8 Leaders Share the Books That Changed Their Careers
When we look to better our lives, seek change, or improve our health, where do we turn? Books. Just one good one can radically change your thought process, help you make a big decision, cure you, spark a new idea, or bring happiness and peace into your life. Those who have experienced the transformative power of a good book know how persuasive the written word can be on our physical, emotional, and physiological selves. It turns out our greatest mentors do, too. We tapped some of our favorite female leaders to share the book that helped shape their career, sparked a new direction, or represented a pivotal moment that changed the course of their professional lives.
Hillary is the co-founder of multimedia brand Clique Inc.—WhoWhatWear.com, MyDomaine.com, and Byrdie.com—reaching millions of readers each month. Prior to Clique, Kerr was a Los Angeles–based freelance writer for magazines such as Elle, Teen Vogue, and Nylon, and before that she worked as a writer/editor for Elle in New York. The talented entrepreneur has also co-authored two books—Who What Wear: Celebrity and Runway Style for Real Life (Abrams, September 2009) and What to Wear, Where (Abrams, March 2011)—with a third installment set to release in 2016.
Having It All by Helen Gurley Brown
“This 1982 book from the former editor in chief of Cosmopolitan is totally over the top and full of advice that I wouldn’t recommend. But that said, the inherent idea that HGB espouses in the book—that you can transform yourself and your life and your career into whatever you want it to be with enough hard work and dedication—is incredibly solid and very inspiring. Any book that reminds me that I’m in charge of my own destiny is worth something, in my humble opinion.”
Melissa is one of Australia’s leading journalists, television personalities, MCs, and commentators in print, online, TV and radio. As the editor-at-large for News.com.au, Melissa is also a regular on Australian talk shows The Morning Show, Sunrise, and Weekend Sunrise for her professional opinion on style, pop culture, and entertainment. Hoyer’s portfolio boasts an impressive magazine lineup, including articles for Grazia and InStyle. She also writes for her own lifestyle and pop culture blog, MelissaHoyer.com
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“This book not so much changed my career but totally influenced it. I have always been captivated by the integrity and the measured attitude of the book’s main character, Atticus Finch. I also always try to keep in the back of my mind his words about not knowing someone unless you have walked around in their skin. I think that has stood me in good stead as I try not to be judgmental. I have an opinion? Sure. But I try not to judge without hearing and listening to all sides of a story or from a person.”
After four years at Iowa State University, Williams interned at Microsoft, and her tech talent swept quickly through the sector. Despite major corporations Google, Apple, Intel, and LinkedIn all tapping the female engineer for job offers, Cassidy chose startup Venmo, a popular payment app. "I wanted to go to a place where I could make a big impact," she told Glamour. But as this story was going live, the software engineer informed us she had just left Venmo to join a new startup called Clarifai, where she will be its first front-end engineer, first developer evangelist, and first female engineer.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
“It sounds silly because it's fiction, but the book that really comes to mind is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's about the technology of virtual reality that takes the world by storm, so much so that the real world starts to deteriorate. The creator of this technology dies and leaves Easter eggs in the virtual world that will lead to a person collecting his fortune. The reason why it was so pivotal is because it really just made me think about our dependency on technology, and how I'm building things that are only a few cousins away from this sort of all-consuming world. Which is a little scary, but also very cool.”
Katherine is the co-founder of multimedia brand Clique Inc., including WhoWhatWear.com, MyDomaine.com, and Byrdie.com. Pre-Clique, Power was the West Coast Editor for Elle and ELLEgirl. Along with Kerr, Power co-authored two books—Who What Wear: Celebrity and Runway Style For Real Life (Abrams, September 2009) and What To Wear, Where (Abrams, March 2011)—with a third installment set to release in 2016.
Venture Deals by Jason Mendelson and Brad Field
“I listened to this audiobook before doing our Series A fundraise. I recommend it to any entrepreneur; it’s a quick way to learn the language and basic principles of the venture capital world. Also, Scaling Excellence is a must-read for anyone building a team or expanding a business.”
There’s a reason she’s earned the title “skin whisperer.” Melanie Grant is a facial magician. Since the launch of her skin clinic in 2013, the Sydney-based skin professional has established a world-renowned name for herself thanks in part to her celebrity clientele: international models Lara Bingle, Sports Illustrated star Jess Gomes, supermodel Nicole Trunfio, singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem, and bloggers Nicole Warne of Gary Pepper and Margaret Zhang of Shine by Three.
Images of Women by Peter Lindbergh
“I saw the large-format version of this book on my first trip to New York. Something hit me. These models were all familiar faces that I had grown up with in ’90s glossy magazines, but all of a sudden they were presented in a completely new context for me. Here was beauty shown in a way I had never appreciated before. Professionally, I was struck by this clarity, and I personally wanted to work towards this ‘ideal image of women.’ The first time seeing that book represents a critical moment that gave birth to a lot of goals and plans, which has led me to where I am now in my career. No book has inspired me to be great, and continues to inspire, like this book.”
As the director of IMG Models, Ragenard certainly has an eye for talent. The model agent has an impressive portfolio managing the careers of some of the world’s top talent, including former Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr, runway icon Gemma Ward, supermodel Nicole Trunfio, and Dutch darling Lara Stone, to name a few. Prior to IMG she worked as the general manager at Chic Model Management in Sydney. You get a fair idea of what Ragenard’s capable of when you discover the Deepak Chopra philosophy she lives by: “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”
The Buddha Walks Into the Office by Lodro Rinzler
“This is a relatively new book (published in September 2014) but it has had a profound effect on the way I approach work. Rather than ask the question ‘What do you want to do?’, it shifts the perspective to ‘Who do you want to be?’ With the number of hours we all spend in the office, this book teaches you to integrate your spiritual life with your work life, and you begin to cultivate mindfulness and compassion into all that you do. Whatever your path, this book shows you that you can use the workplace to find satisfaction and meaning every day.”
After completing her master’s in international development with a focus on gender, McKenzie continued her study in the university of life. She recently spent nine months working in Nepal to develop education and economic programs for women under her Global Women’s Project. The New York–based humanitarian recently worked in Southern Morocco with a local NGO to establish an income-generating project for mothers of street-connected children, and she assisted the UN in Timor-Leste on gender programs. In her spare time, Briony writes and performs music and poetry, blogs, and practices yoga and meditation.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
“This was the book that started my love affair with Indian literature. The author paints such a bleak but exquisitely beautiful portrait of India and its people that it made me desperate to travel there. When eventually I did visit India for the first time in my early 20s, I remember being met head-on with the reality of human suffering; it was the first time I’d ever seen such poverty. Despite traveling widely since then, I've still never seen such stark contrast between the glamour of the rich and the destitution, but incredible resilience, of those living in extreme poverty as I did in India. It was awhile before I decided to pursue a career supporting women and girls in developing communities around the world, but this book foreshadowed my first real insight into the reality of poverty. It really represented a turning point for me.”
Sarah has a long history working with the famed indigo fabric we all know and love: denim. After years at iconic brand Wrangler, she moved on to become senior womenswear designer of ThreebyOne, working across the denim and apparel categories of three brands, including NEUW, Abrand, and Rolla’s, which launches in the U.S. this month. The stylish mom of 2-year-old Tabitha is currently cruising L.A. with her husband, co-designer, and denim partner in crime, Andy Paltos.
Up Close by Carol Jerrems
“I am an avid reader—or I was, pre-Tabitha—but the most influential book for me recently, career-wise would be a photography book called Up Close by Carol Jerrems. She was a prolific Melbourne-based photographer in the ’70s. Her images are really raw and beautiful, and seeing them was the first time, I saw Australian life depicted beyond the usual cliché. She documented inner-city life, gritty scenes, musicians, artists, and gangs. Her work led me to discover other Australian photographers of that time like Rennie Ellis and Roger Scott. After a career working for big international denim brands drawing from other cultures and traditions, it really confirmed in me that I wanted to do denim that felt more Australian, denim that drew from our own unique aesthetic. It was a catalyst of sorts, too. That book, and the others that followed from it, marked a really important moment for me in the development and direction we would take on Rolla's, and I continue to draw on those images whenever I am in need of inspiration.”