Kelly Poulson
Coach. Career Navigator. Ass Kicker. Dog mom.

Needing a little career inspo?

Some of the best advice out there comes in book form. This reading list of some of the top career books—including both famous and less-well-known titles, is a good place to start if you're seeking recommendations.

6 Top Career Books

Here’s a list of some of the best to help you spark some thoughts on what the next right move for you might be.

1. The New Rules of Work 

By Kathryn Minshew & Alex Cavoulacos

Whether you are just out of school and looking to find your path or navigating your next move at the mid-career level, this is the career book for you. The approaches shared take the guesswork out of how to figure out what you want and once you’ve figured it out, how to get there. And it does so in a way that’s clear, straightforward, manageable but also fun. Because we all know sometimes books like these can be a snoozefest. Not this one. Along with clarity, you get solid examples of things like cover letters, LinkedIn outreach, etc. It’s a must-read.

2. You are a Badass 

By Jen Sincero

If self-help isn’t for you, this is the self-help book for you. Sincero masterfully tells you the tale of her personal career journey and the roadblocks she had to overcome to get where she is. But she does so in a way that’s so hilarious, you forget it’s a book about getting in touch with your own inner badass. This book is chock full of statements like: “Nobody who ever accomplished anything big or new or worth raising a celebratory fist in the air did it from their comfort zone. They risked ridicule and failure and sometimes even death.” Amen!

3. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success 

By Adam Grant

Let’s start out by hearing directly from the man himself: “If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensure from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.” Though this book can certainly help you out in the office, it’s also a guide on how to conduct yourself in life. Grant’s research has us all questioning how to truly get ahead in life. It’s fascinating research that really makes you think about your interactions in the workplace and beyond.

4. Do What You Are 

By Paul Tieger

Have you ever been curious how your personality impacts your career? This career book for you. Do What You Are is basically a handbook for folks who are looking to determine which type of work would fit most best with their own personality traits. There’s no magic answer here, but you’re able to use your Myers-Briggs results to lead you to an entire chapter based on career paths that could be excellent fits for you in your career. A good starting point for those feeling totally lost.

5. Leaders Eat Last 

By Simon Sinek

How do you really define leadership? It’s certainly not simply being promoted to a role that has you overseeing others. (though sadly some may think so) In the words of Sinek, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” It’s not about a job title. It’s about how you conduct yourself every day. Sinek explored the trust that exists amongst successful teams and how that impacts their performance. Fascinating research that has you seeing your colleagues and interactions with them differently for sure!

6. The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion 

By Elle Luna

Being trapped doing what you think you “should” be doing sucks! This book is a guide of self-exploration to get you to your must. As Luna says, “You’re not holding a book of answers, because only you know those; you’re holding a collection of the most effective questions.” If you’re looking to do the work to figure out your must, this is the place to go.

13 Honorable Mention Career Books

Some honorable mentions include some pretty classic top career books and winners alike, such as:

7. The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore

8.  Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales From the World of Wall Street by John Brooks

9. Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Tony Robbins

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

11.  7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

12. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

13. David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

14. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

15. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

16. Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert I. Sutton and Hayagreeva Rao

17. Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher

18. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson

19. I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was (How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It) by Barbara Sher.

How to Use Career Books for Professional Guidance

None of these book suggestions alone will be the key to your career success.  You can buy a book and read it book cover to book cover to help you on your hunt for a dream job. But it still takes self-reflection, education, emotional intelligencerelationships, experimenting and plenty of other things to get there. Don't worry, though, you will get there! Do the work and be curious about what you find. You’ll be in a job you love before you know it.

And, if you're really stuck, and none of these books on this list do it for you, consider checking out websites that will actually give you book recommendations that are tailored to your specific likings, like What Should I Read Next. There, you can simply start typing the name of a book you like and the site will analyze its huge database of real readers' favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for, you guessed it, what to read next.

Also, look into book clubs. Check out sites like Reader's Circle, a book club networking site with listings for local groups, author events, and phone chats. There, you can find 200,000 readers connected annually with whom to engage because Reader's Circle "seeks to renew the spirit of dialogue that animated the coffeehouses of early modern England and the salons of Enlightenment France — Franklin's Junto and the Lyceums of the 19th century also suggest the tone of American life [it hopes] to facilitate."

Happy reading!


Kelly is a human resources pro and coach who helps people find and achieve what they want career-wise and beyond. Coaching, training, recruiting – if you name it in the world of HR, she's done it in a variety of industries. Her advice has been featured on The Muse, Career Contessa, Levo, Workology, among others. Learn more by scoping her out at

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