share their go-to tomes that helped transform their business, career, or money mindset. Whether you listen to them or need to physically flip the pages (and write notes or underline the text like us!), there is so much power in self-educating. Ready to turn a page in your career? These books will help take you there.

Our career roadmaps are typically anything but linear. In fact, there are often many different paths to find success, which can make navigating the process that much more difficult. Fortunately, an abundance of trailblazing leaders have paved the way to show us that anything is possible, and many of their journeys have been documented in powerful books that are readily available to us.

To narrow down the seemingly endless options out there, we tapped 17 incredible women to uncover the books that have supercharged their careers, helped them land promotions, lead companies, and, ultimately, shaped the ways they’re positively impacting the world around them. Their recommendations—like their backgrounds—are eclectic. They include titles from a corporate lens, an entrepreneurial perspective, and even the viewpoint of a symphony orchestra player turned consultant. 

Emily Chen, Founder of emcstudioco

The Key Takeaway: As creatives and entrepreneurs, we so often fall into the mindset of scarcity. This book helped me shift my mindset when I was starting my creative studio and first entrepreneurial venture. It made me realize we are all born with innate gifts and that fulfilling our purpose allows others around us to step into theirs.

Samantha Patil, Co-Founder and CEO of Well Traveled

The Book:Everything Is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo

The Key Takeaway: A couple of years ago I made the decision to walk away from my stable and successful career that I’d put 10 years of work into building. I dove into the path of entrepreneurship and I couldn’t be happier that I did. Entrepreneurship is scary, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, and thrilling all the time and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I read Forleo’s book not long after taking the plunge into running my own business and now have the words “everything is figureoutable” in a frame on my desk. The minute I start to think, “What am I doing? I don’t know how to do this!” I look at those words and I get back to work. I’ve realized I’m stronger, more capable, and more resilient than I ever imagined, and Forleo’s book and these words often help me give myself the pep talk I need whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Yewande Faloyin, Founder and CEO of OTITỌ Leadership Coaching & Consulting

The Key Takeaway: After two years of exhaustion and burnout, “Lost Connections” reminded me that I am so much more than what I do. It emphasized the significance of connecting to more than just my work for success, fulfillment, and satisfaction. This book would benefit anyone seeking to find true, lasting success in all areas of their life, recognizing that when we thrive in one area, it elevates the others! Understanding how depression can result from one being disconnected from different yet equally important areas in one’s life helped me to confidently quit my consulting job at McKinsey and build a business that I love in a way that connects with, supports, and amplifies all other areas of my life.

Olivia Bowser, Founder and CEO of Liberate

The Book: The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle

The Key Takeaway: Each page opened my eyes to what life could feel like when living fully embodied in the here and now. I realized that I had so often been consumed by obsessing about the past or ruminating over the future that I was missing what was right in front of me. By living for the now, I can create positive change, be a better leader, and be the best version of myself.

Sophia Sunwoo, Founder and Principal of Ascent Strategy

The Key Takeaway: I have never met an entrepreneur who has read this book and hasn’t raved about how drastically it has changed how they manage their money and helped them turn a profit in their business. There really isn’t anyone who wouldn’t benefit from this book—it’s simply genius and sets you up to always have cash on hand for payroll and to self-fund any desired investments for your business. If you want to boost your financial literacy and wield your money to your desires, read this book.

Sam Ogborn, Founder and CEO of once + more

The Key Takeaway: This book helped me understand the socially acceptable conversations we all have versus our personal, inner thoughts, and feelings. This book has been invaluable for my career as it’s helped me understand true human nature and the importance of reading between the lines.

Mariya Leona Illarionova, Founder and Creative Director of Wild Side Studio

The Book:Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie 

The Key Takeaway: This book changed my perspective on business and pivoted my career. At the time, I was working in a laboratory at Brookfield Zoo. The book inspired me to quit the lab, dive into the startup world, and eventually start my own business. Mycoskie taught me that we can use capitalism as a tool to redistribute wealth and better our planet. I recommend this book to anyone who feels let down by society and the professional world. Reading it gave me the momentum to follow my heart and to be the change I wish to see in the world.

Lori Abichandani, Founder and Brand Strategist at a big idea

The Key Takeaway: I love this book—so much of my philosophy on life and business has been shaped by it. It emphasizes the importance of self-awareness, cultivating strong culture, leading with generosity, and building to last instead of building for trends. It’s truly a timeless read. While set in the hospitality industry, there are lessons to be found for anyone building a company from the ground up. I highly recommend it to entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs of all kinds.

Alex Cooley, Founder of AC Electric

The Key Takeaway: This is not a business book. Robert Fritz is a symphony orchestra player turned consultant of all things. The book’s main idea is that addressing life, business, and societal concerns is not just about tackling its problems but about envisioning an altogether new, idealized vision. This implementation with structural change is a powerful perspective on how to solve nearly any situation. It’s the first book I have my clients read and is so great for anyone who wants to own a vision and make a big impact in their industry and society.

Maiko Sakai, Founder and Lead Strategist at Airtight Concepts

The Key Takeaway: The revised version is key because the newly added parts clarify Scott’s true intention for the framework as well as her definition of radical candor, which was misunderstood and meme’d when the first edition was released. This is one of those books that makes me say, “I wish I’d written it!” with the utmost respect. Scott’s decision to work on the revised version and how sincere and transparent she was with the process left me thinking about how to revamp my work and my business for days. I was deeply inspired by her candid ways to continuously improve the framework she created and truly walk the walk as a boss and as an entrepreneur. I highly recommend this book to all entrepreneurs who aspire to create their own intellectual property but have doubts creeping up and/or are planning on building and nurturing a kick-ass team for their businesses.

Kim Kaupe, Founder of Bright Ideas Only

The Book:Hearts, Smarts, Guts and Luck: What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business” by Anthony Tjan, Richard Harrington, and Tsun-Yan Hsieh

The Key Takeaway: This was the first book to help me understand what my entrepreneurial mapping was thanks to their first-ever Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test. I could see where my strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities were when it came to building my business and expanding my dreams. I recommend it to anyone who wants to start a company or lead change.

Melinda Wang, Founder of MW Projects 

The Key Takeaway: I came across this book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman when I was in middle school and only recently did I realize how much it impacted my life, both professionally and personally. This semi-autobiographical book is a collection of anecdotes of Feynman’s adventures in theoretical physics, Brazilian samba, academia, visual art, safe-cracking, and more. Words of wisdom about authentic knowledge, intellectual idealism, and the importance of following through on curiosities flow throughout the stories. Meeting this self-professed curious character inspired me to not only follow my passions across art, law, and entrepreneurship but to go deep and always challenge myself to learn more.

Lauren Rosenthal, Founder and Chief Chick of Birdie

The Book:The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More” by Barry Schwartz

The Key Takeaway: This book finally gave me a term to explain what I’m addressing with my app, Birdie! So many people are familiar with the book that as soon as I bring up “The Paradox of Choice” everyone understands the issue and how important it is to solve. I believe everyone can benefit from this book. We are all so inundated with options on a daily basis, so better understanding how the paradox of choice impacts us can help change our mindset and reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Lori Sussle Bonanni, Founder and Communications Consultant at Elssus, LLC

The Key Takeaway: I read this for the first time while traveling solo during my career break in South America nearly a decade ago. Travel is a real-life choose-your-own-adventure novel, especially if you travel without being tethered to an itinerary like me. Ultimately, the benefits of travel—curiosity, creativity, flexibility, and an increased tolerance for uncertainty—make me a stronger entrepreneur.

Dina Kaplan, Founder and CEO of The Path

The Key Takeaway: Singer shows how much we can change our lives, and our careers, by making new choices about how we want to live. He also shows that it is possible to lead a company while being kind and ethical. I think about the decisions he made constantly as I remind myself that I can change my life—and the lives of others—by always choosing to act ethically, and that I can lead my team by being strong but also caring. This book will benefit people leading companies or teams or really anyone open to believing they have the power within themselves to be happy and to control their destiny.

Wadeeha Jackson, Director of Compliance and Ops at HXRO Game Ltd

The Key Takeaway: “Expect to Win” was a game-changer for me during the earlier part of my career in the finance industry. For me, the key takeaway was the importance of having a sponsor. As a young professional, you usually seek seasoned professionals for mentorship. Throughout the book, Harris points out that a sponsor provides influence and expresses a willingness to advocate on your behalf. Unlike mentorship, sponsors serve as a direct pipeline toward unique opportunities to push your career forward.

Trish Boes, Leadership and Life Coach at Soul Leadership Solutions, LLC

The Key Takeaway: This book totally rocked my world and is one of the reasons why I chose to become a leadership coach years ago. It introduced me to the concept of perfectionism, which, eight years ago, I didn’t know was a thing. I realized that I was a perfectionist and that a lot of the things I was doing in my career were based around people-pleasing and avoiding feelings of shame, which eventually led to my burnout. I still read this book regularly because it reminds me to lean into vulnerability and prioritize wholehearted living, which means engaging in our own lives from a place of courage and worthiness. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to reconnect with their own brilliance and to let go of feelings of burnout, imposter syndrome, or constant self-judgment.

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