Understanding how to prioritize your career can seem like an overwhelming task: after all, where should you begin? Fortunately, particularly if you enjoy reading, there are numerous outstanding career books available to provide guidance.
These books, many of which are bestsellers, each offer a distinctive perspective on career management and can also provide valuable insights beyond the workplace.
This article introduces the 30 best career books of 2023, highlighting their content and the lessons they offer.
The benefits of reading career books
Career books are not only engaging and entertaining to read, but they also offer several distinct benefits to you and your career. Here are the key advantages of reading career books:
- They can be a great professional development resource as you develop knowledge and skills
- They frequently offer fresh perspectives and creative approaches to common challenges
- They provide up-to-date advice and offer contemporary context to help you maintain a relevant mindset and skill set in today’s world
- Reading keeps the mind sharp and is a great pastime (so why not combine this with acquiring professional knowledge?)
- They’re a great way to keep yourself inspired and motivated at work
30 most popular career books to read
Here are the most popular career books available. They all have their own specialist focus and, while some have been in print for decades, others are brand new. Nevertheless, they’re all fascinating reads.
1. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
In Designing Your Life, renowned authors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans present the idea that a successful career depends on your happiness, both at work and in your personal life. The book is optimistic and encourages us to believe that — regardless who we are and what our outlook is — purpose and meaning can be found.
While finding complete happiness is challenging, this book breaks down this daunting task into bite-sized steps and actions that anyone can use to find joy in their work and personal life.
2. Designing Your New Work Life Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
A spin-off of the bestselling Designing Your Life, Designing Your New Work Life aims to help people find peace, happiness and fulfilment in their current jobs, rather than seeking new ones.
This book provides actionable advice on changing behaviors, attitudes and perceptions to make the most out of your career. It offers refreshing honesty and realistic guidance, helping readers understand when it’s time for a change and how to navigate career transitions gracefully.
3. What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N Bolles
One of the most bestselling career books of all time, the premise of What Color Is Your Parachute? is that there is a job for everyone out there; you just have to find it.
The book helps you find this perfect job using the “Career Flower” exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to get the reader to understand their purpose and values, and what motivates them professionally — ultimately using this information to find the best-fit career. The book also covers practical job-seeking advice.
4. Pivot by Jenny Blake
Jenny Blake’s book on strategic career management is also a very useful guide on managing career change. In Pivot, the reader discovers that small, well-thought-out and meaningful steps can provide a much more effective path to career change than quitting and resetting.
The book tackles these small steps in a process-focused format, ensuring that the book can be useful as an occasional reference point for career changers or as a compelling read to manage significant professional transition.
5. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
One of the best-known career advice books out there, Leaders Eat Last is an excellent journey into thinking differently and using curiosity and tact to become a better manager and drive your career forward.
Leaders Eat Last covers many themes, but the predominant one is purpose, and figuring out how a company’s mission creates success and profit. Drawing on real-life examples, including the US military, Simon Sinek explains how leadership skills must take centerstage to upskill and create commitment in organizations.
6. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
First published in 1936, this popular book might be old, but it still carries plenty of relevance today (it has been slightly updated and refined for modern audiences).
Dale Carnegie discusses basic principles of human nature that have stood the test of time. The behaviors and actions discussed provide fundamental guidance on how to remain effective and work in any kind of job, from large offices to small business owners. In short, it’s a must-read for those looking for work communication tips.
7. Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson
Based on an interaction that Thomas Erikson had with a CEO, this bestselling book offers tips on how we can interact with four personality types in order to get the best out of teams and ourselves: “Red” (assertive and driven), “Blue” (analytical and precise), “Yellow” (fun-loving and creative), and “Green” (considerate and calm).
The book discusses what these personality types need from you and what you need to do to work with them, whatever personality type you might be.
8. Drive by Daniel Pink
Drive offers a comprehensive exploration of motivation, drawing on years of research in personal and organizational psychology.
Daniel Pink uses motivational theory to help readers find jobs that align with their purpose and uses motivational techniques to discuss efficiency, leadership and teamwork, all geared toward career success.
9. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
A bestselling book on relationship management, Never Eat Alone is a great book to read if you want to discover how to use workplace relationships to best effect and impact.
The book lays out tools and techniques for nurturing relationships at work and connecting with colleagues, as well as covers many associated topics such as communication and networking. Never Eat Alone is not just helpful in the context of working relationships, but personal ones as well.
10. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
The Confidence Code starts off with an assertion that women are in a better place than ever before to take charge of their careers and are empowered for new heights of success.
The book covers how confidence can be the key that women can use to unlock this potential. The topics are framed against compelling science that adds context to gender and genetics that drive female behaviors at work, and how these can be leveraged for career success.
11. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was by Barbara Sher
Barabara Sher’s New York Times bestseller maps out career success against passion and is a call to action for readers to find their long-lost purpose and meaning in order to unlock new levels of achievement at work.
The book maps out techniques for readers to understand the meaning behind what they do and what they have always wanted to do, and to rediscover and reignite goals and aspirations that they might have forgotten or put to one side earlier in their life.
12. The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis
As the title might suggest, The Squiggly Career explores non-linear career paths, such as changing careers, looking at new directions and changing career strategies. These methods help you take control of your career and support you in working towards a more fulfilling job.
The book frames this knowledge against case studies of various famous individuals who have also carved out their own “squiggly” careers and enjoyed considerable success as a result.
13. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
In this well-known book, Cal Newport aims to get readers to discover their own unique career selling point: what you can do that will ensure you stand head and shoulders above other people.
The book covers learning techniques and advice on upskilling, as well as tips and guidance on how to find purpose from work and how discovering your career as you go along is not a bad thing. The book also aims to explain how to enjoy work.
14. Do What You Are by Paul D Tieger, Barbara Barron and Kelly Tieger
Do What You Are offers career guidance rooted in the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, mapping the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type to various career options. The book explains how to align your personality type with suitable jobs and leverage your personality traits for career success. It also includes a personality test template and in-depth explanations of personality types.
15. The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann
The Go-Giver is a book about selflessness. In it, Bob Burg and John David Mann share with us that being generous is the key to career success. We’re encouraged to share our time, give our knowledge, offer our energy, and train skills with no expectation of payment or anything in return.
The book is presented as a parable from the point of view of a young professional (“Joe”) at the start of his career, looking to his mentor (“The Chairman”) for advice.
16. Invaluable by Maya Grossman
Invaluable is a succinct book that sets out 10 clear skills that can impact careers in a big way, such as becoming a fixer or becoming a lifelong learner. Maya Grossman asserts that if these 10 skills are nurtured and honed, then you can achieve frequent promotions, be selected as a high potential employee and work for the best companies in the world.
Grossman presents the idea of being “invaluable” to a company as a mindset, and that embracing these skills can lead to long-term success.
17. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
A book that is equally useful for home life as well as work, The Power of Habit begins by explaining to the reader what habits are and how they work. The book shares how the formation of positive habits, routines and rituals can benefit your career and improve work performance.
A critical message in the book is how we must understand the habits of others (such as how they start their day and even how they get ready for work in the morning), as these titbits of information will help us build strong relationships with them.
18. The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
The classic career book of the 1980s, The One Minute Manager has been given a refresh for the 21st century. The book’s message and purpose are simple: how to become a better leader.
Many principles are discussed, but taking centerstage is the importance of effective and responsible delegation and giving (and receiving) feedback. The book also covers many leadership staples such as effective communication, managing time and motivating people. It’s a classic and powerful read.
19. Presence by Amy Cuddy
Written by proponent of the “power pose” and TED Talker Amy Cuddy, Presence is a journey through the power of great first impressions, professional interactions, and how to appear confident and calm in every communication exchange.
The book has many uses but is geared to helping people make small but effective changes in readiness for high-pressure situations like job interviews or closing important deals. These changes are both physical and mental in nature and add up to make big changes to the way we communicate.
20. Think Again by Adam Grant
A book about change management, Think Again encourages the leader that change is good and that uncertainty is to be embraced. At the center of the book’s message is the notion that it’s okay to be wrong — in fact, it’s a good thing. Being wrong helps us find new viewpoints and seek comfort in the unknown.
Think Again also gets the reader to consider what they’re learning and what knowledge can be dropped, or “unlearnt”, as new information can lead us to become more successful in an ever-changing world.
21. The Long Game by Dorie Clark
The Long Game is a compelling read on how to make the most of that most valuable of commodities: time.
The book starts out with an analysis of what time means today; that our lives are becoming increasingly rushed and stressful, but with thought, we can keep things under control. It covers strategies to enable us to make the most out of every 24 hours and explains how doing so can lead to greater productivity and, ultimately, higher chances of success.
22. Give and Take by Adam Grant
Give and Take explores the dynamics of relationship management.
Adam Grant introduces three types of people: “Takers”, who take more than they give; “Matchers”, who seek equality; and “Givers”, who give more than they take. Grant argues that Givers are most likely to achieve career success, emphasizing that gratitude and generosity can lead to trust, reputation and career advancement.
23. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Radical Candor is a book designed to present a path to leadership success by deftly balancing honesty and assertiveness with an innate caring for people.
The book starts off by presenting several leadership traits, but deep-dives into relationship management being the key to radical candor — that to be able to be honest and direct with people, they have to trust you and believe that you care. This is a great book for upcoming leaders or anyone who needs to look after people while influencing peers in their line of work.
24. Expect to Win by Carla Harris
Carla Harris, a prominent figure on Wall Street, shares her strategies for thriving in a competitive industry in Expect to Win. Her book provides valuable insights for anyone aspiring to achieve senior roles in demanding fields. It focuses on realizing your career potential, setting ambitious goals, and winning in order to attain exceptional success and advance your career.
25. The Unspoken Rules by Gorick Ng
The Unspoken Rules is a fairly unique book in its subject: the unwritten rules of workplace etiquette, such as learning how to say “no,” being helpful and managing rumors. These rules might appear common sense, but they’re not readily apparent to every manager and can make a big difference in the success of your career.
In this book, Gorick Ng guides young professionals through these workplace norms, why they are important, and the impacts on their career if they’re not followed.
26. Moms for Hire by Deborah Newmyer
An indispensable read for mothers seeking to return to the workplace, Moms for Hire chronicles successful and famous working moms, illustrating to the reader what got them to where they were and how this success can be replicated.
Tapping into an often-overlooked section of the talent market, Moms for Hire aims to dispel fears that returning mothers might have about the job market, and share with them tips and advice on how to kick-start their careers and find fulfilling jobs.
27. Getting Things Done by David Allen
If you’re seeking guidance on time management, productivity, and achieving a better work–life balance, Getting Things Done is a top recommendation.
This book offers valuable insights and practical advice for increasing effectiveness at both work and home, as well as why this is important and how effective time management is central to effective career development.
28. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
This famous guide to career development presents the best qualities and traits that contribute most effectively to career success, as well as 20 habits that can hold professionals back.
What You Got Here Won’t Get You There primarily focuses on people who have already accomplished great things in their career and want to achieve more. As the title suggests, the authors outline that continued career success is the product of continuous improvement, such as learning, listening and building meaningful relationships.
29. The New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew
The New Rules of Work accepts that the traditional idea of a career — the cycle of working hard and getting promoted — isn’t necessarily what happens today. The book explains that modern careers are less linear and more ambiguous.
Based on this new reality, the reader is given advice on how to thrive in the modern world of work, such as thinking strategically, negotiating a raise, knowing how and when to move, and keeping an eye out for unusual or unique opportunities.
30. You Majored in What? by Katharine Brooks
Written by career counsellor Katharine Brooks, You Majored in What? is a book for recent college grads who are feeling a little lost in the world of work. The book is striking in that it goes beyond recommending the more well-trodden paths to work, and encourages students to “wander wisely” and find their paths, exploring careers and ways forward that align with their values.
The book also covers the acquisition of knowledge, goal setting, and embracing career-hunting as a journey rather than a target.
Now that you have had a chance to read a little synopsis of what the 30 best career books contain, choose one or two to read cover to cover, based on what you want to learn and how you wish to be inspired.
These career books are often available in e-reader format as well as in paper form, making it easier than ever to get first-rate career knowledge from influential authors. Many of these authors also have podcasts or have presented TED Talks; if you find someone who truly resonates with you, look them up online and see what else they have to offer!
Got any other reading suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below.