I love reading – if I could run a business where someone pays me to just read all day, every day… But I don’t!

Despite that fact, books have had a strong influence on me as I moved towards starting a business and now that I run one. As a writer, I find writing a key source of inspiration, and reading the stories of other successful women is always encouraging, uplifting and instructive.The front covers of the 5 books described in this article

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell

Bushnell is more famous for writing Sex and the City than she is for Lipstick Jungle*, and as Goodreads reviews are quick to point out, this is a frivolous ‘beach read’ about women who often aren’t very nice. But it was also the first book I ever read where women worked hard, were good at what they did, and made a lot of money. They learn and they grow, they make mistakes, and in the end they are immensely successful. No one is ditzy, no one gets a makeover, and no one has all of her problems solved by finding herself a really hot boyfriend. I adore this book, and wondering as I write this why I ever gave away my own copy earlier this year. I need to find more chick-lit about women who rule the world.

Update: apparently they made a TV series – I guess I know what I’ll be binge-watching this weekend!

Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus

Another unconventional title for a list of this type, and another book which I first read a long time ago. Hope for the Flowers is an illustrated book about caterpillars, which is really about longing and ambition and destiny. The beautiful, whimsical drawings, and the message about finding who you truly are, are uplifting on even the most difficult days, and the bright yellow cheers me up every time I catch sight of this book on my shelf. The caterpillars struggle and battle, and questions themselves, and disagree about things, and take risks. They remind us that life isn’t easy, but that’s OK. And they also remind us not to give up – we can all get there in the end.

A double page spread from Hope for the Flowers

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The first time I finished reading Yes Please*, I felt like I was reading my own memoir. Which is ridiculous, because Poehler and I are different ages, from different continents, in different careers. Apart from the fact that we are both white women who exist and were educated, we have almost nothing in common. And yet, that feeling was still there. I bought the book in a train station earlier this year. I think. I actually don’t remember exactly when it was, or where I was travelling, but I was at the point of deciding that my career needed a significant shake up, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet. This book basically told me I could do whatever I want.

The second time I read this book, I’d decided I wanted to start my business. I knew it was what I wanted, and I was taking steps towards where I needed to be, but I was still scared, apprehensive, and keen to procrastinate. This second time through though, something different resonated with me. This time it told me I can only do whatever I want if I’m prepared to actually do it. Put my money where my mouth is. Take the plunge. Whatever your favourite metaphor is. I like the way Poehler puts it herself.

“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
― Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Thanks, in part, to Amy, I am now doing the thing.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

The idea of being a leader has never seemed that scary or foreign because I’ve been a Scout Leader since I turned 18. And it wasn’t until I decided to run a business that I wondered if I’d be any good at leading people, as opposed to mostly just leading activities. Start with Why* I read only last month, in fact, but it reminded me that I’m not just writing some web content because I want to make some money. I mean, that is what I’m doing, but that’s not all I want to achieve. I want to make the Internet a better place with websites that are valuable, accessible, and honest. Even if I’m just working independently, reminding myself of this goal helps me to do better, and hold myself to a higher standard. This book is one I expect I’ll keep coming back to every year as my business grows, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is a leader, regardless of how big or small the team is that they lead. It also really makes me want to by an iPhone, but I don’t think that was the author’s main intent.

Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Although I’ve read this book through, I’ll need to read it several more times before I really gain all that it has to offer. Mohr has filled Playing Big* with journaling prompts and exercises that allow you to apply all her excellent wisdom to your own situation – and I have not yet had the time to complete them. Perhaps that’ll be my challenge for October. The book is aimed at women who have big ideas but haven’t managed to see them through. I imagine men might find it useful too, but it’s written for women and many of the challenges that it can help you to overcome are those nearly always faced by women. As I say, my own use of the book has not yet done it justice, but I’m excited to use it as a tool to help me grow and develop alongside my business. I have some pretty big ideas to get out there – watch this space!

Your stories

What books do you find most inspiring as a business owner? What did you read when you were younger that had an impact on who you are as an adult? Share your favourites with us in the comments below.

* Links marked with a star are affliate links to Bookshop.org. When you buy through these links, a small portion of the cost of the book goes to supporting your local bookshop, and a small portion comes to The Whin. The books won’t cost you any extra!