Business Advice

Get reading: 15 books for your business and life

Michel Hogan /

Books are one of my very favourite things. Ebooks, audiobooks, good old paper and ink books. They inform me, get me thinking in new ways, inspire more than a few of my blogs and often wind their way into my conversations and presentations. More than one person has walked away from a catch up with a list of books to read. So correspondingly, I’m a sucker for a good reading list and in the spirit of the genre here’s my offering.

Many of the books will help you build a better brand. Some I refer to again and again and I use all of them to expand my thinking. There are old favourites and some from more recent literary travels. I haven’t hyperlinked the titles, as I assume you can find any you’re interested in at whichever bookstore you prefer. In alphabetical order by title, here are 15 books for your business and life.

1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

With a light and compassionate touch, Gilbert encourages us to use our curiosity to unleash the creative soul within. Whether you build organisations, string code, crunch numbers, flip burgers or dally with ideas, there’s something here for you.

2. Deep Work by Cal Newport

Life is full of distractions. So how do you get below the noise and focus on what matters to you? Newport shares a few ideas about how to “foster a practice of distraction-free productivity at work”. I’ve used his ideas numerous times to talk about the work that’s needed to build the brand result you want.

3. Do I Make Myself Clear by Harold Evans

We can all write better, and Evans is on a mission to help us. It’s required reading for anyone who needs to string a sentence together (so all of us). Add The Writers Diet by Helen Sword and give your prose some punch.

4. The Enchiridion by Epictetus

This is the book that got me interested in Stoic philosophy. Although short, it packs a punch and contains wisdom about living that can see you through even the most difficult times.

5. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The granddaddy of finding your calling and what makes people happy in work. It’s an academic take but jam-packed with enough ‘ah ha’ moments to help you sail through it.

6. Good to Great by Jim Collins

The bestselling business book of all time. And even if you want to pick a bone about the research examples, whether you’re big, small, for- or not-for profit, it’s hard to go past the practical and enduring truths (with a small t) captured in the ideas.

7. Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard

If you want a guide for building a robust, resilient brand result, you can’t go past the story of Patagonia. A fabulous business yarn and honest accounting of what it takes to try, nearly fail and succeed in the end, told by founder Yvon Chouinard and recently updated.

8. Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath

Long before storytelling became a business buzzword, Dan and Chip Heath outlined their recipe for getting and keeping the attention of the fickle masses. Still fresh and useful today — proving good ideas do stick.  

9. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz

One of my favourite and most valuable reads of the year so far. Chris Voss is a hard-core negotiator, with a career including leading FBI and CIA kidnap and hostage rescues. So clearly the man knows a thing or two about how to resolve differences and get people to do what you want.

10. So Far from Home by Margaret Wheatley

Margaret Wheatley is one of my favourite authors on how to bring humanity and mindful attention to your work. This book is a treatise on how to survive even as “you find yourself feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and sometimes despairing even as you paradoxically experience moments of joy, belonging, and greater resolve to do your work”.

11. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

From living statue to living treasure, Amanda Palmer’s story navigates both the joy and pitfalls of a career in the arts. Forthright, laugh-out-loud funny and chock full of gems you can pull into your own life — whatever that life is.

12. The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner

Any book that helps us understand the small sensible steps we take to certain disaster is worth reading. I read it once a year. Illuminating and practical, it will change how you think about how you do things.

13. The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, Craig Walsh and Steve Jamison

This is a study of a leader who took his organisation from last to first and held the momentum. While in places it feels out of sync with today’s kinder, gentler leadership thinking, it has plenty to offer for those who like to lead by example with a side order of tough love.

14. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

The story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who joined their intellects to transform how we think about thinking and decision-making. Michael Lewis is an excellent storyteller, and here he brings this unusual friendship and collaboration to life, in the process unwrapping, not just the Nobel Prize-winning ideas, but how they came into being.

15. Tribe by Sebastian Junger

Journalist, filmmaker and author Sebastian Junger excavates the fundamentals and history of group behaviour. I love his tight, economical prose, but it’s his insight into how we come together that makes this a valuable addition to our understanding and essential reading for anyone working in or leading a group of people.

See you next week.

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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