As major book enthusiasts, we consider summer to be reading season. And while we’re admittedly big fans of juicy tell-alls and spellbinding fiction, we get equally excited about diving into books about how to make work better. Yes, we’re passionate about our mission even when we’re lying out at the beach, fruity drink in hand.
We have two rules for a great business book: give us scientifically-backed suggestions, and tell us incredible, real-life stories. Based on those criteria, here are a mix of 8 old and new business books that we’ve found to be equal parts educational and entertaining―and that will help you set yourself up for back-to-work success in September.
How Change Happens by Cass R. Sunstein
Drawing on the latest research in behavioral science and psychology, the Humu advisor, Harvard law professor, and co-author of the bestseller Nudge (which we also highly recommend) sheds new light on how social change happens. Unsurprisingly, we love the sections on how nudges can be used to drive positive change, from apps that count calories to texted reminders of deadlines.
What Works by Iris Bohnet
The behavioral economist and academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School lays out the science behind what really drives―and prevents―gender inequality, and translates it into clear, easy-to-implement steps for making positive change. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how to improve assessment tools, hire fairly, increase transparency, and physically change workplaces for the better.
Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele
A social psychologist’s careful and convincing look at how much racism and sexism in our society hurt performance and potential. But take heart! Steele shows that comparatively small changes, especially in how tasks or challenging situations are presented, can have an enormous impact on reducing the consequences of stereotype threat.
Originals by Adam Grant
The Humu advisor and Wharton professor offers compelling stories about and insights into how to recognize a good idea, gather the confidence to act, and build momentum around it. It’s a masterful case for the power of building a culture that welcomes dissent.
No Ego by Cy Wakeman
A no-nonsense look at why leaders across organizations big and small seem to have accepted two false assumptions: that change is hard, and that engagement drives results. This book will equip you with the tools to eliminate drama and increase accountability for your reports.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Pulizter-prize winning New York Times reporter reveals why habits exist and how we can change them. Filled with a variety of eye-opening stories from the NFL to the civil rights movement, Duhigg lays out the science of how we can rebuild our own rituals and how we can influence the behavior of others.
The Advantage by Patrick Leoncini
Drawing on his extensive consulting experience, Leoncini make a powerful case that culture is becoming the biggest opportunity for competitive advantage. He offers specific recommendations for how to ground management practices in psychology and science (which we obviously support), establish clear and decisive values, and make meetings and communication as seamless as possible.
Lean Out by Marissa Orr
After sharing why she slowly became disillusioned with Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that women should “lean in,” Orr argues that organizations need to adjust to different definitions of success. She presents a compelling case that professional women (and men) should seek to change the system, especially what organizations think of as “leadership” skills, not their behavior.
Bonus: These are admittedly biased recommendations, but we’re also big fans of Work Rules! and No Hard Feelings, two books about how to make work better written by our very own Laszlo Bock and Liz Fosslien (aka me!).