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14 Business Book Club Ideas for Professional Development


By Ellie Burke

drinking coffee and reading book

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Published July 8, 2019 Reading Time: 8 minutes

Successful professionals find ways to keep themselves on the cutting edge in their respective fields. They participate in timely discussions, develop relationships with peers and mentors, stay abreast of industry news and research, and they read. A book club can be a great way for your staff to push themselves to continue to learn.

As Joseph Addison said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the brain.” But it can be overwhelming to find great book club ideas.

At Classy, several of our departments participate in quarterly book clubs in order to:

  • Learn more about a prospective strategy
  • Gain a fresh perspective
  • Reenergize our team
  • Bring teams together to share takeaways
  • Stay up to date on industry best practices

Browse the following list as a team and vote on a favorite to get started. Here are 14 book club ideas to encourage your team to continue to professionally and personally develop.

Nonprofit, Personal Development, and Business Book Club Ideas

1. StrengthsFinder by Tom Rath

Strengths Finder

In a Nutshell: To uncover your team members’ individual strengths, have everyone take the online assessment and then dive into this book for details on 34 possible themes. Each description also includes action items and tips for working with those who have that strength.

Favorite Quote: “When we’re able to put most of our energy into developing our natural talents, extraordinary room for growth exists. So, a revision to the ‘You-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be’ maxim might be a more accurate: You cannot be anything you want to be—but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Read This if You: Want to gain insight on your natural talents, how to foster them, and how to communicate them to others.

2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Deep Work Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Author and professor Cal Newport offers actionable advice for how to produce our ultimate best in a world of constant distractions.

Favorite Quote: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

Read This if You: Think you get way too much screen time and constantly feel interrupted in your working life.

3. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Presence Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Famous for her TED talk on “power poses,” Amy Cuddy shares the science behind how your physical posture influences your mind, and how it can be used to combat fear.

Favorite Quote: “When our body language is confident and open, other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”

Read This if You: Want to learn how small tweaks in your everyday life can help you develop the most confident version of yourself.

4. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Donald Miller Book Cover

In a Nutshell: In this book, Miller breaks down the key components to a successful story and and outlines exactly how to apply the concepts introduced to your brand, website, and more.

Favorite Quote: “Never assume people understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.”

Read This if You: Want to understand how to clearly communicate with your community and incite action.

5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Book club idea—The War of Art book cover

In a Nutshell: This book explores how creative endeavors are often stalled by our own self-doubt. Get insight around how to tackle this obstacle and achieve your goals.

Favorite Quote: “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Read This if You: Have ever felt like something is holding you back from your calling and creative goals—and you’re ready to overcome it.

6. Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good by Ann Mei Chang

Lean Impact Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Brought to you by an author with both experience as a Silicon Valley executive and a chief innovation officer at USAID, this book applies bold ideas to the social impact space and offers insights to help the industry achieve greater good.

Favorite Quote: “Social innovation involves iterative testing and improvement, refining business models, influencing partners and policy, fine-tuning logistics, and many other practicalities. Not as sexy as a big idea, but ultimately more important.”

Read This if You: Want actionable strategies that will help your organization make a larger impact.

7. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Dare to Lead Book

In a Nutshell: In her potentially most actionable book yet, Brown shares new research conducted with leaders, change makers, and culture shifters to demonstrate effective leadership tactics.

Favorite Quote:
“I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

Read This if You: Are looking for a playbook that will help you become a daring leader who regularly demonstrates bravery and learn from top leaders all over the globe.

8. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz

Sprint Book Club Idea

In a Nutshell: Three design partners at Google Ventures bring you a five-day process to take your idea from initial concept to testable prototype.

Favorite Quote: “We’ve found that the magic happens when we use big whiteboards to solve problems. As humans, our short-term memory is not all that good, but our spatial memory is awesome. A sprint room, plastered with notes, diagrams, printouts, and more, takes advantage of that spatial memory. The room itself becomes a sort of shared brain for the team.”

Read This if You: Want a practical tool for testing ideas and creating successful solutions.

9. Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Gmorning Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Before international star Lin-Manuel Miranda was famous for Hamilton, he developed quite the Twitter following for his notes of affirmation and encouragement at the start and end of each day. This collection shares those original greetings with illustrations and makes a perfect pick-me-up.

Favorite Quote: “Gmorning. Allow for the possibility that the best of you is still inside you, waiting to emerge. Prepare the way, bit by bit.”

Read This if You: Need a quick way to set your intention for the day and get a boost of positivity.

10.Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Grit Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Researcher and professor Angela Duckworth shares her thoughts around what makes people successful—not extreme intelligence, but the combination of passion and long-term perseverance.

Favorite Quote: “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

Read This if You: Want to learn about the psychology of success and insights around how to achieve even your loftiest goal.

11. Turn The Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

Turn the Ship Around! Book club idea

In a Nutshell: Navy officer David Marquet explains how the traditional leader-follower model failed in his command. He illustrates how empowering individuals at every level to be a leader is best for the health of the organization.

Favorite Quote: “The leader-leader model not only achieves great improvements in effectiveness and morale but also makes the organization stronger. Most critically, these improvements are enduring, decoupled from the leader’s personality and presence. Leader-leader structures are significantly more resilient, and they do not rely on the designated leader always being right. Further, leader-leader structures spawn additional leaders throughout the organization naturally. It can’t be stopped.”

Read This if You: Seek to build a more engaged team that takes responsibility for their actions and is armed with the knowledge to make their own decisions.

12. The Obstacle is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

Book club idea—The Obstacle is the Way book cover 1

In a Nutshell: Taking inspiration from the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism, this book discusses how we can let go of that which we can’t control. In doing so, we can change the way we view obstacles in our path and actually learn to be empowered by them.

Favorite Quote: “All great victories, be they in politics, business, art, or seduction, involved resolving vexing problems with a potent cocktail of creativity, focus, and daring. When you have a goal, obstacles are actually teaching you how to get where you want to go—carving you a path. ‘The Things which hurt,’ Benjamin Franklin wrote, ‘instruct.’”

Read This if You: Struggle to move forward in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems.

13. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Moneyball Book Cover

In a Nutshell: Lewis explores how the general manager of the Oakland As developed a strategy to win in the Major Leagues with one of the smallest budgets in the league. The short answer? Statistical data.

Favorite Quote: “There was but one question he left unasked, and it vibrated between his lines: if gross miscalculations of a person’s value could occur on a baseball field, before a live audience of thirty thousand, and a television audience of millions more, what did that say about the measurement of performance in other lines of work? If professional baseball players could be over- or undervalued, who couldn’t?”

Read This if You: Want to learn more about how making data-driven decisions can drive the success of your organization.

14. The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington, Pamela Hartigan

The Power of Unreasonable People

In a Nutshell: This book provides a look at a new breed of entrepreneur—disruptive, “unreasonable” people who are challenging traditional practices to solve global problems.

Favorite Quote: “Being unreasonable is not just a state of mind. It is also a process by which older, outdated forms of reasoning are jettisoned and new ones conceived and evolved.”

Read This if You: Want to feel inspired by and learn from the individuals currently shaping the world and its markets.

To prioritize continued learning at your organization, select a book, decide how often you’ll meet, draw up discussion questions, and get ready to engage in conversations that strengthen the collective know-how of your team.

Anything we missed? Let us know your book club ideas in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and was updated with fresh book club ideas.

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