14 Best and Surprising Books to Think About Careers

Sometimes the best ideas arise where you least expect them. Sometimes you need to look at a perplexing problem from a new angle. And what better place than in books.

Below are some of the books that have shaped how I think about career exploration. Over the years they have been dusted off and read again and again. Besides instilling me with great ideas, they have been very practical in my day-to-day quandaries.

In some way each of them (and others too) have formed the basis for my career exploration model, motivation and when we get stuck.


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Psychologist and Neurologist Viktor Frankl wrote about his ordeal as a concentration camp inmate during World War II. What the experience taught Frankl is our main motivation is for life to have meaning.  This profound book taught me about suffering and how even in the most dire of situations, the way we handle the situation has to do meaningfulness.


I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher

Barbara Sher’s premise is that we do know what we want; our life is filled with clues. What she does in this book is provide a step-by-step guide to revealing your true aspirations. What I appreciate about Sher’s work is her ability to see around roadblocks and being truly on your side to finding career.


Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

I think of this book as a classic in my library. It has helped me understand that anytime we do anything new, fear appears in our life. If we aren’t feeling fear, we aren’t growing. The book has both the depth and simplicity to make life-altering changes in our lives.


The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

Debbie Ford’s first book has a clear message about reclaiming our power by embracing the all sides of ourselves, even those we dislike or deny. How it has shaped my work is looking at the false limiting beliefs so they don’t trip you along the way. What Debbie Ford does is offer a perspective on looking at our dark sides as gifts.


Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Book You’ll Ever Need by Daniel H. Pink

Johnny Bunko is a guy who did everything that he was told to do. Now he is in a dead-end job. In a graphic novel format – manga-illustrated – this book offers 6 essential lessons for thriving in the world of work. This is a great book to recommend for some light-hearted yet great advice in a short read.


The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

To lead a meaningful life doesn’t mean you need to conform to the ideas of others. This book is about exploring your life as an adventure. Chris Guillebeau has demonstrated that with his life; by the time he was 35 years old, he had travelled to all the countries in the world. One of his career tips: “Don’t just escape from something; escape to something.” Chris’ ideas have helped me rethink about work and life.


Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

Often when we are asked what are strengths are, we struggle with how to answer the question. Marcus Buckingham gives a helpful definition of strengths (hint: not necessarily what we are good at) and how to leverage them for work that is a great fit – where we will experience the most satisfaction and do our best work. This idea has played a key role in how I think about work that matters.


How to Find the Work You Love by Laurence G. Boldt

In this short book, Laurence G. Boldt provides a guide to reflect on the purpose of work through four key elements: Integrity, Service, Enjoyment and Excellence. He outlines how the world of work is changing and what we need to know to fit into that world. His focussing questions have helped me think about the purpose of work.


Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance In Your Life and Career by John D. Krumboltz and Al S. Levin

Happenstance is one of those career theories that I was intrigued with when I trained as an employment counsellor. It is based on the idea that life gives many twists and turns and it is those events that lead to our career choices. The book has a friendly and easy-to-read style with ideas on making the best of happenstance.


The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction by James M. Citrin & Richard A. Smith

A key message in this book is that successful careers are managed and how to make the most of the career you do have. Still, within their 5 patterns, the authors have identified ideas for finding work that is a good fit. Two of the items focus on understanding yourself and what you have to offer. Original research.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book is a simple fable based on a journey that turns into an understanding of what it is to be human. The messages are about the power of our dreams and listening to our hearts. What I appreciated about this book was the simple messages based on important principals and getting on your right path.


When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

The first idea about this book is we are always in the process of change. When we are knowing it is time to change our job or if we are flung into unemployment, this book offers much wisdom on navigating the difficulties. How it has informed my life is using her compassionate advice towards myself and opening up to new possibilities.


The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

This book is a powerful guide to for anyone making a big change in their lives. Each of the agreements can be applied directly to the work world. What I have appreciated is the code of conduct through which we can transform our lives.


One: How many people does it take to make a difference? by Dan Zadra

The purpose of the book is to inspire us to discover and celebrate our special gifts. This small, colourful book with great graphics and reflection questions is organized to explore what you have to offer. Inspiring and motivating! This book has helped me think about work in a creative way – seeing the career exploration process as a delight.

What are your favourite books around careers? Share in the comment section below.