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 Amazon.com 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.

3 min read

Please Don't Forget to Say Thank You

"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.

"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.

"More grapes?"

I shook my head.


I stood there.

"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"

I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."

"Thank you, Momma!"

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?

Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?

"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."

"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."

"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"

"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"

"Needs to be done by Monday."

Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.

Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.

So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.

But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?

Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.

A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.

Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.