20 books you should read right now

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As you have probably discovered already, spending hours upon hours watching Netflix doesn’t exactly do much for your brain. Rather than going from full work mode to total TV takeover mode, consider cracking open an inspiring book.

With more time at home to pass, executives are turning to old and new favorites that offer an interesting perspective, a unique take, and a dose of motivation. From business best-sellers to inspiring novels, here are 20 recommended page-turners from leaders:


The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky

“Before COVID-19, the retail industry was already confronted with seismic shifts in how we operate across the board—from concept to customer. In many ways, the past several weeks have brought a sense of urgency and bias for action to adapt to the accelerated disruption of this new retail reality—all the while operating in an uncertain and anxious macro-environment. As a leader, relentless learner, and optimist, I’ve read and re-read Scott Belsky’s collection of insights for navigating the hardest and most crucial parts of any bold creative projects and turnarounds. I work with a balance of creatives, marketers, and analysts daily and have appreciated Belsky’s reminder that our job is to endure the lows of any bold venture while optimizing the highs to ensure the path forward is positive and upward. Professionally and personally, I have found Scott Belsky’s reminders that the characteristics and behaviors required to lead projects and teams successfully are relevant in today’s environment more than ever.” —Robert Ferrario, senior vice president of strategy, marketing, and growth at New York and Company.


‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand

“While I was in college I read this book in one day. I started it one morning and very early the next morning, 24 hours later, it was done. The book changed my life. It gave me, a very privileged and fortunate person, some much-needed perspective at a transitional moment in my life. At a very uncertain time, I can think of no better book to not only give people a much-needed break from their everyday lives but to give them perspective. We could all use a little Howard Roark in us right now.” —Nick Kaplan, president of FTF.com.


‘The Heart of The Matter’ by Joffre McClung

“The quality of our lives is dictated by how much we love ourselves. This is a positive book to read because it lays out ways in which I can improve the quality of my life through inner work to reach a higher level of self-love. Self-love is the key to a healthy and fulfilling life. The more I love myself, the better the story I tell myself, which will be reflected back to me by the world, people, and situations around me. This pandemic gives us an opportunity to spend time going inside, checking in with our inner guides and our inner landscape in order to continue the world of creating a better life from the inside out.” —Gabriel Reyes, president of Reyes Entertainment.


‘Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart’ by James R. Doty, MD

“I love every page of this book. It offers a very inspiring story that I think anyone would enjoy reading right now. It gives you insight into the power within you that you have not unlocked. It helps you harness the power of your heart and your brain to change your life. The best part is that you can practice these learnings at home.” —Ric Kostick, CEO and founder of 100 Percent Pure.  


‘How to Stop Feeling Like Shit’ by Andrea Owen

“Like so many of us, this stay at home time has given me time to reflect on my life and what I want out of life. This book is perfect for anyone wanting to come out of the other side of this crazy time ready to realize their own brilliance. I love this book because the author, Andrea, shares all her no-nonsense truth bombs about the most common self-destructive behaviors women tend to engage in. She does it in a way that is painfully true, and yet action-inspiring! It’s like having your sassy best friend tell you like it is but does so with compassion and love. I found myself nodding along, knowing that I, too, have some of these habits within. Her solutions are tangible and doable. No matter what you’ve been through or your circumstances are right now, we all have the opportunity to work on ourselves and this book will inspire you to look inward for happiness.” —Meagen Johnson, vice president of marketing at Jane.


‘The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results’ by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

“In November 2019 I attended a retreat with a few colleagues. The purpose was to focus on community and outreach initiatives that we felt important and meaningful, and how we (all super-busy leaders) accomplish these goals by working together. The moderator used the principles of this book as the platform for a new way of thinking, and a way to approach our complex and very long ‘to-do’ lists with a different perspective. I was so impressed with the concept, I ordered these books through Amazon for several of our leadership team members, and one for myself. This was November, and it’s only now that I’m finally able to read the book.  It’s a very easy read, only 238 pages, with meaningful and somewhat whimsical stories and examples of how to develop a relentless focus on the one most important thing to accomplish for the day, the week, or the month. It guides you through a simple thought process that’s easy and fun to follow and helps add clarity to the daunting list of crucial and urgent priorities that exist in our daily lives. Ironically, it wasn’t until now during this time of social isolation and curfews that I actually had the time to read this book, and now it is more important to me than ever before.” —Karen S. Whitt, vice-president sales and marketing for the Hartling Group


‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead’ by Brene Brown

“This book has helped me both personally and professionally to fight the exhausting pursuit of perfectionism and become less fearful. Brene Brown believes, when we protect ourselves from vulnerability, the more we grow fearful and disconnected. It’s a great book to read at a time of uncertainty and one where we feel disconnected. For me, it has always been difficult to be vulnerable in the work environment. Vulnerability in my mind equaled weakness, but Dr. Brown’s research shifted the way I think about it. This book helps me challenge myself to be courageous enough to bring my authentic self to work and when I do, I find people respond differently. Today when I share my fears, show vulnerability and lead transparently, I am able to build better connections.” —Jennifer Parker, chief revenue officer at WePay.


‘The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations’ by Oprah Winfrey.

“During a time that is so uncertain for so many of us, the aha moments of inspiration and soul-expanding insights continue to enlighten me and I’ve had the book for two years. The book is organized into ten chapters―each one representing a powerful step in Oprah’s own spiritual journey and introduced with an intimate, personal essay by Oprah herself and features selections from the most meaningful conversations between Oprah and some of today’s most-admired thought-leaders. Visionaries like Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, and Shonda Rhimes share their lessons in finding purpose through mindfulness and intention. World-renowned authors and teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Marianne Williamson, and Wayne Dyer, explain our complex relationship with the ego and the healing powers of love and connection; and award-winning and bestselling writers like Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Elizabeth Lesser explore the beauty of forgiveness and spirituality. Paired with beautiful photographs it’s truly one of my go to’s each morning as one I bring with me even when traveling for business or pleasure.” —Michelle Jacobik, profitability strategist and business coach.


‘The Book of Joy’ by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

“The Book of Joy is one of my favorite go-to books for both professional and personal guidance. Two of the world’s most prominent spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, spent seven days together at the residence of HH in Dharamshala, India to celebrate his 80th birthday. The topic was how to find joy in spite of suffering.  The love and compassion expressed in the readings is palpable.  The reader joins the celebration of life, while learning how to cope with suffering through compassion and how to share kindness with the world.  As business leaders, it is important to lead from a place of mindfulness and global consciousness. The book offers practical application of the principles which can be incorporated into both life and the workplace.” —Carol Dimopoulos, president of Perillo’s Learning Journeys.


‘Hard Thing About Hard Things, Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers’ by Ben Horowitz

“This book is for entrepreneurs by an entrepreneur who has lived through challenging times with the economy and his business—which is especially pertinent now. It’s great advice from someone who isn’t just an analyst or academic, but who is a business founder that had to make incredibly difficult decisions to survive and thrive. It really helps to know that I’m not alone in the hard things I and other entrepreneurs are going through today. A great read for current times.” —Scott Purcell, CEO, and chief trust officer at Prime Trust.


‘The Good Egg’ by John Jory and Pete Oswald

“I’ve been spending so much time with my three-year-old daughter and reading books that are age-appropriate for her. There is so much going on in the world now and trying to explain things to little ones is really difficult. I find reading books with her to be a great way for her to express her feelings and worries. This is the story of an egg who is stuck in a box with 11 other eggs and starts to ‘crack’ under the pressure of always trying to be perfect. The importance of taking care of yourself by not overburdening yourself with worry and things you can’t control is also presented in a sweet way. That idea is particularly poignant in the world right now and is a great lesson for both children and adults. This book helps us to become aware of our own behavior and how we can get along with others in close quarters—very timely!” —Lauren Adler, founder of Calendar Kiddo


‘Tao Te Ching’ by Lao Tsu

“This is a foundational text of Zen philosophy. It’s super deep yet highly enjoyable and uplifting at the same time. It contains great advice about finding perspective and balance—very useful right now. It also urges us all to have a generous spirit. This book is uplifting because, rather than providing a distraction, it imparts perspective that can make you realize that humanity is going to be just fine at the end of all this.” —Ben Koren, co-founder, and co-CEO of GO BIG Energy.


‘Anne of Green Gables’ by L.M Montgomery

“I cannot stress enough the importance of fiction in difficult times. Books offer an escape from the real world and we could all use that right now. Set in beautiful Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s, Anne of Green Gables is an excellent world to dive into. Ever optimistic heroine Anne Shirley offers the perfect amount of heart, grit, and mischief to lift your spirits and there are plenty of other characters to fall in love with. This book is the first in a series of eight, so you don’t have to worry about your time in this new world coming to an end too quickly.” —Cara Price, marketing at Social Print Studio.


‘Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse’ by John Stage and Nancy Radke

“In these uncertain times spending more time at home I’ve found it important to nurture my passions and hobbies, and cooking is definitely up there! Between baking sourdough bread and testing out my new smoker, I’m feeling the culinary inspiration to feed my soul. So, to me, this cookbook is wonderful because it is from a restaurant I frequented and still do any chance I can when I’m home back in upstate New York. Living in Southern California, this connects me back to familiar comfort. Who would have thought some of the best barbeques in upstate New York?! Great scene, great food! The challenge for me is to try and emulate that food in my own smoker in Los Angeles. A taste of home and some of my favorite, possibly not so healthy, food! Isn’t that why they call it comfort food? Hopefully, my neighbors agree!” Mark Masten CEO of Joolies Organic Medjool Dates.


‘Fin(anci)ally Free’ by Ande Frazier

“This isn’t a standard self-help book or a summer beach book, so it’s not a ‘fun’ read in the traditional sense, but what I’ve found really positive about it is that it gives you hope for your finances. I think a lot of us need that right now. It’s basically a crash course—or recipe—to take control of your finances. A lot of women I know (myself included) earn a decent amount of money but aren’t necessarily thinking about how to protect it, how to plan for the future with it, or how to prepare for circumstances where we might not have it anymore. This book introduces all of those topics, so you know where you personally need to dive in deeper. It also goes into the psychology and societal reasons women tend to think about money differently than men, which was very eye-opening for me.” —Sarah Cascone, director of marketing for Bluecore.


‘Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential’ by Deepak Chopra

“In his latest book, Chopra takes you on a journey to discover your unlimited potential as a conscious being. Unlike many feel-good self-help books, this time blends the author’s unique knowledge of human history, medical science, quantum physics, metaphysics, and spirituality to lay out a positive path to explore our true selves, beyond the ego and the limitations of accepted logic and dogma. Many would agree we’re at a historic tipping point or at least a significant shift in modern man’s existence and Metahuman couldn’t have come along at a more perfect time with its oddly freeing roadmap that allows us to see ourselves as much more than scared, physical animals confined to three dimensions. I find myself feeling more at peace with less anxiety with each mindful page.” —Jason Myers, senior account executive for The Content Factory.


‘A Pirate Looks at Fifty’ by Jimmy Buffett

“I’m reading two kinds of books. People rising above during much harder circumstances than I’m facing, and fun ones that take me on an adventure—I think it’s obvious, which choice this is~! I love this book because A—I grew up in the Florida Keys on tales of pirates, parrots, and an overdose of Buffett songs, and B—I want my own flying boat someday. Maybe they’ll be solar-powered by then.” —John Cascarano, president of GetBeast.com.


‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama 

“Michelle Obama is an inspiration on many levels. What I love about this book is how you can see how all parts of her life– the good, the bad, and the ugly– all contributed to the person she became, the person we now know and love. It shows you that sometimes you go through hardship or sometimes things don’t work out as planned, but all of those experiences can make you better prepared for your future. It is a good reminder right now, as we go through these crazy times, to pause and think of who we may be “becoming.” —Nisha Dearborn, founder, and CEO of Fresh Chemistry


‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert

“This book is about getting over yourself and doing what you want. Elizabeth Gilbert shows us why difficulties are gifts in disguise and why we’re stronger than we think. It’s fun, empowering, irreverent, and the perfect antidote to setbacks.” —Amanda McIntosh, CEO, and founder of Take My Face Off.


‘The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles and Details’ by Christiane Lemieux 

“Just looking at this beautiful book sitting on my coffee table brings me joy! It takes the design lover on a journey through textiles, wallpaper, furniture, and more. It’s both aspirational and educational. It offers a greater appreciation of the art form and craftsmanship behind each design element we might bring into our home. With more time to spend in my own home, it’s fun to dream up all the possibilities inspired by this book.” —Terri Bryant, founder of Guide Beauty.