With the way 2020 unfolded, books played a crucial role in helping accounting and finance professionals live through the pandemic, perfect their leadership skills, grow their resilience, and even escape from the news, even if just for a small window of time.
Whether facing a layoff or in between careers, trying to lead a team through uncertainty, or just searching for a fresh perspective during this turbulent time, here are 11 personal development and career books our team of recruiters think every accounting professional should add to their reading list this year.
1. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Amazon Synopsis: Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial, such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.
Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not genius but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own “character lab” and set out to test her theory.
2. The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample
Amazon Synopsis: In this offbeat approach to leadership, college president Steven B. Sample-the man who turned the University of Southern California into one of the most respected and highly rated universities in the country-challenges many conventional teachings on the subject. Here, Sample outlines an iconoclastic style of leadership that flies in the face of current leadership thought, but a style that unquestionably works, nevertheless. Sample urges leaders and aspiring leaders to focus on some key counterintuitive truths. He offers his own down-to-earth, homespun, and often provocative advice on some complex and thoughtful issues. And he provides many practical, if controversial, tactics for successful leadership, suggesting, among other things, that leaders should sometimes compromise their principles, not read everything that comes across their desks, and always put off decisions.
Amazon Synopsis: Contrary to what you may have heard, the middle class is not dying and robots are not stealing our jobs. In fact, writes Adam Davidson—one of our leading public voices on economic issues—the twenty-first-century economic paradigm offers new ways of making money, fresh paths toward professional fulfillment, and unprecedented opportunities for curious, ambitious individuals to combine the things they love with their careers.
Drawing on the stories of average people doing exactly this—an accountant overturning his industry, a sweatshop owner’s daughter fighting for better working conditions, an Amish craftsman meeting the technological needs of Amish farmers—as well as the latest academic research, Davidson shows us how the twentieth-century economy of scale has given way in this century to an economy of passion. He makes clear, too, that though the adjustment has brought measures of dislocation, confusion, and even panic, these are most often the result of a lack of understanding.
The Passion Economy delineates the ground rules of the new economy, and armed with these, we begin to see how we can succeed in it according to its own terms—intimacy, insight, attention, automation, and, of course, passion. An indispensable road map and a refreshingly optimistic take on our economic future.
Amazon Synopsis: Do you have audacious career goals and no idea how to take the first step? Despite having earned a degree or two, have you found it hard to transition from theory to practice and make things happen in the “real world”? If so, you are not alone. You were not provided with the proper skills to reach success―until now.
In this engaging and practical career development book, marketing expert and career coach Maya Grossman uncovers the 10 soft skills that every professional needs to master to evolve from a “typical” to an “invaluable” employee―the top talent every company wants to attract and retain.
You will learn how to develop an owner’s mindset, optimize for impact, become a master influencer, and create your own career opportunities―to skyrocket your career.
This book is a simple, step-by-step career guide, infused with real life stories and actionable exercises, so you can easily learn and apply the 10 soft skills to grow your career. Maya shares the tried-and-true career advice and the strategies that helped her receive 10 promotions in 15 years, work for companies like Google and Microsoft, and become a VP-level executive.
If you want to accomplish more than you ever thought possible and accelerate your career development, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. It will help you position yourself at the top, deliver staggering results, future-proof your career, and get the job, promotion, or raise you want and deserve.
Amazon Synopsis: Have you ever left a nerve-racking challenge and immediately wished for a do over? Maybe after a job interview, a performance, or a difficult conversation? The very moments that require us to be genuine and commanding can instead cause us to feel phony and powerless. Too often we approach our lives’ biggest hurdles with dread, execute them with anxiety, and leave them with regret.
By accessing our personal power, we can achieve “presence,” the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we’re making on others and instead adjust the impression we’ve been making on ourselves. As Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s revolutionary book reveals, we don’t need to embark on a grand spiritual quest or complete an inner transformation to harness the power of presence. Instead, we need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behavior, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.
Amy Cuddy has galvanized tens of millions of viewers around the world with her TED talk about “power poses.” Now she presents the enthralling science underlying these and many other fascinating body-mind effects, and teaches us how to use simple techniques to liberate ourselves from fear in high-pressure moments, perform at our best, and connect with and empower others to do the same.
6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Amazon Synopsis: The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.
By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.
Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to do less, but better, and declutter and organize their own their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.
7. Career Development Mastery: The Last Recession-Proof Career by Kaelah Hennessee
Amazon Synopsis: Do you want to take your career to the next level? Are you feeling unsure during these difficult times? Do you want a simple blueprint which will guide you to develop your career? This step-by-step guide in my short book, will help you learn all you need to know about career development. You will learn what it is, how to master it, and you will get a blueprint of how to find your passion, and much much more! The book is meant for anybody struggling with career choices, whether it’s your first time or your twentieth time trying to make a new career move. I will walk you through what you need to do to get started – step by step, nothing is left out.
Amazon Synopsis: Imperfect Leadership is an honest reflection upon leadership. It is about Steve’s journey, covering his highs and lows and, ultimately, how he learned to refine and improve his leadership. It is about messy, trial-and-error, butterflies-in-the-stomach leadership and about thoughtful and invitational leadership- and the positive impact it can have.
At the heart of the book are edited highlights of the 12 keynote speeches delivered to increasingly large audiences of school leaders between 2005 and 2017. These speeches, delivered at the Seizing Success and Inspiring Leadership conferences, form the structure around which Steve’s story and insights are wrapped.
Steve’s account covers some fundamental shifts in the English education system over this 12-year period and describes how school leaders altered their leadership as this context changed. Furthermore, it delves into how his own leadership developed as his personal context changed and explores how the notion that a leader needs to be good at all aspects of leadership is not only unrealistic, but is also bad for the mental and physical health of leaders and will do nothing to attract new people into leadership positions.
Ultimately, Steve hopes that as you read this book you will see the value of imperfect leadership and of the positive impact it can make. For those reading it who have yet to step up into leadership, his sincere wish is that it will encourage and empower aspirational leaders rather than discourage them.
9. Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
Amazon Synopsis: Designers create worlds and solve problems using design thinking. Look around your office or home—at the tablet or smartphone you may be holding or the chair you are sitting in. Everything in our lives was designed by someone. And every design starts with a problem that a designer or team of designers seeks to solve.
In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.
10. The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers by Alex Banayan
Amazon Synopsis: The Third Door takes listeners on an unprecedented adventure – from hacking Warren Buffett’s shareholders meeting to chasing Larry King through a grocery store to celebrating in a nightclub with Lady Gaga – as Alex Banayan travels from icon to icon, decoding their success. After remarkable one-on-one interviews with Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, Jane Goodall, Larry King, Jessica Alba, Pitbull, Tim Ferriss, Quincy Jones, and many more, Alex discovered the one key they have in common: they all took the Third Door.
Life, business, success…it’s just like a nightclub. There are always three ways in. There’s the First Door: the main entrance, where 99 percent of people wait in line, hoping to get in. The Second Door: the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities slip through. But what no one tells you is that there is always, always… the Third Door. It’s the entrance where you have to jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door 100 times, climb over the dumpster, crack open the window, sneak through the kitchen – there’s always a way in. Whether it’s how Bill Gates sold his first piece of software or how Steven Spielberg became the youngest studio director in Hollywood history, they all took the Third Door.
Amazon Synopsis: Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point: really hard, and not much fun at all. And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip: a temporary setback that you will overcome if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try. According to best-selling author Seth Godin, what really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.
Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt: until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. In fact, winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. If you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security. Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. Either they fail to stick out the Dip – they get to the moment of truth and then give up – or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.
Whether you’re a graphic designer, a sales rep, an athlete, or an aspiring CEO, this fun little book will help you figure out if you’re in a Dip that’s worthy of your time, effort, and talents. If you are, The Dip will inspire you to hang tough. If not, it will help you find the courage to quit so you can be number one at something else.