My granddaughter Zoe is zooming through the Harry Potter series. While that’s quite an achievement for a first grader, she’s not trying to set a record. She’s loving the stories and, I suspect, loving that she can read these complicated tales on her own.

While Zoe’s reading skills expand, so does her self-esteem. I’m guessing she’ll also discover that reading good books spoils you in the best possible way: your standards go up and you become more discriminating.

Musician Todd Rundgren said, “You are never any better than the influences you have.” Once you realize that, you become wiser, I think, about whom you listen to—including the authors you read.

What you’re currently reading is, of course, determined by where you are in your journey. As E.M. Forster pointed out, “I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”

To make the most of the time we spend with books, we need to ask ourselves, “What do I need right now?” Sometimes the answer may be that we need a push or a reminder to challenge our fears and doubts.

At other times, the answer may be that we need information about how to organize a housesitting business and market it.

Many newly self-employed spend all their time gathering information while ignoring the equally important role of inspiration which helps us grow in other ways.

If successful self-employment is a high priority for you, your reading diet needs to strike a balance between books that are informational and those that are inspirational.

Here are some of my favorite titles in both categories. They’re just a sampler, of course, but each of them makes a fine addition to a Joyfully Jobless library.


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is, quite simply, the best explanation of how resistance keeps us from living the life of our dreams—and what we can do about it.

This Time I Dance by Tama Kieves guides the reader through the process of finding right livelihood while challenging old assumptions about the role of work in our lives.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink is subtitled Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. A guidebook to your creative self.

The Creative License by Danny Gregory will help you reconnect with your creative spirit.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is the classic on tackling the big obstacles to making it on your own.

The Hungry Spirit by Charles Handy looks at the spiritual side of work and shows why it matters.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander is a book I reread regularly. Brilliant insights on living from a place of possibility.


Growing a Business by Paul Hawken is an old favorite about creating a business that’s an extension of who you are and the things you care about.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith takes the mystery out of marketing services.

Small is the New Big by Seth Godin is a collection of the author’s blog columns covering a wide range of subjects on how to create a remarkable business.

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. Two smart young entrepreneurs share what they’ve learned.

The Difference by Jean Chatzky explores the thinking and behavior that makes for creating prosperity.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell deserves to be in every self-bosser’s library. It’s a clear explanation of how an idea goes from obscurity to visibility.

Many of these titles plus several other favorites are included on the Bookshelf page of my Joyfully Jobless site. You can also order those you’d like to add to your library over there, too. Pay a visit.

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. ~ Henry David Thoreau


2 Responses to “Read the Best Books First”

  1. David Medcalf

    Barbara, I was happy to see “This Time I Dance” included in your Inspiration list.
    I’ve read Kieves book at least four times. I didn’t really appreciate her poetical style
    during my first read, but as I got deeper into the book, I realized it was a powerful
    way of getting her ideas across. “Choose the storm instead of the form,” is my
    favorite line in the book (p. 94).

    – David

  2. Barbara Winter

    I agree, David. It’s a really special book by a really special author. Tama was also a speaker at the Un-Job Fair in Denver a couple of weeks ago and she was terrific there, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *