The best books to teach you about business

Ever wish you could go to business school, but deterred by the crazy price tag? With a little planning and dedication, you can educate yourself through reading business books in a much more cost- and time-effective way. A quick skim through Waterstones or Amazon shows that there are thousands of business books out there to help you with every aspect of running a company: finances, project management, building a company culture, time management, leadership – and everything in between. 

The choice can be overwhelming, so if you’re looking for inspiration for your summer reading list, and want to enjoy a book on the beach while learning at the same time, we’ve compiled a list of our top business book recommendations. This list has been curated specifically with female entrepreneurs in mind, taking into account the variety of skills you need to succeed professionally. Whether you’re CEO of a large multinational, or a solo entrepreneur hustling alongside your day job, this list features something for everyone.  

1.Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

An oldie but a goodie, you can’t have a list of business book recommendations without featuring Sheryl Sandberg’s classic 2013 guide-slash-memoir. As COO of Facebook, Sandberg certainly knows a thing or two about being a female leader in a male-driven environment. As well as being a minefield of tips to help you navigate the workplace at every stage of your career, Sandberg gets bonus tips for writing a surprisingly funny business book. Even if you don’t work in an office setting or with other people, Sandberg’s rise to success is inspiring for everyone.  

2. What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School – Mark McCormack

You might have an MBA from one of the best business schools in the world, but there are some soft skills that you just can’t be taught in the confined setting of a classroom. This book collects some real-world tips about dealing with clients, convincing sales tactics, and how to read the mood of a meeting room, from the founder of IMG management group. It’s slightly outdated, evidenced by the complete lack of anecdotes featuring female leaders, but if you can overlook that for the time it takes to read the book, you’ll pick up some invaluable tips. Our favourite? In a meeting room setting, the interactions before the meeting itself starts, where you’re engaging in small-talk with the client, are more important than the actual meeting. 

3. Working Woman’s Handbook – Phoebe Lovatt

A must-have for any freelancer, Lovatt’s handbook guides you through the steps needed for a successful creative career. From the nitty-gritty of setting your hourly rates, to the equally important need to nourish your creative mind, Lovatt has it covered. As well as being an aesthetically packaged guide, the Working Woman’s Handbook contains a number of practical exercises designed to hold you accountable to your goals, as well as tips from a variety of successful women like Elaine Welteroth and Sharmadean Reid. 

4. Pick Three – Randi Zuckerberg

Time management is something all of us struggle with – sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. If you’re always trying to balance work with going to the gym, spending time with your family, and maintaining a semblance of a social life, don’t worry – Randi Zuckerberg has the answer. The sister of Mark, and a successful professional in her own right, Zuckerberg’s simple but smart method involves focusing on only three aspects of your life per week, and switching the focus each week to ensure that over time, you achieve the perfect balance between the things you have to do, and the things you want to do. 

5. The Discomfort Zone – Farrah Storr

Farrah Storr is the former Editor in Chief of Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan magazines, and she’s no stranger to putting herself in uncomfortable positions to achieve personal and professional growth. Her 2018 book the Discomfort Zone encourages us to take a step outside of comfortable environments, because it’s in this area of discomfort that we test ourselves, build resilience, and ultimately grow as people. This book is a must for anyone feeling stuck in their professional life who needs a push towards making a big – albeit scary – change in their life.  

6. The Multi-Hyphen Method – Emma Gannon

Gannon’s book is a how-to guide for people looking to make a living on their own terms, whether that’s as a freelancer or as a side-hustle, but it also explores the changing world of work on a wider level. She explains that the freedom the internet grants us means that we can literally work from anywhere in the world, and at any time. The question is how to actually go about carving out a personalised career – but the beauty of Gannon’s method is that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one field. The whole point of multi-hyphenate workers is that they have many strings to their bow: Gannon herself is an author/ blogger/ columnist and podcast host. 

7. How to Own the Room – Viv Groskop

Whichever field you work in, it’s likely that your job involves at least some occasional public speaking. If that’s something that scares you, Viv Groskop is here to help. The comedian has written an accessible and practical guide to building up your public speaking skills, ranging from just speaking up during meetings, to giving a full-blown TED talk yourself. Groskop’s advice is to start small, offering to give toasts at the office drinks, for example, and to practise by giving short talks to your family and friends about topics that interest you. Whatever your level of experience with public speaking, Groskop’s guide will help get you to the top of your professional game. 

8. Thrive – Arianna Huffington 

Last but not least, Arianna Huffington is here to remind us of the importance of self-care. Huffington notes that women often bear the brunt of household and childcare tasks, even if both partners work full-time. Because of this, women can end up getting burned out, something that Huffington has experienced first-hand. After passing out due to over-working, Huffington set up Thrive Global, a company which aims to help people implement healthy working practices. This book is a fascinating read, bringing together ancient wisdom and business teachings, also touching on the definitions of success in the modern world. If you’re feeling at risk of burn-out, or like you don’t have a purpose in your professional life, Huffington’s book will help you reevaluate your priorities and calibrate your life according to your desires. 

Phoebe Dodds

Phoebe is a project manager/ freelance writer/ content marketing consultant who lives in Amsterdam. She’s British by passport, but grew up hopping between European cities with her family before settling in the Netherlands. Phoebe has a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship, and has previously written for publications like the Huffington Post, the Guardian, and the Next Web. Hobbies include learning Japanese, compulsively checking the news, and pretending she’s a Kardashian.

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