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20 Summer Reads to Inspire your Startup
And with summer, comes reading. We’ve got 20 inspiring, hilarious, insightful, and thought-provoking books that are perfect for that upcoming flight or day at the beach. Summer’s Here! Happy reading!
1 Read it for: a look at why some things go viral Author and marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent a lot of his career trying to understand why some products go viral while others fall flat. Named Best Marketing Book of 2014 by the American Marketing Association, Contagious mixes compelling storytelling and raw data for a fun yet informative read. It’s the perfect book for those lazy summer days! Contagious: Why things catch on Berger’s “STEPPS system” (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotions, Public, Practical Value & Stories) is logical and practical for new businesses.
2 The Opposable Mind Roger Martin wants you to be an integrative thinker. According to Martin, truly successful leaders excel in resolving tension between two opposing forces. Rather than choose from two opposing sides, great leaders work to develop new creative angles from which to understand and resolve problems. The Opposable Mind is a fascinating and practical look at how to develop integrative thinking skills. Read it for: a new way to think about & solve problems You’ll really love Martin’s every-man approach, and how he frames integrative thinking as a skill that anyone – and not just the mighty few – can develop and use.
3 Read it for: an inspirational tale of strength & perseverance In this absorbing adventure-memoir, Christopher McDougall tracks down the reclusive Tarahumara people of Mexico, a tribe of “ultra-athletes” who are immune to most modern ailments. Inspired by their incredible perseverance and stamina, McDougall embarks on his own superhuman challenge – to complete a 50-mile race through the wilds of Tarahumara country. Born to Run You’ll love the passion and commitment of Caballo Blanco, one of the book’s most fascinating characters. His inspiring dedication to the sport of running will re-energize your drive when you’re feeling depleted.
4 #GIRLBOSS #GIRLBOSS is not your average business memoir. With a voice that feels both personal and sophisticated, Sophia Amoruso documents her rise from an eBay vintage clothing seller to her current role as Founder, CEO and Creative Director of the multimillion dollar e-commerce heavy weight Nasty Gal. Read it for: a brutally honest (and funny) rags-to-riches story You’ll absolutely love Amuroso’s passion. #GIRLBOSS reminds readers that you can build a brand from your hobby, and that starting small and staying true can lead to big things.
5 Read it for: a new perspective on encountering difficulties Renowned Buddhist nun Pema Chodron definitely has a way with words. Whether you follow the tenets of Buddhism or not, this book has the power to significantly alter how you see life (and business). In Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Chodron outlines how the Three Commitments of Tibetan Buddhism can help us to embrace each and every moment, in spite of the chaos that surrounds us. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change In the world of business, where things can be tumultuous and unpredictable, Chodron’s message is a valuable one (and the Three Commitments are especially helpful for startups).
6 The Alchemist Part parable and part philosophical meditation, The Alchemist tells the engrossing tale of Santiago, an Andalusian boy who travels from Spain to Egypt on a spiritual quest in search of treasure. As Coelho’s most widely read work of fiction, it has certainly received its share of criticism. Despite the naysayers, we think this novel is definitely worth the read. Read it for: a reminder to stay true to your purpose While somewhat cliche, Coelho’s overarching message, to follow your heart and never give up, is something all startups should keep in mind (especially when times are tough).
7 Read it for: an understanding of what motivates your customers While A Theory of Human Motivation is technically not a book but an article, we simply couldn’t leave it out. Originally published in 1943, this landmark paper from one of America’s best known psychologists outlines a 5-stage model of human motivation. With a clear style and thought-provoking ideas, it’s indispensable reading for anyone looking to better understand customer behaviour. A Theory of Human Motivation Despite being published over 60 years ago, Maslow’s theory is still incredibly relevant and useful for the modern day startup.
8 To Sell is Human To Sell is Human focuses on the realm of “non-sales selling”; that is, how everyday people seek to influence and persuade others. Pink’s main argument is that all of us dabble in the art of sales in every avenue of our personal and professional lives. It’s well-written and well-researched, and will definitely not disappoint. Read it for: a refreshing look at what it means to sell Pink’s 6 successors to the elevator pitch will get you thinking about how best to explain your startup in an efficient and impassioned manner (plus, they’re just lots of fun to do).
9 Read it for: a funny look at our collective failure at communication Sometimes we laugh so that we don’t cry. Me Talk Pretty One Day recounts David Sedaris’ struggles to fix his lisp and ‘talk pretty’ through speech therapy. His hilarious take on our collective struggles to communicate will provide some much needed comic relief during those times when business is rough. And what would summer be without a laugh-out-loud beach read? Me Talk Pretty One Day Sedaris is known for his New York-style of dry wit and humour and Me Talk Pretty One Day does not disappoint.
10 The Fear Cure Starting your own business can be a scary thing (we’ve been there), and it can be easy sometimes to let your fears get the better of you. With The Fear Cure, Lissa Rankin explores how our fears can not only hold us back but also physically harm us. One of Rankin’s major objectives is for readers to distinguish between ‘true fears’ and ‘false fears’ and develop mechanisms to use fear in a constructive way. Read it for: a better way to approach and use fear Rankin includes several practical “courage-cultivating exercises” throughout the book, which will no doubt be helpful when you feel like your fear is running things.
11 Read it for: a practical plan for becoming a better networker It’s hard to stop quoting from this book. Networking and forming relationships are so crucial to startup success, and Never Eat Alone provides practical advice and successful networking strategies you can implement right away. It’ll become a staple on your bookshelves, we promise. Never Eat Alone Ferrazzi’s “blue flame” concept reminds us that meeting passion with purpose is an important part of persisting despite the odds.
12 Flow: The Art of Optimal Experience Starting your own business requires, among other things, a clear sense of direction and an ability to stay determined when things get tough. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s 1991 seminal work uncovers ways to foster a focused stay of flow in order to discover the opportunities embedded in everyday experience. Read it for: an inspirational way to stay focused and fulfilled Csikszentmihalyi’s 8 elements of flow are easy-to-understand and very relevant for new startups.
13 Read it for: an exploration of the nature of true happiness The Happiness Project is part memoir, part philosophy and part psychology. In search of a happier frame of mind, Gretchen Rubin spent one year adopting a variety of worldviews – one for each month, to be precise. In the process of her quest, Rubin explores profound truths about being happy where and how you are. The Happiness Project Rubin’s willingness to bare it all is refreshing and makes for a great summer read. We also loved learning about those age-old wisdoms we may have skipped over in History class.
14 The Innovator’s Dilemma Sometimes customers spearhead innovation. There are other times, however, when they put a company at risk of becoming stuck in the past. This is, according to Clayton Christensen, the innovator’s dilemma. When should a company listen to its customer base and when should they put immediate customer needs aside for a “disruptive innovation” that propels the company forward? Read it for: when to know it’s time to do your own thing Christensen provides an excellent historical account of both “sustaining” and “disruptive” innovation, with the help of company profiles and case studies (think Blockbuster and Apple).
15 Read it for: hilarious comic advice on how to succeed in business This book is the epitome of summer beach reading: short, hilarious and full of insightful wittiness. Ignore everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity is essentially a collection of Hugh MacLeod’s best tidbits of advice. It’s the type of book that you can put down for many days (or weeks) and then pick up right from where you left off, which makes it perfect for summer. Ignore Everybody MacLeod’s collection of comics will occasionally make you laugh out loud, along with making you think.
16 Banish Clutter Forever Startups are often messy things. Trying to get organized can be tough but is essential to long-term success (in business and in life). In Banish Clutter Forever, Sheila Chandra uses the “toothbrush principle” to outline how to think and act like an organized person. If getting organized is one of your weak points, this book is definitely for you. Read it for: a system of organization that actually works Chandra’s system is straightforward and realistic, and reads more like a practical manual than idealistic self-help.
17 Read it for: a new way to approach harmful stress This just in: it’s stressful being part of a startup (but of course you knew that). While stress has been blamed for health issues, failed marriages, and bankruptcies, Kelly McGonigal is on a mission to have you re-think how you experience and exploit stress. When used effectively and mindfully, stress can be a driving force. The Upside of Stress combines scientific research, anecdotes and practical exercises to make a case for the good side of stress. The Upside of Stress Despite its potentially controversial central message, McGonigal’s argument is very convincing. This book will change your opinion on stress and alter the way you deal with it in your everyday personal & professional life.
18 The Four Agreements The simplicity and brevity of this book is what really speaks to us (and to so many others). In a clear yet unassuming manner, Miguel Ruiz outlines 4 rules that everyone should live by. As with The Art of Happiness, this is a book that you can read sporadically over a long time without losing any of its meaning or intention. Read it for: new thought-provoking rules to live by Rule #1 – be impeccable with your word– is perhaps the most important of the 4 rules for startup success.
19 Read it for: ways to foster your creative side All great startups are, at the heart of things, creative in nature. They may be bringing a new product to market or they may be reworking an existing idea. For Twyla Tharp, creativity can and should be cultivated through intentional and diligent work. With The Creative Habit, Tharp takes the mystery out of creativity and succeeds in inspiring readers to re-think how they think about creativity. The Creative Habit As with The Opposable Mind, this book was written for the average “non-creative” type. Tharp does an excellent job of speaking to those who need to hear her most, rather than preach to the already-creative choir.
20 Daring Greatly Brene Brown is perhaps most well-known for her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability (it has over 3 million views!). In Daring Greatly, Brown’s main argument is that vulnerability is a strength that can be harnessed for connection and success. With ample research and a style that is both informative and humorous, Brown makes a convincing argument for embracing vulnerability. Read it for: a new way of seeing and using vulnerability Brown’s personal anecdotes make this book what it is. By writing in an honest and intimate manner, Brown demonstrates her own personal dedication to the power of vulnerability.
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