8 inspiring beach reads that don’t feel like career advice

As the busiest travel season of the year, summer is when professionals give themselves permission to disconnect, relax and take a vacation, or have an adventure. Even so, overachieving superstars — like you! — can’t fully be away from all-things-career-development, so finding a happy medium is essential. Instead of reading emails when you should be soaking up vitamin D, you can advance your knowledge by devouring a business or career advice book. Don’t select difficult, technical novels that require too much concentration, rather go for inspiring, intriguing and captivating reads that keep you engaged.

From page-turners that provoke creativity to memoirs that challenge you to work harder, consider these recommendations from successful professionals:

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

Ask anyone who has soared to the top of the ladder or has experienced monumental success, and they’ll be the first to tell you that taking chances is one of the most important factors of getting ahead. Chief Marketing Officer of Evernote, Andrew Malcolm says this book challenges readers to think about how to use traditional motivation to push beyond the limits of what they deemed possible.

“It provides us with an altered perspective on how to break down walls that stand in our way in order to achieve a better and more meaningful life,” he explains. “Being a business leader is as much about psychology as it is strategy or finance or marketing.

“Sometimes, people are inspired by the art of the possible; sometimes they respond to the fear of a burning platform; sometimes they need the challenge to their abilities and other times they need the solace of a hug after a failure.”

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

This summer, consider taking the program that millions have completed in the past few decades. The CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day NY, Rob Schwartz recommends this creative journey for anyone who wants to tap into hidden skills, explore their creativity and more.

“Apart from encouraging you to do what you think you can’t, the book’s real secret and gift is the power of ‘writing three pages.’ Yes, journaling, three pages at a time, will help you sort through what every leader must do every day: figure out how to contend with the biggest threats and the greatest opportunities,” he explains.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

Becoming a household name is the goal of nearly every entrepreneur, but remember, even the most well-known companies had humble beginnings. To be reminded you’re on the right track, the CEO of Quizlet Matthew Glotzbach recommends this true story of the first days of Nike.

“In addition to being a fun read and a great story, Phil Knight teaches a lesson of perseverance and confidence in business.  I was surprised at how close to bankruptcy and failure Nike was on many occasions, even fairly late into the company’s development,” he explains.

Embrace the Machine: 111 Ways AI Will Change Your Marketing Job by Nancy A. Shenker

Don’t want to page through chapters? You don’t have to with this book by the CEO of theONswitch, Nancy A. Shenker. Written in ‘listicle’ format, this book tackles difficult, technical concepts like AI, machine learning, robotics, etc., with a fun, non-tech language.

“We are all time-pressed and reading business books that are more like comic books — one of my childhood passions — makes learning more interesting,” she shares.

Art of War by Sun Tzu

Though the vice president of operations at Energy Solutions Direct Steven Grant first read this when he was a young karate student, believing he would one day enlist in the military and become a soldier, he realized many of the teachings applied to the corporate world.

“I went into the business world and realized many of Sun Tzu’s words could benefit me in dealing with not only competitors and negotiations, but even inter-office politics,” he shared. “With chapters such as ‘laying plans’, ‘tactical dispositions’ and ‘use of energy,’ it really is a book on strategy with lessons that can be applied to a broad spectrum of situations.”

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu

These days, advertising drives a vast amount of our economy, but it isn’t always an easy industry or aspect of business to understand. Glotzbach recommends getting started with this book that provides an in-depth look at the origins of the attention-based economy and links them to the present-day Internet-related business.

“It is important simply as a consumer to have a grasp of what services you get for ‘free’ and what you are giving in exchange. I particularly like the historical linkage as I feel it gives us a much better, richer understanding of how the current advertising world has been shaped, and how it might be altered in the future,” he says.

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

Especially when you’re leading a team or find yourself in a month’s worth of unnecessary meetings, it is easy to lose sight of what really matters and what actually defines achievement: people, purpose, and attitude. Malcolm says every time he reads this book, he is reminded never to underestimate the power of a team with a common mission.

“When you have team that feels like your tribe, that you’d go to battle with any day, that you know you can count on and that you hope can depend on you — it’s not as big a deal if you make the right decisions,” he continues. “So long as the right people are in the room, you’ll figure it out. Maybe more importantly, you can’t read the book without being grateful to those who laid the foundation for us to live as we do and remember that the stress we feel is minor compared to what others face.”

Crucial Conversations: Taking Stakes Second

Want to become a better public — or not-so-public — speaker? As one of the most common fears, the more you weed through this angst, the better prepared you will be to move forward in your career. Shenker’s younger daughter recommended this read to her, and she says it’s a must for individuals and teams who want to take their feet out of their mouth when they are speaking, negotiating or team building.

“It gives you a simple lexicon for how to avoid nuclear disasters in any conversation — business or personal,” she says.