The 2014 GOOD Gift Guide: First Forays into Business Books

Fun, relatable, and inspirational titles for those who will need help realizing their work-related New Year’s resolutions

At first glance, the business section in a bookstore may seem suited for a select set: wannabe CEOs looking to climb the ladder and soon-to-be college students who have no real idea what majoring in “business” actually means. After all, who has time to read 300 pages on topics like leadership, teambuilding, or organizational growth? Passersby may recognize Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In from the immense media attention it’s garnered since 2013, stay to peruse a few more book covers, but ultimately wander back to more exciting sections of the bookstore.

But after closer inspection, the business bookshelves actually hold plenty of texts for larger audiences like stuck-in-a-rut recent grads or uninspired, unemployed salespeople. It does help to be rational, though—it may be prudent to have an idea for a small business before piecing together a business plan—and a one-year prescription to a better career can’t magically wish away persistent stresses. Don’t be deterred. Whether you’re looking to embark on a new business venture, get your career back on track, or make your presentations more engaging, this section—stiff as it may seem—holds a handful of gems.

Here are five of the least daunting, yet oh so inspirational, business books worth a read.

Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry's

by Brad Edmondson

Here’s an easy way into business books: Start with the story behind your favorite brand. At worst, company profiles offer curious readers a few fun facts that may come in handy at the next bar trivia night. At best, these titles give loyalists newfound reasons to support certain corporations. In the case of Ice Cream Social, now you have additional cause for purchasing ample amounts of Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, or whatever your Ben & Jerry’s pleasure may be. (If ice cream doesn’t float your boat, consider reading the Chocolate Wars about sweets giant Cadbury.)

Get Sh*t Done

by Lauris Liberts and Startup Vitamins

Liberts and Startup Vitamins’ book organizes dozens of inspirational quotes from entrepreneurs and business leaders into sections such as “think,” “lead,” and “evolve”—perfect for when you need a particular kind of pep talk. Leave Get Sh*t Done on your desk for when those moments of doubt and inner struggle strike, and keep the pint-size title handy for colleagues who could also use a motivational boost. Perfect for those who retweet uplifting quotes every day.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations

by Dan Roam

Doodling: One person’s creative procrastination is another’s catalyst for ideas. Known for The Back of the Napkin, which celebrates sketches as a medium to ideate and solve problems, Roam returned to bookshelves in April 2014 with an antidote for apathetic presentations. Doodlers, never make another bland, encyclopedic PowerPoint deck again! White space and simple visuals make Show and Tell’s lessons memorable. Just be careful. A kid (or kid-at-heart) may be tempted to finish some of the drawings.

Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work

by Liz Wiseman

Beginners, you may really be in luck. At least that’s what Wiseman argues in Rookie Smarts. She devotes the initial chapters to outlining four parts of the rookie mindset, beginning with the “backpacker” who wants to work in uncharted territory and ending with the “pioneers” remembered for their improvisation and persistent focus. Kicking off part two, Wiseman discusses “perpetual rookies”—examples of more experienced professionals who still think like a newcomer.

What Do You Want to Create Today? Build the Life You Want at Work

by Bob Tobin

From the first page of What Do You Want to Create Today? Tobin will get you nodding along in agreement. He acknowledges the common questions surrounding career motivation, like “What makes people successful?” and “How can I grow more fully as a person through my work?” The author later shares his own story of self-discovery to show that a good life may not necessarily involve a luxury car or beachside property. Encouraging readers to interact with positive people is far from groundbreaking, but Tobin’s anecdotes offer an added boost of inspiration.

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