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I'll never understand people who “don't read”. When anybody says this to me, it's as if they're speaking a foreign language. My knee-jerk reaction is disbelief: what do you mean you don't read? That's like saying you don't exercise or don't want to have an impact in the world or don't have a vision or goals.  Then it all makes sense. If everybody read with the fervor that the most successful people I know do, our societal “average” would be far more advanced than it is. We wouldn't be living in a culture where hating your job is okay, where being unhealthy is the norm and where goal setting (and achievement) only happens for most people on January 1. Oscar Wilde said:

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.”

With Wilde's logic, if you read nothing, you will be nothing.  It's a bold statement but one that I think has some truth to it. This is an ever-growing list of amazing books that have helped me in various areas of my journey of Unsettling. They are organized under subheadings to help you decide what you want to learn about first. Within the sub-sections, my favourite of the group is the top listing, and the books thereafter are listed in no particular order. Some of these are affiliate links. If you purchase them through the links below, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. If you do decide to use my affiliate links for these resources, thank you so much for your support. If not, that’s completely fine, too. They’re still great. Hopefully your library will have copies of these gems. If you see a book that is missing here, please feel free to let me know. You can either suggest it in the comments, or by emailing me. I will then put it on my reading list and, if I love it, it will land on this page!

Setting Your Life Up For Massive Success

The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes

This is the book I wish had been out when I first started… well, becoming a better person, and accepting my responsibility to contribute to the world. I'm on Lewis Howes' book launch team, so while it won't be officially released and in book stores in North America for a couple of days, I had the privilege of reading The School of Greatness over the past month or so and while the principles are easily second nature at this point in my entrepreneurial life, they are new and novel to most people just starting out. You can (and should) pre-order this book. Also great…

Harnessing Your Creative Flow

On Writing by Stephen King

I'd heard of this book several times before I finally read it. Encouraged by friends in New York, I picked up a copy at The Strand and devoured it in 3 days. Whether you're a writer, musician, designer, or do anything that relies on creativity, this book will help you get better at it. Also read…

Building Habits To Supercharge Your Efforts

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

A reader recommended this book to me, so I read it all over a 48 hour period while in Florence. I quote this book constantly, and it's absolutely necessary if you ever want to do anything…better. Also great:

Influencing and Encouraging Action

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

If you want to be able to control your own behaviour, influence other's behaviour, and become a success in reaching your goals, you must first know why we do the things we do. And if you've ever wondered that – which you absolutely should – this is a must-read. Also solid reads:

Inspiration and Building Online Businesses

The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

People either adore this book or hate it with a passion. I suspect the strong feelings either way have a lot to do with Ferriss' extreme attitude toward… well, everything. My best friend calls me “full throttle Francine” so naturally I resonate with Ferriss' balls to the wall approach. Plus this book is so damn quotable I could have an entire conversation in 4HWW quotes. If you want further reading or just want a more mild, measured approach:

Marketing, Monetization and Going Viral

Cashvertising by Drew Witman

This should frankly be required reading for anybody who has ever wanted to build a business, lifestyle or otherwise. Then, continue your education with these:

This is Not an Exhaustive List

As somebody who is always trying to improve, you should be reading every day, and you should be reading a variety of things. Educational, business, and self-help books are all great, but there is so much that can be learned from fiction, biographies, memoirs and even young-adult fiction. Biographies and memoirs can motivate, inspire, and give you mentorship. Fiction can show you exceptional storytelling and emotion. Books for young-adults and children are exceptional in teaching you how to communicate complex ideas with simplicity. Always keep reading. As long as you read, you'll grow and improve.

27 thoughts on “The Ultimate List of Books to Take Control of Your Career & Find Work Freedom

  1. Blair says:

    Great list Sarah! I will refer to it when picking my next books! Currently I’m reading Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary V and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (because why would you only read ONE book at time!?) and they are both very inspirational! Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Blair! Glad you enjoyed it – I’ve read Lean In, it’s a great book. I’ve never read the Gary V book but it’s on my “to-read” list! I wish I could read a book a day (then, however, I’m sure I’d still have a mile-long to-read list).

  2. Liv Faye says:

    Yay! Thanks for this list, I LOVE reading… I recently finished reading Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (a non-fiction book about memory) and The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Right now I’m reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I already grabbed my copy of $100 Startup and I’m SO interested in reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely now, thanks for the suggestion! I usually read more fiction and non-fiction… but I’m trying to balance it out 😀

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Liv – I’ve never read Moonwalking. Sounds interesting! I started to try to read In Defense of Food but couldn’t engage with the book. Oh, definitely read Predictably Irrational. It changed a lot of my silly behaviours 🙂

  3. Sim says:

    Sarah,
    First of all, I’d like to say: love this list. It has some of the books I really liked reading or ones that I intend to read (my Amazon cart is massive).
    I find it really sad that most people don’t read books. I truly believe most people don’t read because they’re cheap. It is truly sad that people don’t realize the depth of information that can be taken away from something that’s less than 15 dollars in most cases. There’s literally no reason not to read.
    It’s good to know that I’m heavily vibing with, have read, or have heard of 80% of the books on this list. More to add to the Amazon cart!
    These are the ones I’d add:
    33 Strategies of War – I truly believe Robert Greene is one of the best writers of all time. In my opinion, this combined with 48 Laws of Power are highly recommended readings for anyone wanting to deeper understand social intelligence/social politics especially when it comes to work.
    How To Win Friends and Influence People – This book by Dale Carnegie is really underrated. It’s a classic.
    The Talent Code – This is another reminded that talent isn’t inherited, it’s unlocked through careful and meticulous practice. Love this book.
    The Black Swan – Nassim Taleb shows us why we must always be on our toes because we can’t predict anything at all.
    The Economy of You – Another really great startup book, I’d say is a complement to $100 Startup. It tells you WHY you need to start making steps to make that leap of faith and why you should live life on your terms.
    These are the ones I could think of off the top of my head but I really like this resource. I’ll be sure to come back to this.

    • Sarah says:

      I had no idea how passionate Unsettlers would be about reading and book lists! So glad you enjoyed it.
      Not reading because of money is a silly excuse because there’s so many free options! Library, book swaps, etc. So I hope that doesn’t hold everyone back!
      Thank you so much for the suggestions – I’ll add them to my must-read list!

    • Sarah says:

      Ah yes – thanks for the suggestion, Brittany. I haven’t even read it yet, which is why it didn’t make it onto the list but I think it has to be my next read!

  4. Inayah says:

    Thanks so much for such a comprehensive list! I’m in the middle of the Four Hour Work Week now, and I absolutely loved Four Hour Body!

  5. Vikas Kajla says:

    Sarah, thanks a lot for this one.
    Sometimes funny coincidences happen. I was just thinking lately about the books I should read next. And now I found your post in my email.
    I am just about to finish On Writing by Stephen King, great book indeed.

  6. Peter Banerjea says:

    Hey Sarah,
    Another awesome post! As always you are a pretty big source of inspiration at SBO.
    One book that I would really like to mention is ‘Great by Choice’ by Jim Collins.
    The part about the book which is really inspirational for startup entrepreneurs is the conclusion that great companies are not built through luck. It takes a certain bent of mind, the right attitude along with specific ways of doing business.
    All the most successful CEOs/founders – at Microsoft, Southwest, Amgen, etc, mentioned in the book have that bent of mind and have applied those approaches.
    Cheers!
    Peter

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Peter! Thank you so much for the kind words 🙂
      I’ve never read Great by Choice – thank you for the suggestion. Sounds really interesting.

  7. Tee says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Amazing post!
    I’ve read most of the books you’ve mentioned but some of the ones you recommended I haven’t come across before and are now getting on my list. Thank you!
    You know how to choose the right words when it comes to reading books just to make my eyes sparkle. 🙂 There’s nothing better than the smell of a new book, but the Kindle ones are OK, too.
    I’m an avid reader and I believe that the more we read the better we write. And both are equally important in life, as communication is crucial when building an online business (well, in anything really).
    I’d say that the problem with the people who don’t read starts in their youth as the love of books develops in childhood. I remember when I was a child how important reading was in our house. I was extremely fond of our summer vacations when we would have to take a few of the new books we wanted to read and then discuss them with our parents (they would grill us with all kids of questions just to make sure that we did not skip something on purpose). But I loved to read then and I still do and there was nothing more exciting and more fulfilling than getting lost in the miraculous worlds of Jules Verne’s mesmerizing novels.
    I started reading to my baby boys from the moment they were born and my three year old now reads and spells with ease. He just loves letters and numbers and gets excited when I praise how well he reads and understands what he read. This is so important and so rewarding.
    As you said: If everybody read with the fervor that the most successful people I know do, our societal “average” would be far more advanced than it is. We wouldn’t be living in a culture where hating your job is okay, where being unhealthy is the norm and where goal setting (and achievement) only happens for most people on January 1.”
    If people who don’t read only tried to read one book, just any book they choose, I am certain that their world would change. The whole world would change.
    And to quote Ray Bradbury before I finish my lingering comment: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
    Thank you Sarah for inspiring us all and for being such a wonderful role model.

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Tee! I so agree with the notion that the more we read, the better we write. I love that you read to your kids – that’s so important and something they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
      I LOVE that quote you shared – thank you for sharing it!

  8. Bharat Jhala says:

    Hey Sarah!
    Thanks for this list.
    I love reading. This truly makes me what I am by influencing my thinking and my behaviour.
    Currently I am reading…
    1. Wellness Sense – by Om Swami – An amazing guide for food, breath, and body.
    While reading this book I felt so many times that we all keep pain killer in our home, in stead we must keep this book, and should force everyone in the family to read this book to know at least this much for our body, breath and food to be grateful for this life. Simply a gem!
    Two another great book from the same author “The Fistful of Love” (on relationship) and “When All is Not Well” (on depression – but again unique approach to deal with depression – a must read book if you are a victim of depression or know someone you love who is a victim of depression to understand it better.)
    2. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth – By T Harv Eker
    Gina (30 day or less) has suggested me “Do Over” so I am gonna read that next.
    Thanks for this list….I have taken a note of it and would buy many of them 🙂
    Bharat

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Bharat! Thanks so much for these additions. I’ve never heard of any of them so I’ll add them to my “must read” list 🙂

  9. Esther says:

    Hi Sarah!
    I recently came across your site on Facebook and I am so GLAD I did, as an entrepreneur I need all the advice I can get! Your content is not only genuine but also refreshing.
    If I said I was an avid reader I would be lying, I have made it one of my goals to read more and little by little I have been making progress. As an educated professional I certainly understand the importance and power of reading. I have to echo Tee’s words – although its never too late to start reading, like any good habit that sticks it is so important to start it early on in life. I am a first generation college graduate and my parents didn’t have knowledge to empower me to read. As an immigrant moving to this country and learning English as a second language, there is often such a big disconnect between what we are taught at school and what we learn when we go home, since my parents did’t speak the language what might have seem like the natural things for them to teach me, simple weren’t. I can go on…but my intent with sharing this is to say that we can look at someone who doesn’t read as if they are crazy, but there are often real tangible causes. I am glad that now I have the knowledge and resources to make this a habit I can pass on to my children. This list means A LOT especially for someone just starting on that journey. Thanks again 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      You’re right, Esther – it’s never too late to start reading, and you don’t have to be an avid reader as long as you’re a reader 🙂 I do find though that with reading a good book (one that truly resonates with you), you become more and more of an avid reader. And you certainly don’t have to have always read to find yourself in a position to read now 🙂

  10. Maureen says:

    I’ve favorited this post. I’m delighted to a see a list which is divided by category as I know I can go back to this and switch between categories depending on what takes my fancy.
    I’m surprised not to see The Art of Non-Conformity on there given the $100 start-up is, but you did clarify that the list is not exhaustive. I found this book was much more useful than Tim Ferriss, but that probably says more about our preferred approach to business.
    It’d be great to see this grow over time or else find out what you’re reading currently through your social media.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Sarah says:

      I have to admit that as huge of a fan I am of Chris Guillebeau (he’s a great guy), I haven’t read the Art of Non Conformity yet and I can’t recommend anything I haven’t read – but you’re not the first to mention it so I will definitely put it on my reading list!

  11. Annette Vaillancourt, PH.D. says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I love lists and this one is exceptional. I’ve read a few of these and I will read more. I would also recommend adding two books by Gregg Levoy. The first is “Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life” and his newest, “Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion.”

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