As a recovering people-pleaser, perfectionist and overthinker, atypical careers and business books often leave me feeling cold and drained. They push heavily on productivity, morning routines, hustling and basically performing at society’s idea of what ‘success’ means. These themes drive the very things that lead to the anxiety-driven behaviour and thinking of the habits I’m recovering from. They encourage you to over-give and to continue being over-responsible and obedient. There’s a lot of following their formulas while fitting very narrow, exclusionary narratives and goals. I’m very much about redefining our relationship with work, rest, money and creativity so that we have emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
This selection of thought-provoking, often practical reads deal with different aspects of work. All encourage boundaries and listening to yourself so that you can learn to trust the feelings you’ve been socialised to turn off. From there, it’s a lot easier to chart your own path. Say farewell to following prescribed paths and climbing ladders that lead you to places you don’t even want to go.
Side note: If you do purchase any of these books via the Amazon links, I will receive a [very] small commission.
Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price
Simon & Schuster, Amazon.co.uk
If you live in near-constant fear of what others think and go way beyond your bandwidth to the point of crisis, or maybe wonder why you don’t rest, this book will change your life. Devon made me have more than few seats! Blowing the lid off everything we ever thought of as “lazy”, much of which, incidentally, is ableist, racist, patriarchal, sexist, fatphobic and so much more, you will want to read it again and again.
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Probably the book I’ve recommended the most over the years. It helped me to understand self-sabotage and how we consciously and unconsciously turn the temperature down on ourselves. You will recognise yourself if you’ve done what might be some pretty strange, absurd or painful things off the back of, for instance, an accomplishment or achievement. Gay also coined the term Zone of Genius and really helps you understand how fulfilment (and not getting on your last nerve) lies in getting out of the Zone of Competency.
Playing Big by Tara Mohr
Often recommended along with The Big Leap, Tara takes women on a self-excavating journey to finding their true inner voice so they can stop playing small. Like Laziness Does Not Exist, it delves into the ways that we’ve been socialised to hide our true selves, and it’s really validating and eye-opening. The book is super practical and includes a powerful visualisation exercise that really stuck with me.
How To Work Without Losing Your Mind by Cate Sevilla
Penguin Business, Amazon.co.uk
Cate gives voice to a lot of the cray at work that we tend to wonder if it’s our imagination, our fault, or something that we can’t do anything about. And she does this while veering between making you howl laughing and giving you the much-needed straight-talking. I particularly love her refreshing honesty about her numerous experiences of redundancy and grappling with failure. She also blows the lid on the lack of real training and oversight managers have. While aimed primarily at Millenials, don’t let that put you off if you’re older like me.
(WFH) Working From Home by Harriet Minter
Even though some of us did it pre-pandemic, and many of us had it thrust upon us thanks to lockdown, many people still regard working from home as a sign that you’re not taking your career very seriously or that it’s shorthand for slacking. Aimed primarily at employees and freelancers, Harriet deftly addresses both the practicalities and mindset of working from home and thriving. I love that the book is very values-driven and that she tackles both managing yourself and others from home.
Pivot by Jenny Blake
Particularly if you’re 40+, but also if you’ve just generally been inclined to do as your told and climb the ladder, you’ve internalised messages about work that often make it feel near-impossible to make a career change. Or you might struggle to decipher how you want to work in your existing role or business. Jenny guides you on how to use your experience, interests, talents, needs, how you like to work, etc., to design the work you do to honour more of who you really are.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
As someone who’s had an autoimmune disease (sarcoidosis) as well as tinnitus, this book really underscored what I’ve come to understand about the need to be mindful and intentional about our work habits. A book aimed, not just at women who push themselves super hard and give too much, but also those who are detached from their body’s signals, sisters Emily and Amelia offer a practical roadmap for de-stressing your body and breaking out of patterns that put [your body] in constant fight, flight, freeze mode.
Divergent Mind by Jenara Nerenberg
A fascinating and necessary read that helps women to understand neurodiversity. Socialised to mask and conform, many women are often unaware of their neurodivergence. This causes, aside from late ‘diagnosis’, much anguish around this sense that there’s something ‘wrong’ with us. Jenara does a masterful job of explaining why women have been excluded from the narrative and science. She also shares lots of practical tips, personal experience and stories from other women. I particularly like the emphasis on how it is possible to thrive with difference.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Bloomsbury Paperbacks, Amazon.co.uk
While not technically a careers/business book, I recommend this to anyone who does creative work or lives a creative life. Elizabeth shares her non-linear creative process so that you can find yours. It’s also a book about living creatively and not losing the joy for your craft. If you pressure yourself, are self-critical, tend to compare or get paralysed by fear, read it. If you think you have to be creative in a particular way or that you’re too old, also read it. Also, if you tend to hoard ideas, her stories and insights around ideas are genius.