7 books that will help you improve your business

Ashleigh’s favourite non-fiction books of 2019

On average, I read 40-50 books a year, in a wide range of genres, including non-fiction. These are the books I read in 2019 that have had a big impact on the way I do business, and I highly recommend them to other business owners and professionals. To see all the books I read and to read my reviews, follow me on Goodreads.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

This book challenged the way I think about marketing. It’s not advertising — it’s building a community. It’s creating a movement. It’s making tangible changes in the world. Focusing on your minimum viable customer base — the smallest number of people who can support your business — allows you to create something truly unique and valuable to those people. Those people then bring others into the fold. Essentially, Seth Godin is advocating for the power of word of mouth. This kind of marketing takes energy. You have to show up, listen to your customers, be open-minded and make changes. In business, it’s too easy to slip into focusing on numbers; This is Marketing is a good reminder that business is really all about the people.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Everyone is playing power games all the time. Even by denying that you’re playing the game or saying you’re opting out of the game can be a power move. So why should you read this book? “If the game of power is inescapable, better to be an artist than a denier or a bungler,” Robert Greene writes. When I first started listening to this book, I was uncomfortable with the idea of playing power games; I was a denier and probably a bungler, too. I can’t say that I’m a master now, but at least I know I’m playing the game. This book is a fascinating look at the many ways people have gained and lost power, though it’s quite a heavy read and the pace can be plodding at times. There’s also a Concise 48 Laws of Power — perhaps that version is a better reading experience. Despite this negative, the takeaways from the 48 Laws are eyeopening. 

The 50th Law by 50 Cent, Robert Greene

If you’ve read The 48 Laws of Power, then you should also read The 50th Law. It’s a perfect sequel to 48 Laws, taking an entire book to talk about the power of fearlessness and all the ways it can manifest. The book is a biography of rapper 50 Cent, interspersed with historical lessons from other fearless figures from human history. I actually enjoyed it more than 48 Laws because it has the underlying thread of 50 Cent’s life running through it, giving it a backbone that seemed missing in the first book. As with most of Robert Greene’s books, though, it was occasionally repetitive, and it’s a heavy topic, so sometimes you just need to be in the right mindset to read about it.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

I spent several months reading this book and applying the ideas to my work and day-to-day life, and I can confidently say it has made a huge difference for me. At this point in my life, Habit 3: Put First Things First was the most impactful. I had been struggling to keep up with a massive to-do list that I never got through, and felt as though I’d been spending most of my days “putting out fires.” Stephen Covey’s system not only helped me get on top of my work, it also helped me do even more! I highly recommend taking your time studying this book and considering the suggestions and applications.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

As soon as I started reading this book, I started the process of a digital declutter that author Cal Newport suggests — it’s like a detox from the tech in your life. Most people don’t take the time to be mindful of the technology they use or how they use it, and I would have included myself in those ranks. I scrolled and scrolled on social media, e-commerce, Netflix, and news sites, mindlessly consuming — usually for short period but sometimes for hours at a time — never once recognizing the behaviour was a problem for me. I plugged my ears with audiobooks and podcasts whenever I had the chance, never giving myself a break from the deluge of information. It wasn’t until I cut these things from my life that I realized they were a problem. The book is an easy read and Cal Newport’s writing is engaging so I recommend this book to just about anyone with a smartphone. It might be worth it for you to take some time to be more mindful of your digital habits.

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

This book will change the way you think about gatherings in your life — whether that be family dinners, parties, or business meetings. I chose this book as the first we would read in a new Business Book Club I launched because I hoped it would help us shape our gathering, and I think it was a perfect fit. The Art of Gathering challenges your ideas about coming together, asking you to dig deeper into the why and how, in the name of creating more meaningful connections when we meet. Priya Parker gives dozens of examples each chapter about gatherings gone wrong as well as the types of gatherings that are wonderfully unforgettable while giving detailed breakdowns about what worked and what didn’t. I certainly recommend this book to anyone who creates gatherings professionally and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in improving gatherings in their personal lives.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

This was by far the best-produced audiobook I’ve ever listened to. Malcolm Gladwell has set a new standard for non-fiction audiobook productions. At the outset, he says he wanted this audiobook to feel like a well-produced podcast and he nails it. Instead of only having Gladwell read the text of a book, he plays the interviews that he recorded, he includes new clips of the historical events he’s discussing, and there’s even a theme song between chapters. I can’t praise the production enough, and the topic is fascinating as well. The hook is an interaction between American Sandra Bland and a police officer that did not go well. Why do we have such a hard time understanding strangers? This isn’t a guidebook for how to talk to strangers better; instead, it’s a deep dive into human psychology and why we do the things we do.