I don’t read a lot of fiction. I prefer real life stories and recently I’ve read several non-fiction books that appeal to the creative entrepreneur in me. Here are a few I’ve really enjoyed.
I still have an early Beanie Baby teddy bear. I got it in college and there was a time when it was really precious to me because I thought that it had resale value. It sat on my bookshelf in my dorm room with its original heart-shaped tag still affixed. Times change. Now it’s at the bottom of the toy box, tag ripped off and looking a bit battered after being tossed around by three kids. How did this shift happen? The Great Beanie Baby Bubble explains how Beanie Babies went from being traded like valuable stocks to being thrown into dumpsters. The story of what makes a craze ignite and what makes it end is fascinating and relevant to anyone who owns a business.
Ever since I finished Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance I’ve been dying to get a Tesla and I’m seriously not a car person. This book paints the picture of Musk’s brilliant mind and incredible ambition. It’s a story about Internet fortunes (Musk was a founder of PayPal and used the money he got when he cashed out to fund Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity) and perseverance. Most of all, we get a sense of Musk’s resounding confidence that he can change the way we’ve always done things. Every business person could use a dose of that.
Like SpaceX, Zappos is a business that nearly everybody said would never work. When popular wisdom predicted that people wouldn’t buy shoes on the Internet, Tony Hsieh said they would. He couldn’t have been more right, of course. In Delivering Happiness Hsieh explains why he chose to make customer service the focus of the company and the effect that this choice has had on all aspects of Zappos. Customer service is important to every business and there’s a lot to learn from Hsieh’s way of thinking.
Why do certain cat videos get shared millions of times on Facebook while other equally cute cat videos don’t? Contagious is a book about the science of fads, trends, and virality. Jonah Berger reveals what makes people say, “You’ve got to see this!” There are so many good lessons here for making shareworthy content. (I wrote two posts applying concepts from this book to craft blogs. One post is about the power of emotion and the other about making the private public.)
I never figured I was going to be a writer. I spent most of high school English class reading Sassy magazine instead of the text book and totally missed all the lessons on composing a sentence and using a semicolon. I regret that now (although Sassy was worth it – I loved How Sassy Changed My Life). If you’re like me and you write for the Internet and would like to do it well, On Writing Well is fantastic. It’s easy and enjoyable and totally applicable to blogging.
In a podcast interview I listened not long ago to Megan Auman recommended Start With Why. I think this book is a bit over the top, but Sinek has a very valuable underlying point. Why are you in business? Why do you make what you make? I listened to this as an audio book on an airplane. Halfway through I paused it, pulled out my phone and wrote down my “why.” Want to hear it? I want creative women to have the tools and information they need to succeed in the craft and sewing industry. Figuring that out made this book totally worth reading, even if only halfway.