For over a decade I’ve been coaching fascinating clients who have been at the top of their field – or on their way. And over this entire time, around 70% of my clients have been powerful women.
So, I’ve long been fascinated by what it takes for women to succeed in business and life.
My female clients include a world-famous martial artist, a coach to leaders at Microsoft, several military veterans, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer and a former surveillance operative. They include a former teacher of negotiation at Stanford, one of the first women leaders in the oil industry and the former director at an international investment bank, with a PhD from Cambridge University. They also include the founder of a non-profit that has provided clean, safe drinking water to over 100,000 people in Africa, the former Vice President of a billion dollar company and a leader at one of the world’s top futurism conferences.
I’m constantly recommending great books to my clients. A few years ago, I created a reading list of my 104 favorite books on Coaching. More recently, I created an updated list of my 52 favorite books on Exponential Success.
Today, I’d like to share a list of 55 incredible books by incredible women. These are the books I have discussed most often with my clients – and gifted most often, too.
- The Last Word on Power by Tracy Goss – hands down one of my most favorite books on how to create transformation from the inside out.
- The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander – a fantastic book on transformation. Read one chapter a month for 12 months and your world will change.
- Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson – one of my favorite books on how to create a life – and even a business based on the rules of improv.
- What Would You Do If You Had No Fear? Living Your Dreams While Quakin’ in Your Boots by Diane Conway – the simple concept of this book seriously changed my life, on a beach in Thailand in 2005. I decided that – if I had no fear – I’d leave my previous life, career and country behind – for ever.
- I Need Your Love – Is That True? How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead by Byron Katie – most of us are more committed to fighting for our limitations, than to real transformation. Yet much of our ‘truths’ about the world are made up and we can’t see it. Katie’s simple but profound questions will change all that.
- Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life by Susan Campbell – I grew up thinking that I needed you to like me. It wasn’t a very healthy, or fun way to live. Susan’s book was my first roadmap to living more authentically.
- The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin – I absolutely love this simple assessment. It’s helped me better understand my kids, my wife and my clients.
Mindset and Behavior
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – a complete game-changer for introverts like me.
- Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis by Karen Horney – new distinction are so powerful in living a “created life.” The 3 distinctions in this book – moving forward vs moving against vs moving away from – are another game-changer.
- On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington – Arianna Huffington is a fascinating woman. She became president of the famed Cambridge University debating society at 21. And she’s been named by Forbes as one of the Most Influential Women in Media and the 52nd Most Powerful Woman in the World. She wrote this book when she noticed that that her teenage daughters were beginning to experience some of the same fears and doubts that had once held her back the most: How attractive am I? Do people like me? Do I dare speak up?
- Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham – ok, technically this is a book written by a man. But since he surveyed thousands of women in his research, I let it make the cut. The year it was published it was my most gifted book to my female clients.
If your answer to any of the following questions is “Not very!” then I highly recommend you read this book…
(1) How often do you get to do things you really like to do?
(2) How often do you find yourself actively looking forward to the day ahead?
(3) How often do you get so involved in what you’re doing you lose track of time?
(4) How often do you feel invigorated at the end of a long, busy day?
(5) How often do you feel an emotional high in your life?
- Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes – one day her older sister commented on all of the amazing invitations Shonda was getting, with the words, “Who cares? You’re just going to say ‘no,’ anyway.” The words stung because they were true. Her ‘amazing’ life – with successful TV shows and a loving family – was also making her miserable. So, she committed to saying “yes” to everything for a whole year…
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin – a fascinating book on how Lincoln rose from obscurity to become President of the United States. His opponents were angry at his success but he had a particular genius at winning the respect and building the loyalty of his former competitors.
- Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin – I loved this book on habits.
- The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua – this is a fascinating (and controversial) book based on the fact that there’s a demonstrable arc to group success in immigrant groups in America, that typically dissipates by the third generation. The book proposes 3 reasons: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control. If you’re fascinated by success, it’s worth a read.
- The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year by Jennifer Louden – a great book about how to create the time for your personal needs and your creative dreams. And how to let go of the fear that so many women have of being labeled “selfish.”
- The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Elizabeth Wagele – I love the Enneagram and this is one of my favorite introductions to it. The Enneagram is a tool that points out your unconscious focus of attention, along with what energizes you and what drains you of energy.
- Bringing Out the Best in Everyone You Coach: Use the Enneagram System for Exceptional Results by Ginger Lapid-Bogda – another great book on the Enneagram, with a focus on working with others.
- The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier by Ariane de Bonvoisin – sometimes you just gotta get started – and in this book, Ariane shows you how to do so.
- Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher – This is a classic in the self-help field, first published forty years ago, and still a great read.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō – First you create your environment, and then your environment creates you… So create an environment that inspires the work and life that you want. Marie’s book will help.
- Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern – one of the first books I read on organizing, I found it really helpful.
- Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships by Arielle Ford – Wabi Sabi is the Japanese concept of embracing imperfection. It works for art and it turns out it really helps in relationships, too!
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown – Brené is an amazing writer. She personally recommends you read her books in this order:
(1) The Gifts of Imperfection – summary: Be you
(2) Daring Greatly – summary: Be all in
(3) Rising Strong – summary: Fall. Get up. Try again.
- The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington – if there was one thing that could be far more important to you than any business goal you could set in the year ahead – it would be to get better sleep. This is a simple book – but sometimes I only purchase a book for the idea and not for the additional 250 pages expounded on it…
- Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington – Success today tends to be measured in terms of two metrics – how much money and power you have. Yet you can have both and still be unhappy, burnt out and with terrible health. It’s time for a 3rd metric. If you are ‘always on’ and you treat your smartphone like a loved one – but you ignore the health of your mind, body or spirit, this book is for you.
Sales and Marketing
- Uncensored Sales Strategies: A Radical New Approach to Selling Your Customers What They Really Want – No Matter What Business You’re In by Sydney Biddle Barrows – I love this unconventional book on sales by a former escort agency owner, known as the “Mayflower Madam.” Her first book was on the Required Reading list at Harvard Business School!
- Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There by Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton – It’s in the title. Or as my friend, Steve Chandler says, “Yes lives in the land of no!”
- Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon – Don’t compete by being better. Be different.
- Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics by Jackie Huba – learn about what I call Client Astonishment from an artist who has sold an estimated 27 million albums and 146 million singles worldwide.
- Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It by Dorie Clark – if you want to be a leader who is noticed, you’ve got to put a stake in the ground.
- Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone by Sam Horn – We live in the attention age. Most people will abandon your website or videos in less than two minutes. So, you need to know how to make an impact. Fast.
- POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline for Anything by Sam Horn – Sam is an expert at helping you create ideas and message that jump off the page and stick in your clients’ minds.
- SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers by Jill Konrath – your clients are anxious, distracted, demanding and under pressure… Whatever you are selling, you need to see the world from your client’s or customer’s view.
- The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World by Nilofer Merchant – if you know you could make a difference – but you don’t have the credentials, you don’t know the right people, you can’t get past the gatekeepers, or you aren’t high enough in the hierarchy to get your ideas heard – then this is a book worth reading.
- Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock – the title says it all. Research shows that men are four times as likely to ask for higher pay than women with the same qualifications. This means a woman can sacrifice over half a million dollars in earnings by the end of her career. If you need to ask for money – for anything – this is a book worth reading.
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – what if creativity didn’t have to involve suffering and was easier than you think? It doesn’t. And it is. This great book will show you how.
- The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estés – this book will get you past the guilt and the struggles that drain your creative energy.
- Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher – my friend, D’Ana Joi, is a teacher, coach, blogger, artist, photographer, consultant and copywriter. Barbara Sher’s book is a little dated but it will give you permission to own all of who you are, to become what D’Ana calls “multi-passionate.”
- The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis – a highly creative book about being highly creative.
- Inspiration Sandwich: Stories to Inspire Our Creative Freedom by Sark – a highly creative book about how to be highly creative – and have fun on your journey.
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott – Anne Lamott is a novelist and non-fiction writer, whose great book Bird by Bird teaches that to become a better writer, you have to write more. The problem, she says – having taught writing to hundreds of students – is that everyone wants to be published, but many don’t want to write. This little book will teach you how to write.
- My Shining Year Life Workbook + My Shining Year Biz Workbook by Leonie Dawson – I haven’t read these books but I’ve watched my wife and her friends use them two years in a row, to create incredible experiences for themselves – and I’ve been a little jealous!
- Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice – Condoleezza Ricewas the first female African-American Secretary of State and the first woman National Security Advisor to the President. She’s also a political scientist and a concert pianist. Both of her great, great grandmothers were slaves. And she didn’t learn to swim until she was 25 because when she was a child in Birmingham, Alabama, the public pools were closed by the ‘Commissioner of Public Safety,’ rather than give black people access.
- Legends: Women Who Have Changed the World Through the Eyes of Great Women Writers – women artists and writers tell the stories of the most influential women they know.
- Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers – I loved the character of C.J. Cregg in the TV series, “The West Wing.” She was based on and inspired by Dee Dee Myers, the first female White House press secretary.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama – the first African American First Lady of the United States of America, she was a powerful advocate for women and girls in the US and around the world. She was also great at Carpool Karaoke! and
- Swimming Out Of Water: How An Olympian’s Struggle Inspired Breakthrough Discoveries in Health and Well-Being by Catherine Garceau – I know Catherine personally and I appreciated most that her book took me behind the struggles behind the successes.
Can’t wait to read next…
- Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin – Doris Kearns Goodwin has been studying the history of the Presidents of the United States for over 50 years. I’m fascinated by leadership, so when this book was published it immediately jumped to the top of my list.
- Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels by Loretta Graziano Breuning
- Creating Money: Keys to Abundance by Sanaya Roman – I read a Forbes article where SARK highly recommended this book. She wrote: “Creating Money is about the energy of money, which is not addressed in other business books at all. I learned to generate significant, consistent revenue by reading and practicing with what’s in this book. I recommend this book in most of my 16 books, and highly recommend it to other women in business.”
- Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow Schüll – I’m currently fascinated by the idea that we’re all addicted to something.
- Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine by Ray Kurzweil – what do you get when you cross the world’s foremost futurist with his wife, one of the top cartoonists? This is the story of a young girl who uses her intelligence and accelerating technology to solve humanity’s grandest challenges. I’m looking forward to reading this to my boys.
P.S. Here’s a flavor of some the most amazing women I know who are my current clients, 4PC members and alumni:
- Hayley Carr is the winner of 9 Karate world titles as a martial artist. She broke two world records and achieved her third dan black belt in record time.
- Pam Dibbs coaches leaders at Microsoft and other Fortune 50 companies. She founded and has run the world’s best aviation consulting firm for over 25 years She’s has a very personal mission to help the elderly and terminally ill die with dignity.
- Bay Quiney coaches leaders at the top US TV networks. She’s a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer.
- Karen Baker coaches NFL players and teaches the NFL. In her former career as a fundraiser she raised over half a billion dollars for good causes.
- Giovanna Capozza is a former surveillance operative who later ran a business as a holistic health practitioner by word of mouth alone, for over a decade. She’s the lead Associate Coach at The Litvin Group.
- Jeanine Becker was a teacher of negotiation at Stanford for over a decade. Within months of joining 4PC, she became a coach to leaders at The World Bank.
- Allison Garner is a former engineer who was one of the first women leaders in the oil industry.
- Kelly Childress is a former chaplain in the healthcare field. She’s a mediator who is called in to do some of most high impact and demanding coaching in the healthcare world – when there’s been a tragedy in a hospital.
- Mandy Lehto is a former director at an international investment bank, with a PhD from Cambridge University.
- Danielle Macleod is the former customer service director at Europe’s leading media company, where she was responsible for over 10,000 people.
- Jen Gresham is raising $100 million dollars to retrain people in careers that will be obsolete in less than a decade. She’s a former Assistant Chief Scientist to the High Performance Wing of the Air Force. And a published poet. And a coach. And a mum.
- Helen Appleby is teaching women executives the “Unwritten Rules” that will transform their careers. She’s a former Vice President of a billion dollar company. And she’s a professional coach. She went from making $20K a year to making $500K a year in her two years as a member of 4PC.
- Kendra Cunov consults for leading companies such as Genentech. She pioneered cutting edge relation practices now taught by hundreds of practitioners across the globe.
- Jenelle runs a multi-million dollar consulting firm in the tech field. But her real mission is to make a radical difference to the future of health. She’s a high-performing athlete as well as a high impact coach.
- Monique is an award-winning singer songwriter, whose third album debuted at #2 on the iTunes Jazz charts. Her one woman show won an award at The Hollywood Fringe Festival.
- Evelyne was Europe’s premier Madonna impersonator and took her one woman show to the prestigious Edinburgh Festival. She now coaches executives in one of Britain’s top TV networks.
- Christina is a leader at one of the world’s top futurism conferences. Her clients include executives at NASA.
- One of my clients who wants to remain anonymous built a $30 million dollar company by the time she was 33.
- Another client who wants to remain anonymous is a military veteran with a background in aerospace, who has had her exponential technology company valued at a billion dollars.
The artwork for this article is from a book by Lucy Beevor called “Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You.”
I love sharing resources and books that I love. Please note that the links in this article are my affiliate links. If you prefer not to use my affiliate links you can search for any of these titles directly where ever you purchase your books.