10 Non-Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read


It's a no-brainer to pick up books by luminaries like Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Branson when brushing up on how to conduct yourself in business. However, in over 15 years as a professional coach, I've found that there are numerous books in other genres that motivate and uplift my clients in alternative ways that also make them better business people.

Remember, happier people are multi-dimensional and self-actualized. The following books are a sampling of offerings that can help you branch out, see yourself in a larger context, and enrich your life:

1. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist's Way Courtesy of Amazon

This book is designed to unleash and unlock creativity. Its tools can work magic for lawyers, graphic designers, ad execs, and others. Cameron's two basic requirements are morning pages and artist dates.

The first is three pages of stream of consciousness writing every morning. The second is a weekly “date" with your inner creative – an art exhibit, an antique store. The idea is to nurture your inner artist as opposed to what so often happens in our busy professional lives – we ignore her. Set her free. She's the key to your well-being.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

There's a reason this book keeps re-emerging. The elements include a shepherd boy, a quest for treasure, and twists of a compelling journey. What he finds will make you catch your breath; let yourself be taken away. It will make your own journey starker, or motivate you to take immediate action on something you've put off. It will challenge you to be better.

3. Hand to Mouth by Linda Tirado

A book about poverty and class, this is an eye-opening account of what it means to try to get by on low-wage jobs in America. It's sobering, funny, honest, and at times vulgar. It taught me a lot about privilege, expectations and the assumptions we make about success. If you're an employer or have goods or services to sell, it's important to understand what other people are going through and how it might impact their behavior. This is a book that will make you smarter about humanity.

4. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

You can't beat this as a boiled-down guide for the tenets of meaningful living. One: be impeccable with your word. Two: don't take anything personally. Three: don't make assumptions. Four: always do your best. They sound simple, but their execution is another story. We make assumptions every day, we take things personally all the time, and become more mindful of those occurrences will help you reduce how often they happen.

5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

There is much to be admired about this young woman who was shot in the face by the Taliban for daring to want to be female and educated in Pakistan. Her courage, persistence, and intellectual curiosity all provide exemplary traits. She is brought to England and out of imminent danger, but when she wakes up in the hospital and looks out the windows, she wonders, “Where are the mountains?" In most things in life, there is more nuance than simply good versus bad.

6. Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

The page for this book says it belongs to the science and mathematics category. If I were to label it though, this is a compelling “get off your butt and do it" book. Pressfield has a punchy, direct style and sometimes that's just what the procrastinating entrepreneur needs. “The amateur believes that she must have all her ducks in a row before she can launch her start-up or compose her symphony or design her iPhone app… Athletes play hurt. Warriors fight scared. The professional takes two aspirin and keeps on truckin."

7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This gem provides a treasure trove of quotes to help with attitude adjustment. On the first read, it's soothing to know Gilbert has suffered through plenty of rejection, self-doubt, and fear like the rest of us. But here's where it gets therapeutic: “Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process." Another illuminating quote is: “You don't just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren't going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation."

8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi Courtesy of Amazon

This unique story follows a boy stranded on a boat with a tiger on the open sea, and exemplifies survival, courage, focus, and communication. It is a harrowing journey punctuated by enchanting plot lines and eccentric imagination. The entrepreneur enduring the ebb and flow of self-employment would find value in becoming absorbed in this story. Aside from the glorious distraction it provides, the metaphors for life will jump off the pages as you're reading. It serves as a reminder that we are mere specks in a grand universe and that there are more pressing problems than a late invoice. It'll keep you grateful and grounded, qualities that promote well-being and satisfaction.

9. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Real, flawed, and thoughtful, the author sets out to do something hard by herself: hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She ultimately covers more than a thousand miles from the Mojave Desert to Washington State and in that time encounters a myriad of challenges. The journey serves as an inspiration for the entrepreneur, whose own trail has its share of pitfalls and triumphs.

10. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

This classic book is an extended essay based on a series of lectures Woolf delivered in the 1920s. Best known as being a call for women's space, literally and metaphorically, it also tells of Woolf's profound realization upon inheriting modest money from her aunt: “Watch in the spring sunshine the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money when it is a fact that five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine." It gives a gorgeous and rare perspective, especially in our material world today.