Public libraries have been with me every step of the way in my self-employment journey. I remember visiting the tiny Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, library when I was first dreaming about starting a business.

Compared with today, the offerings for would-be entrepreneurs were pretty skinny, but reading biographies of several pioneering women entrepreneurs inspired me and helped me believe I could create my own business, too.

Years later, when I was invited to give a talk at my branch library in Minneapolis about my book Making a Living Without a Job, I began by declaring, “The library is an entrepreneur’s best friend.”

I absolutely meant it.

In every place I’ve lived, I’ve gotten my library card before I got my driver’s license

So it always comes as a surprise to me when I talk to a would-be or struggling entrepreneur and discover that they don’t tap into the treasure trove that’s waiting for them.

If you haven’t visited a library for a while or you always head to the same section, check out all the ways a library can help you build your self-employment enterprise.

° Nonfiction titles exist on every aspect of starting and running a business. Besides personal accounts and biographies, how-to books abound.

Want to know what all the fuss about branding is? Thinking about selling articles to magazines? Want to tap into new trends? There’s a good chance that somebody has done you the favor of writing about it.

Unlike much of the information you can find online, library books tend to be edited and sources verified which adds to their credibility.

° Get inspired with a novel. Mysteries, especially, often feature entrepreneurial characters in leading roles. Often these entrepreneurs are amateur detectives as well.

You can learn a lot—almost accidentally—about antiquarian book selling from John Dunning or catering from Diane Mott Davidson while solving a murder or two.

In fact, the main characters of many novels are self-employed which suggests to me that people who work for themselves are simply more interesting.

° Make friends with a reference librarian. I am certain that if they didn’t love books so much, many of the folks running the library reference desk would be private detectives. They love tracking things down—the harder the better.

Got an idea for a research project? Ask the reference librarian to show you the grant directories. Want to be a public speaker? Inquire about Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations to get ideas. Need statistics for a presentation? The reference desk is a great place to start your search.

° Make drive time more valuable. My library has an entire room devoted to audio books. Many wonderful fiction and nonfiction titles are available on CD and make fine companions for road trips or while running errands.

As Minnesota Public Radio used to remind me, “Get out of your car smarter than you got in.” Audiobooks can help you do just that.

° Visit a new universe. Browse in a section you don’t normally explore. Investigate some magazines that you’ve never read before. Spend an hour investigating materials in the reference section.

This is what Seth Godin calls “zooming” which he defines as “stretching your limits without threatening your foundation.”

° Attend a talk. If you have access to a fairly large library, chances are they offer free programs as part of their community service.

My library often features authors talking about their writing careers as well as programs on everything from finding your ancestors to travel talks.

° Create an in-depth research project. Build a passion into expertise by learning everything you can about a subject. Don’t just dabble; immerse.

Start with your library’s collection and see how far it can take you, but don’t stop there. Enlist the reference librarian to help you uncover addition information that you haven’t found on your own.

Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borge once mused, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you get there to experience the pleasure a library can bring.

My fantasy vacation would be a long train ride (perhaps across Canada) accompanied by a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read. Of course, I’m never without a book–or several–in some stage of completion. Since summer is a downtime for parts of my business, I take advantage of that by upping my reading. My reading list always includes at least one classic, often one that I had overlooked such as East of Eden or a return visit to Dickens or Jane Austen.

Whether you’re headed for the beach or staying busy at home, here are a few suggestions for some obvious and not-so-obvious reading for the Joyfully Jobless.

Since I’ve long resented the snobbery that classifies some work as Good and other as Bad, I was excited to learn about Shop Class as Soulcraft. Author Michael B. Crawford, the philosopher with a wrench, abandoned his academic path and found bliss running  his own motorcycle repair shop. He says, “This is a moment when the useful arts have an especially compelling economic rationale. The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, is tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. But this has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding.”  

At the last minute, I grabbed Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast to take along on my trip to Madison last week. I had read this nonfiction work several years ago, but this time it struck me in a whole different way. This memoir covers the years Hemingway spent in Paris before he became a famous writer. It’s a powerful testimony to our capacity for creating a rich life even when money is scarce. “The one who is doing his work and getting satisfaction from it is not the one the poverty bothers…But then we did not think of ourselves as poor,” Hemingway recalls.

A  pair of books that will delight any booklover is Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookstore. The hero is the owner of a traveling bookstore in the first volume and the owner of a conventional one in the second. Funny and eccentric, the passionate booklovers in these stories will endear themselves to you if you’re a bibliophile yourself.

Morley’s characters aren’t the only entrepreneurial protagonists; all sorts of mysteries center around a main character who is an entrepreneur. In Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries we meet crime-solving caterer Goldy Schulz. John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway is a detective-turned-antiquarian-bookseller. And, of course, there’s the beloved Precious Ramotswe (the Miss Marple of Botswana) in Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. While these books are fun to read for the mystery plot line, they’re even more intriguing if you’re an entrepreneur yourself.

Benjamin Franklin advised, “Write something worth reading or live something worth writing.” Lynda Resnick has done both. A lifelong entrepreneur, Resnick’s Rubies in the Orchard is a terrific book on marketing woven into her autobiographical tale of growing several successful businesses. Obviously, this is a woman who was paying attention to the lessons along the way and the reader is the beneficiary of her wisdom.

One of my favorite books of this year is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows which is out in paperback just in time for summer. I also loved the audio version with its perfect cast of narrators. This is storytelling at its finest. 

Got a book you’d like to add to the list? Let us know.

Don’t have time to read? Take a minute and check out Nicholas Bate’s  14 Reasons For Reading Books.