28 Transformative Books Recommended by Successful Creators
No amount of reading can replace the actual work, but books can still be an incredible source of inspiration and instruction. And when you’re part of an active creator or entrepreneurial community, recommendations should never be in short supply. As far as the best books for business owners (and/or creators) is concerned, you’ll be surprised by the wide range of suggestions shared by our VOTY 100 honorees. There are your straight-forward how-tos and then there are other intriguing reads, including memoirs and novels.
Read on to discover why they love these standout books.
“I mean this so earnestly: Co-editing the anthology All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis changed the way I see the world. Curating and reading and editing and re-reading the wisdom of the 40 women climate leaders whose essays are collected in the book was transformational for me in terms of the breadth and nuance of my thinking of how we should address climate change. And I’m thrilled it’s now in paperback so more folks will be able to afford copies.” –Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Co-Founder of Urban Ocean Lab and The All We Can Save Project
$15.99 at Amazon
The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes is a favorite of actress, executive, and VOTY 100 Next Gen Creatives honoree Marsai Martin.
$9.69 at Amazon
Brand coach and VOTY 100 Biz Experts honoree Jenell B. Stewart counts Clock Work by Mike Michalowicz as one of her favorites for building a business.
$13.89 at Amazon
“I just finished Jane Goodall’s Seeds of Hope, which really inspired me to consider how we can build a business that is a true celebration of superfoods, and kind to the earth all the way through.” –Trinity Mouzon Wofford, CEO & Co-Founder of Golde
$11.29 at Amazon
“Untamed by Glennon Doyle. Candid to the bone, rousing, and exceptional storytelling.” –Tracy G., Wellness Artist, Podcaster & Radio Host
$13.98 at Amazon
“Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark sparked us into action during a challenging period, helped us focus, and gave us renewed energy to build a mission-based company that would have a role to play in creating a better future for people and planet. It helped shape our thinking around the notion of ‘active optimism’, and the idea we are all ‘optimists in progress.’ Optimism is a dynamic state, not a state of mind.” –Lisa Farr Johnstone, Co-Founder of Optimist Drinks
$10.68 at Amazon
“Is it weird to say our book Skincare Decoded? We learned a lot about ourselves and were able to refocus on our goal. When we first started writing, Caroline Hirons just came out with her book Skincare. We definitely looked to her book for inspiration. Our friend Judy Chao was working on her book at the same time we were writing. It was really nice to have a comrade in writing at the same time!” –Gloria Lu and Victoria Fu, Co-Founders of Chemist Confessions
$17.99 at Amazon
“Letters of Note, which is a compilation of famous letters of correspondence. It’s such an intimate, raw view (and one that no longer really exists) into human nature—our hopes, fears, dreams scribbled down on a piece of paper. My favorite line is probably from Iggy Pop, in a letter to a fan who asked him to be his prom date. In closing, he writes to her, ‘Hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.’ –Polly Rodriguez, CEO & Co-Founder of Unbound
$22.31 at Amazon
“Traction by Gino Wickman is my favorite book since becoming a full-time entrepreneur.” –Briana Thompson, Owner of Spiked Spin
$14.49 at Amazon
“The 4-Hour Workweek. I used to work as video editor/producer for commercials and promos for other companies. That book talk me the value of my work, and how to build my own brand on the side. The seeds of theblerdgurl started there. I’m still not down to 4 hours, but now I work for me.” –Karama Horne, Culture Journalist & Content Creator
$13.36 at Amazon
The Seat of The Soul by Gary Zukav is an inspiring read about capturing your “authentic power” and one of Ty Alexander’s (a VOTY 100 Wellness Champions honoree) favorites.
$14.79 at Amazon
VOTY 100 Wellness Champions honoree Jessamyn Stanley recommends Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.
$10.49 at Amazon
“The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer initiated my journey to self-awareness and wellness.” –Priscilla O. Agyeman, MPH, Public Health Professional, Mental Health Activist and Founder of Saddie Baddies
$11.27 at Amazon
Rebundle founder and VOTY 100 Eco Impact Warriors honoree Claire Imani May is inspired by The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
$15.40 at Amazon
“Iyanla Vanzant’s Until Today is one of the best devotionals I’ve ever had. Every day, there’s a lesson to learn that is quite simple, but something that helps deprogram the way we’ve been, until today. It’s like a therapy session every day I crack that thing open!” –Danielle Young, Journalist, Producer, Host & Content Queen
$10.19 at Amazon
“The Alchemist. I read it many years ago and had no idea the seed that was planted in me that would lead me to where I am today. It taught me to not let fear derail me in the pursuit of my goals. ‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.’ The fear of failure can be paralyzing, but with any great risk comes great reward. I’m glad I took the leap to start my own brand—the journey has been quite fulfilling and I look forward to even more experiences to enjoy along the way.” –Ashley Renne, Environmental Activist & Influencer
$8.89 at Amazon
“Edward Saïd’s Orientalism has greatly impacted the way I analyze society, culture, and otherness. When I first read his words, so much about how we demonize, marginalize and ‘other’ people in the name of supremacy and nationalism began to click into place.” –Imani Barbarin, Digital Disability Advocate & Communications Director
$15.99 at Amazon
“Jamie Kern Lima’s Believe It. She goes deep into the raw and unglamorous parts of entrepreneurship—the loneliness, pressure and hard work, but also the joy and how one can help and inspire others along the way.” –Denise Woodard, CEO & Founder of Partake Foods
$13.07 at Amazon
“A good friend recommended that I read GRIT by Angela Duckworth and it’s all about how passion and perseverance can steer your career in the right direction. The recommendation came at a time where I was feeling defeated and wanted to give up, so being reminded of how passion and purpose can drive you to do incredible things and find success was the pick-me-up I needed.” –Aurea Sanabria Molaei, Founder & Creative Director at Flower Bodega
$9.88 at Amazon
Business coach, all-around influencer pro, and VOTY 100 Biz Experts honoree Julie Solomon recommends Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.
$12.61 at Amazon
“The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Heather McGee’s book provides additional research and context to those of us building systems in which we can all win. She also answers the question of why we can’t have nice things (answer: racism). The Color of Money: Black Banks and The Racial Wealth Gap, Mehrsa Baradaran’s truly transformative book on how Black communities have been historically defrauded, limited, and excluded from building wealth in the United States. A MUST read for anyone interested in learning how we got to this point.” –Kathryn Finney, Founder & CEO of Genius Guild
$17.98 at Amazon
“Honestly, there have been so many but not in the straight-forward or typical way. I don’t love how-to books that much but I get super inspired by memoirs. Something about reading about how someone (usually a woman) goes from being lost, broken, or even worse to finding their purpose and strength just makes me feel like I can do anything! Alicia Keys memoir called More Myself and the memoir Educated were two of my favorites.” –Nitika Chopra, Founder of Chronicon
$14.99 at Amazon
MoKnowsHair founder and VOTY 100 Creators honoree Monica Stevens found plenty of inspo and advice for building her empire through How to Succeed in Business Without Being White by Earl Graves.
$14.89 at Amazon
“I loved The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma and I re-read it often. It was a game-changer for me. I realized that I could do more and feel better about it if I started my day differently. I don’t want to give away any details but I will say that the first 2 weeks of waking up at 5AM was soooo hard!” –LA Dunn, Founder of Black Girls Eat
$10.26 at Amazon
Sacred Woman by Queen Afua is a “transformative blueprint for ancestral healing” that VOTY 100 Community Builders honoree Chelsea VonChaz loves.
$11.99 at Amazon
“The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart is a fictional book about a psychiatrist who starts living his life by the roll of the dice. He literally decides what to do every day, who to interact with, how to spend money, etc., by tossing dice and seeing where they land. I’ve read this book twice now and interviewed the author in college for a paper. This book taught me at a young age that life is what you make it, and your own limiting beliefs or ceilings are the things holding you back from a completely new life or a different, exciting, and new path.” –Ali Kriegsman, Author & COO/Co-Founder of Bulletin
$13.39 at Amazon
One of my favorite books is The Power of Habit by investigative journalist Charles Duhigg. The book unpacks the psychology behind what makes and breaks a habit. It turns out every habit-forming activity follows the same behavioral and neurological patterns. So much of what we do at Remake is about pushing back on the mainstream fashion culture to follow mindless trends and buy disposable fashion. It takes 90 days to break a bad habit. This book is my inspiration for our #nonewclothes campaign that our community of 800 changemakers takes every summer. For 90 days we all buy nothing, we unsubscribe from all the ads and lean into our community. This is our way to break up with fast fashion. –Ayesha Barenblat, CEO & Founder of Remake
$10.95 at Amazon
“Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei and Scott Belsky. It was a transformative read when I switched over to being an entrepreneur after working for others for many years.” –Gesche Haas, Founder & CEO of Dreamers and Doers
$6.99 at Amazon
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