If you are a New Year’s resolution maker, then we at Career Contessa think it’s a safe bet to guess that something about reading more crept onto your list this year. Technology is amazing and we love having an infinite amount of resources at our fingertips, but sometimes your eyes and thumbs (texting carpal tunnel is a real thing) need a break. And need we remind you of the dangers of blue screens before bed? We didn’t think so. So if you have fallen off the wagon with your resolutions already, pick up one of these books and dedicate your lunch break or Saturday morning to some good old fashioned self-improvement.
Even the most creative, writers, artists, and designers have gone through creative slumps. And the feeling of being stalled creatively is universally despised. Instead of staring blankly at your computer screen next time you are struggling creatively, read a book that will jumpstart your creative engine.
If you don’t consider yourself to be a “creative type,” then “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” is the book to help you tap into the right side of your brain. While the book is aimed to help creatives in a lull, it also targets readers who don’t consider themselves to be creative and shows them how they can be, in their own way. If you respond more to actionable advice than inspirational text, then this book will make you feel like you got your money’s worth. It dispels the notion that you are either creative or you aren’t, and provides an action plan to change that way of thinking.
If you want creativity to be a bigger part of your daily life, but have no clue where to start, then making creativity a daily habit may be the answer you are looking for. “The Creative Habit: Learn it and Live it for Life” teaches you how to make creativity a part of your life by making it a habit. The book is written by Twyla Tharp, a former dancer and choreographer, and she gives 32 exercises based off lessons she learned throughout her career. The exercises are extremely simple and won’t take much time out of your day, but they will vastly improve it. Thanks to these exercises, not only will you be more creative, but more productive and focused as well.
What better way to escape from a stressful day at the office than with a good book? How about pouring a glass of wine and reading a career book. We know that doesn’t sound as dreamy as cracking open the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, but hear us out. You spend a lot of your time at work — sometimes it feels like all of your time — which is why you should embrace learning more about your career. Sometimes a little outside perspective or some new ideas can solve your office problems or help you climb the corporate ladder a little bit faster.
Imagine the perfect mentor. Someone smart, creative, the best at her job and down to earth with a sense of humor. Well that mentor exists and her name is Aliza Licht, and she put everything you need to hear about building a career you love and succeeding at it in her book, “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media.” The PR powerhouse that helped transform how fashion brands use social media became so well known for her success at DKNY that it was a no-brainer for her to pen a memoir-advice combo. Fashion lovers will love the inside scoop on the New York fashion industry and career climbers will appreciate the no-nonsense obtainable advice Licht doles out.
There is nothing worse than being stuck in an existential career crisis. It feels like one day you’re happy and the next day you’re not, and suddenly you have no idea what you are doing with your life. Of course, that’s a melodramatic summary of what was likely a slow build, but most people experience this feeling at a few points throughout their career. Most likely what has happened is you have found yourself at what artist Elle Luna calls “The Crossroads of Should and Must.” In her book, Luna shares her journey of how she found her true calling and shows readers how they can find theirs by looking at what they should and must be doing. “Should” being what we feel we ought to be doing or is expected of us or “must” being what we truly want to do. Despite the heavy subject matter, the book is actually a light read that makes finding career clarity surprisingly simple through a series of activities, thoughtful text and inspiring illustrations. And every reader will appreciate how practical Luna is as she does not recommend simply quitting your job to pursue your creative passions.
Whether you are a first-time leader who needs all the advice you can get, or a seasoned manager who is always looking to improve, the fact that you care enough about your leadership position to read a book about it is a good sign. We’ve all had that manager who is oblivious to the suffering they are causing their employees or who’s inability to change frustrates everyone they work with. So clearly you’re already on your way to being an amazing leader.
“Thrive” by Arianna Huffington is based off her own experiences as a CEO, and she’s very honest about the unhealthy ideas and habits we associate with success. Not only will you be healthier, happier and less stressed as a result of reading this book, but you will be a better leader. You will also set a good example for your employees about work life balance and stress and be more intune with their needs. Leaders who set unrealistic examples put a lot of pressure on their employees to do the same. And no good will ever come from having a burnt out workforce.
Maybe you aren’t a leader at work, yet. Aspiring managers need to read “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” from cover to cover. As the title suggests, the book covers 101 mistakes women unknowingly make that sabotage their careers, usually due to lessons learned as young girls. The book provides a self-assessment that will help you recognize and change the behaviors that are holding you back at work.
We saved the hardest for last. Happiness often times feels out of your control, but there are many ways for you to take control of your happiness. Some little ways and some really big ways, but either way you have much more control of your happiness than you think.
“The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” follows one woman’s journey as she spends a whole year trying to be happy. And it’s not like the author Gretchen Rubin was miserable before she started her year long journey, but one day she had an epiphany that, “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” Rubin chronicles her attempts of following scientific research, age-old adages and lessons from pop culture about finding happiness. But by the end of the year she finds that the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
Less book and more journal, The Happiness 100-Day Planner is an instructive planner that Instead of focusing on productivity, focuses on happiness. Everyday for 100 days you will use the planner to track positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development alongside a daily to-do list. By focusing on seeing the positive in everyday and taking time to think about what you are looking forward to tomorrow, you will find yourself in a much better mood than if you dwelled on what went wrong throughout the day.
What books are on your must-read list for this year?