Request from a recent webinar: what shall I read?

I offered a webinar recently where a participant asked what books I would recommend, books that might give a window into the topics I was speaking about.

That is the book that I am writing myself. But until that is published, I offer a selection of books that I draw from, books that inspire me. Each of us are going to put the ideas together in our own ways. Each of us brings something to a text. It is sacred ground between the reader and the writer. Maybe some of the work here speaks to you. Feel welcome to send me the names of your inspiring books.

Highly readable books by academics:

Through the Labyrinth (2007) by Alice Eagly and Linda L. Carli lays out beautifully the variety of corners that women face on their way through careers. Rather than a glass ceiling, a labyrinth is the metaphor these authors recommend. Eagly specializes in meta-analysis, taking the results of many studies to see what results are in common and keep showing up no matter how the data are sliced.

Women & Power, A Manifesto, Updated (2018) by Mary Beard uses ancient Greek and Roman history and mythology to help illustrate the ways these cultural building blocks for western ideas are related to challenges we face today accepting women in positions of authority and power.

Ask for it: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want (2008) by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Babcock is a professor for Economics at Carnegie Mellon; this book is a well-researched and highly readable book (a follow-up to their research-based book on why Women Don’t Ask).

Daring Greatly (2012) by Brené Brown, professor for Social Work at the University of Houston, is one of several of her books that is inviting honesty and risk into workplaces and relationships in clear, concrete ways that inspire and provoke. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk kicked off the visibility of her work.

More books that have had big impact:

The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors who want a Successful Career and a Well-Balanced Life (2015) by Rena Seltzer covers 10 essential areas of practicing the craft of being a professor, from time management, productive writing, teaching, work-life balance, networking, tenure, influence, negotiation, life after tenure, and leadership. I especially appreciate that it is written from the perspective of the same coaching training that I received.

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2019) by Caroline Criado Perez has made well-deserved waves for a carefully-researched exposé of the ways data bias, in particular considering only men’s bodies and lives in design decisions, has made products, procedures, medicines, and career pathways that can be lethal to women. It’s worth reflecting in daily life about how deep the bias of androcentrism — male as central and normal, female as “other” and “special case” — may go, and what we can do to create more holistic inclusive models.

The End of Bias by Jessica Nordell is an excellent and highly readable book full of useful examples and methods to reduce bias, and it was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2021.

See Jane Lead, Nice Girls Don’t get Rich, and Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office among others by Lois Frankel are advice books for showing up in ways that get results. Her website contains information on these and more books and other inspirations.

Lean in (2013) by Sheryl Sandberg was a revolution when it came out and is now a movement,

Big Magic (2015) by Elizabeth Gilbert lets creativity in. Her TED talk is here.

The Artist’s Way (1992) and The Vein of Gold (1996) by Julia Cameron are books that show ways forward into real contact with what can be possible from ones creativity, through deep knowing of oneself and ones voice. These are workbooks that take you places you have never been. We are all artists, so don’t be put off by the idea that these exercises are just for writers, painters, and musicians.

Spiel mit der Macht (2009) by Marion Knaths is a book in German that I would love to see written in English because it deserves a wider audience. Knaths distills her own experience into guidelines how women can understand the way men play the game at work (status, ego, positioning, competition, and how men see women at work – stages of dismissive, seductive, competitive). See Knaths here.

Men explain things to me (2014) by Rebecca Solnit is a funny-sad, poignant, well-observed set of essays. We can only hope these reflections make future generations feel sorry for us about the way things were back then and that things do not continue as they are. What shall we do from here? Calls to action.

Wild Creative (2014) by Tami Lynn Kent. Tami is a holistic healthcare visionary, and she brings together body and spirit in her writing. She has other books, Wild Feminine and Mothering from your Center. Connecting to the powerful creative center rather than associating it with shame, or learning from shame — this is revolutionary and so important. See her TEDx talk here.

And for a change of mood, You are a Badass (2013) by Jen Sincero is one of those books that’s irreverent, fun, raw, and offers a good mood and a sense of possibility.

Some other lists of books recommended for aspiring women (but not only for women)

Catalyst is a wonderful organization that keeps track of women’s achievements and recommends ways forward:

A beautifully curated list of inspiring books, including books by Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

A list from 2017 with some classics, not all specific to women:

A short little list with some of my favorites on it:

Some of these books were too androcentric for me (Looking at you, Paulo Coelho), and others I haven’t read; still others are general for any audience and not specifically for women in business, and yet others are not about business at all (i.e. The Happiness Project). But they come highly recommended from some leaders: