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6 Career-Shaping Books (That Aren’t Business Books) to Kick Off Your New Year Reading List

Posted January 28, 2019 By Andrew Littlefield

At a recent team meeting, our manager had each person share a personal and professional goal for the new year.

Along with exercising and saving money, reading more was among the most frequently cited.

I love reading. For me, it’s a great way to take my mind off the daily grind of my job and learn something new (history books are my particular favorite). Inevitably, I find that no matter how unrelated the topic I read about might be to my daily job, it effects my work in some way.

This got me thinking, “What are some books that people found influential on their careers, but don’t fall into the normal business/self-help genres?”

I asked around between friends and coworkers. Here’s what they recommend.


The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, by Robert Caro

Recommended by Dylan Mattes, Director of Real Estate Transactions at Convene 

“A history of how Robert Moses totally transformed (and some say destroyed) New York City in the 20th Century. Required reading for any true New Yorker—you’ll never look at the city the same again.”

$17.68 on Amazon


Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and Steve Wozniak

Recommended by Clare Carr, VP of Marketing at Parse.ly

“When I was first working in tech this book helped “demystify” coding and hacking from something mythical and obtuse, to just another expression of human creativity. They helped me understand how to think about the unexpected ways that technology can be used, the challenges unique to building software, and common pitfalls/assumptions people make about the industry.

I hope they’ve made me better at communicating with my colleagues that work on the engineering, software, and design side.”

$8.08 on Amazon


Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain

Recommended by Jared Shelly, freelance writer

“Sure, it taught me that chefs slather butter on everything and put rapidly spoiling meat and veggies into the Soup of the Day—but more importantly, it taught me to be myself and write with my authentic voice. Corny and lame never, ever works. Being real gets people to pay attention.”

$10.39 on Amazon


The Not For Tourists Guide to New York City

Recommended by Erin Coupe, Vice President of Office Tenant Representation, Advisory & Transactions at CBRE

“When I moved to NYC in 2003 at barely 22 years old knowing not a soul (not even the people I would be working with) I carried the NFT (Not For Tourists) little black book everywhere with me. It is because of this book that I gained the confidence to go anywhere in Manhattan and find my way back home on different subway lines, bus routes and on foot. Over time I was proud that I knew the city as if I had lived there a long time. This experience and adventure enhanced my knowledge of the city’s monuments, neighborhoods, museum, parks, etc. And it showed in my conversation and connection with people.”

$12.78 on Amazon


The Martian, by Andy Weir

Recommended by Natalie Hartkopf, Cofounder & CEO at Hightower

“It’s so impactful and thought-provoking. It really made me think about the resourcefulness and loyalty of teams.”

$8.99 on Amazon


The Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by Craig von Wiederhold, Director of Content Production at Convene

“The protagonist, Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr, compares his role to that of an engineer tunneling through a mountain. There are dozens of ways through, and no way to be certain which is best. My job as a producer is to the pick one and defend it until everybody’s on the other side.”

$12.75 on Amazon


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