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From My Nightstand to Yours: Reading Recommendations

person holding stack of booksReading has always brought me great joy. I remember coming home from middle school, starting a book, and not coming out of my room until I was finished. As a college student, my appetite for reading didn’t waver; I accepted that if I started a new book from one of my favorite fiction authors, I was likely committing myself to an all-nighter. One year while vacationing in a lakefront cottage at Lake Erie, I didn’t make it to the beach for the entire week because I was working through a series that had me hooked. The saying “just one more chapter” seems to be coined about me.

It’s no surprise that I still read a lot and widely. As a result, I frequently mention books or articles to my clients that I have found to be particularly valuable for professional development, some of which appear below. While a few of the titles are not “new,” the advice and wisdom they provide stand the test of time, which is why they’re on my reading list.

Getting a Job

“The Confidence Gap” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (published in The Atlantic)

Why I like it: This article normalizes the insecurity and self-doubt many women feel. I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power, and most of my clients find this article to be empowering. I also think a lack of confidence can be an issue when people—not only women—attempt to transition from one field to another, such as when academics try to leave the academy or when any professional tries to move in a different direction. My point: women don’t have the market cornered on insecurity, so men will likely benefit from this article, too. Even though the article is not specifically about landing a job, you will not receive a job offer if you lack confidence—possessing confidence is a prerequisite.

5 Steps to Rapid Employment by Jay Block

Why I like it: Block provides five strategic steps that, if taken by job seekers, will almost certainly accelerate the pace of finding an employment opportunity that’s a good fit. Block emphasizes the importance of humor and other techniques to deal with the challenges that inevitably accompany the process of landing a job. His first step—Learning How to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster—is crucial for all job seekers to master.

The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster (Second Edition) by Steve Dalton

Why I like it: Dalton provides a highly structured and strategic method for targeting your job search and doing informational interviews (although my clients have shared that it takes longer to complete each step than he recommends); this book provides a clear strategy for bypassing Applicant Tracking Systems through structured networking and self-advocacy.

Writing Well

The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition) by William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White

Why I like it: I think William Zinsser—well-known writer, editor, literary critic, journalist, and author of On Writing Well—put it best when he recommended that all writers should read Strunk & White once a year. This short reference guide is handy and easy to use. I’ve been indoctrinated by Strunk & White’s advice to “omit needless words,” and I always bring a copy to circulate among participants at writing workshops I teach.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Why I like it: I especially appreciate the first section of this book, “Principles,” which addresses topics such as style, clutter, words, and usage. Even though I typically don’t write in the genres Zinsser describes in later sections, I appreciate the lessons he shares in each.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Why I like it: This is only book on writing that I have struggled to put down. King gives a compelling overview of his path to becoming the bestselling author we know today. He then dives into some of the most practical writing advice I’ve read—including literally shutting your door (and curtains) to meet your writing goal each day, before even considering doing anything else. King  validates my love of reading by plainly stating that if you don’t have time to read, you shouldn’t write.

Managing Your Career / Running a Business

Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Why I like it: Hewlett explores the relationship between having to portray being successful and the expectations that come with being a business leader, with what sometimes feels like conflicting advice to “be authentic” to who you are as a person. Hewlett tackles topics that tend to be sensitive issues in a straightforward and informative manner, and she addresses head-on the challenges women and people of color face. There are many takeaway points, and I continue to periodically review this book.

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive by Dorie Clark

Why I like it: Clark writes in an engaging way that lends itself to quickly building rapport with readers. As she provides a road map to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level, she reveals vulnerabilities and goofs that we have all encountered. At least for me, many things I had heard about before but were skeptical of finally “clicked” as I read her book.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: How to Achieve More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam

Why I like it: “If it has to get done, it has to get done first” and other lines such as “mornings are for things that are important but never urgent” have become my mantras. I’ll never be a natural morning person, but this book has inspired me to transform my morning routine to include running—a big win for someone who used to say, “I only run when chased.”

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Why I like it: Duhigg describes how we can retrain ourselves to incorporate better, healthier, and more productive habits, and relies on solid research when making his claims. I used the advice in this book to help establish a regular exercise routine: I listen to e-books when I go for my morning run because learning something new is an incentive for me to exercise.

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

Why I like it: Bailey has refined the concept of productivity for me by clearly relating it to three key areas: time, attention, and energy. This book has helped me know when to call it a day because I’m not being productive anymore. I like how Bailey integrates his own experiences and provides actionable steps. I listened to this on Audible, and I like Bailey’s friendly reading style.

Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections (Second Edition) by Dr. Ivan Misner and Brian Hilliard

Why I like it: Full disclosure: I edited the second edition of this book. While editing the manuscript, I learned a lot; Misner is known as the father of modern-day networking for a reason. While I already knew some of the tips Misner and Hilliard give for business owners, many more were new to me, and I also learned new strategies for running a business. As an introvert, I especially appreciated the graphics that demonstrate how to approach people who are already in a conversation at a networking event. This book’s target audience is business owners, but some of the advice could also be applied to business professionals who want to hone their networking skills while looking for a new job.


Reading offers, perhaps, the easiest pathway to continuous learning and professional development. The above books are relevant to my areas of knowledge and to the people I routinely work with—job seekers, writers, business owners—but I read on many other topics as well. I’d love to hear from you which books have made the most profound impact in your life!

Heidi owns and operates Career Path Writing Solutions, a communications consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals and businesses communicate when it matters most. She delights in helping job seekers navigate career change and guiding business owners to present their value proposition persuasively. Heidi earned her PhD in history from Duke University and teaches professional development for various university programs and organizations. She holds certifications in resume writing, interview preparation, and empowerment coaching, and sits on the Certification Committee of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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