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


While I don’t have any hard evidence, I suspect that many authors have a box like the one in my office labeled Fan Mail. I truly appreciate my readers who have taken the time to let me know that they liked/learned/appreciated something I wrote.

Some fan letters are so unique that I memorize them. One of my favorites came from a reader in Houston who said, “I went to the bookstore to purchase a book on resume writing, but your book made such a commotion on the shelf that it wouldn’t let me leave without buying it.”

I’ve amused my self from time to time imagining Making a Living Without a Job dancing around in a bookstore singing, “Buy me, buy me.”

And, of course, I’ve had my own experiences being snapped to attention by a book that refused to be ignored.

One such encounter happened several years ago when I was browsing in a small bookstore in Minneapolis that specialized in spirituality and personal growth titles. I went into the store with nothing in particular in mind.

A few minutes later, I spied a book by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer called Creating Money. I picked it up and read the cover notes and scanned the chapter titles. I put it back on the shelf with the reminder that I already owned several metaphysical books on prosperity thinking.

A day or two later, I was in a larger chain bookstore still browsing for a new book to purchase. As I looked over the selection in the personal growth section, I noticed that Borders was also selling Creating Money.

I continued to resist.

A quiet weekend was coming and I still had no book to share it with. I decided to check out the offerings at my neighborhood Barnes & Noble. I don’t recall the section that I was visiting, but as I looked across the shelf in front of me, there sat Creating Money at eye level.

It was misplaced, as if someone had changed their mind and plunked it down as they were leaving the store. I recall thinking, “All right, all right, I’ll buy you.”

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the book. I’d read plenty of others on the subject and was quite happy with the changes I’d made in my relationship with money.

On Saturday afternoon, I sat down and began reading Creating Money. I couldn’t stop. I read it in one long sitting interrupted only by my need to sleep. I resumed reading on Sunday morning and finished the entire book in the early afternoon.

Surprisingly, it was not just a rehash of all the other books I’d read on building a prosperity consciousness. I felt my mind expanding in some new, healthier ways.

What happened next may have been coincidental—or a powerful demonstration about paying attention when good things come our way. At any rate, on Monday morning I had a large, unexpected windfall.

Of course, I was excited. I called a friend to tell her the good news and then promptly ran out and bought a copy of Creating Money and sent it to her.

Almost immediately, another windfall arrived. I gave another copy away and the same thing happened. Opportunities were coming from places I didn’t even know existed.

Maybe this is my new occupation, I mused. Perhaps I could just sit on a street corner handing out copies of the book and keep collecting windfalls.

I stopped myself from testing that idea, but I’ve never ignored another book that catches my attention.

“Wealth is not a matter of intelligence; it’s a matter of inspiration,” said Jim Rohn.

Frequently, that necessary trigger to inspiration is residing in a book that’s trying to get our attention. How do you answer?


Here’s a terrific article for all of you bibliophiles. Will the home library survive the surge of the e-book?