Although it didn’t arrive until the end of October, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was the top selling book of 2011. It’s continued to grace bestseller lists this year, too.

This is notable for several reasons, but caught my attention because biographies of entrepreneurs don’t usually attract such huge readership. What a shame.

Many such true stories are every bit as intriguing as fictional tales. More importantly, they can provide inspiration and trigger ideas for others wishing to succeed in the Joyfully Jobless world.

As Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.” Knowing the stories of others who have carved their own path can be enormously helpful to our own evolution.

Some of my favorite business biographies aren’t even close to being bestsellers, but they’re certainly worth investigating. While many of the subjects/authors are now well-known, there was a time when they were known only to their families.

If you’ve missed any of these true stories, track them down and see what you can learn.

Losing My Virginity is Sir Richard Branson’s autobiography of his early years in business. He’s written several other books sharing his philosophy and recent enterprises, but this charmer offers us a glimpse of the early days of the self-described adventure capitalist.

Ben and Jerry’s Double-Dip by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield shows us what it means to create a values-led business. Read this while enjoying a bowl of Cherry Garcia or Creme Brulee.

Hershey by Michael D’Antonio is the surprisingly inspiring tale of Milton S. Hershey who not only became synonymous with chocolate bars, but was one of the country’s first social entrepreneurs. This visionary was decades ahead of his time.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo brings us the philosophy of another visionary whose humble beginnings bore no resemblance to the influential woman she became. Chanel was opinionated and not shy about speaking her mind on living life on your own terms.

In Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner is one of the funniest stories on the list. It’s a marvel that Newman’s Own ever managed to succeed.

Body and Soul by Anita Roddick is subtitled Profits With Principles. This book recounts the early days of The Body Shop. Equally worth tracking down is her later book, Business as Unusual. You may need to do some detective work to find either title. It’s worth it.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, urges us to use our businesses to make a positive difference in the world.

Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland is a book I reread every year. It’s the incredible story of the author’s journey to create Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program near Pittsburgh. Every city should be so blessed.

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus shares the story of the birth of micro-lending, which helped poor women in Bangladesh become successful businessowners.

While you may be able to locate some of these books through your public library, I believe they deserve a permanent home in your library. Every one of these stories is worth revisiting from time to time.

You’ll find several of these titles on Barbara’s Book List, along with several others that I haven’t included here. Out of print titles may be available through my new favorite used book source, Thriftbooks.


“When I have a house of my own,” said a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I shall be quite miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

While many of us can’t imagine living without books, housing them can be a problem. Even a small collection takes up space and needs to be organized and stored.

If you’re ready to turn a pile of books into an orderly and beloved library, here are some guidelines for organizing your collection and building it into something really special.

° Take an inventory of the books you currently own.  Do you really want to keep that old college biology book? The forgotten bestseller from 1990?

Your library will serve your needs best when it’s made up of books you truly love. Begin by pruning your collection.

Before you give away books you no longer want, check with family members and friends to see if anyone wants to adopt your castoffs. Box up unwanted titles and sell them to a used bookdealer or donate them to a literacy project or thrift store.

° Organize the books you want to keep.  Group books together by subject and alphabetize them by author within each section.

As your library grows, new acquisitions fit naturally and neatly into existing departments.

 ° While family members may have their personal books housed in their bedrooms, ask them to share favorites with everyone. The bookshelves in your home should reflect the reading tastes of the people who live there, not just the adult readers.

My daughter has introduced me to wonderful books throughout her life that I would have missed without her recommendation. Sharing a passion for reading should not be just an adult-to-child activity.  Sample books that your kids love, too.

° Keep book notes. Your trips to the bookstore will be more fruitful if you have particular titles in mind to investigate. When a friend suggests a book or you read a review or see an author interviewed on television, jot down the title and any other special information about the book  you want to remember.

These lists also come in handy at gift-giving time when a friend or family member asks for suggestions for the perfect gift.

 ° Track down alternative sources of books.  Many bookstores rely heavily on new titles, but don’t stock books that were on the scene a year or so ago.

Library sales, secondhand bookstores, out-of-print search firms and garage sales are all places where you might uncover a treasure.

Of course, there are online sources as well. Thriftbooks is a new favorite of mine.

Many booklovers build visits to great bookstores into their travels, too. If you’re traveling to another part of the country or abroad, investigate the local book scene.

° Make a hobby of acquiring a special collection.  Cookbook libraries are especially popular, but you can have the fun of collecting anything that pleases you. Your friends and family can share in the hunt for new additions.

Of course, a specialized collection acquired over the years can become valuable and be sold or donated to a favorite college or library—or passed on as an heirloom.

° Don’t forget the classics. Those wonderful stories that have thrilled readers for generations deserve a spot in your library, too.

Having the great books on hand will make them accessible to your children.  It will also invite you to reread them. Meeting Silas Marner as an adult isn’t at all like meeting him in junior high school.

 “When you reread a classic,” says Clifton Fadiman, “you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.”

° Design a personal reading project.  When a friend introduced me to British writer Barbara Pym, I decided to sample one of her stories. I was so enchanted by it that I couldn’t stop until I had read every single book she’d written.

Whether it’s a favorite author or a theme or a new subject that interests you, give yourself the gift of a personally created reading project, one that spans several months or, even,  years. It will enrich both you and your library.

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.  Best of all, you  can spend everyday surrounded by the books that you love and cherish most.


Another great idea featured in USA Today: Little Libraries Sprouting Up On Lawns.