Last week, we started our celebration of Get Caught Reading Month, with a list of books Idealist staff members are reading. The Get Caught Reading initiative was launched by the Association of American Publishers and is dedicated to reminding people of all ages about the joys of reading.
This article features our second list of what (and why) Idealist staff members are reading. From books on entrepreneurship to essays on being open to the unknown, this list has something for everyone interested in making the most out of their lives and work.
Our reading recommendations are organized by three categories - career-specific, creativity and inspiration, and personal impact. “Career-Specific” books are either specific to a certain type of career or explicitly deal with the theme of careers. “Creativity and Inspiration” books deal with themes such as creativity, artistry, reflection, and consciousness. “Personal Impact” books focus on culture, social impact, and the interconnectedness of people.
Here is what our Idealist staff members had to say about each of their contributions to the list:
Born for This by Chris Guillebeau
Ben Duncan: This is a book about actively taking charge of your own happiness at work. Using joy, money, and flow as guiding factors, it helps you identify what your ideal work situation would be through some exercises and a few anecdotes. The rest of the book is practical advice to achieve those goals, whether by shaping your current position, taking on side work, or venturing out on your own. Diving deeper into what affects the guiding factors, he discusses fulfillment of your work, and some of his anecdotes are of individuals who left the corporate world to turn their professional skills or hobby into a positive impact career.
The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick McGinnis
Victoria Crispo: In my work at Idealist Careers, I'm always reading books and articles that are within the "career sphere." I'm currently reading The 10% Entrepreneur by Patrick McGinnis, which aims to make feasible the prospect of having a side business/side income while working a full-time job.
The premise is that you invest 10% of your time and/or finances to your entrepreneurial pursuits. The book helps would-be entrepreneurs identify which path would work best for them, given their resources and interests. Not everyone's path to entrepreneurship (this also goes for starting a nonprofit or social enterprise) involves the creation of their own original idea, raising capital or bootstrapping, and growing an audience, person by person, that wants their product or service. For some, that 10% can take the form of an angel investment or "sweat equity", where they would offer their time and expertise (or perhaps other resources) to an already-existing organization in exchange for stock options, or even free products or services.
Having observed the trends toward slash careers, freelancing, and other forms of self-employment, getting a taste of how to implement a part-time option has been inspiring. I look forward to sharing what I learn with our readers in a way that can be applied to the nonprofit sector.
Creativity and Inspiration
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Emily Hashimoto: Traditionally used by people with specific artistic pursuits (writers, painters, dancers, etc.), The Artist's Way is a great tool for those feeling blocked and can be applied by anyone looking to be more creative. The book guides you through 12 weeks of reading, questions, and activities, and helps you ease your way into innovation and new ideas. I found it challenging to weave my way through the work, but it was so rewarding when I felt those breakthroughs break.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Jhia Jackson: I used to visit The Getty Center fairly often and bought this book on one of my last trips there. This book is one that I always come back to when I am stuck in a rut, need some life inspiration, or generally feel like I’m wading through thick waters. The book is essentially a notebook where he would jot down his thoughts and doesn’t have a throughline in any way. I find the disjointedness of his musings to be relaxing as they create space for me to sit and reflect on what he has just said, or go off and follow my own train of thought. It is honestly amazing how relevant some of his ideas are to the world today and my own life, and inspiring to see how someone so powerful can also be so vulnerable and normal. Just reading a few lines can be enough to inspire an artistic work or life choice for me.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
Karl Johnson: It's a book about a lot of things, but it touches on the nature of reality, consciousness, and a phenomenon he calls "strange loops." I'm finding it really inspiring from a storytelling perspective; additionally, I'm typically interested in artificial intelligence, and this is a seminal text in that field.
Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Caroline Contillo: Rebecca Solnit's 'Field Guide to Getting Lost' is a collection of essays by an author who is sort of a guide through a wide variety of human experiences, from art history and landscape to political discourse and meditations on wanderlust. The thread that connects the essays in this book is the transformative nature of being open to the unknown. This book has always served as a sort of compass for me when I feel scared about taking a next step in my career or life in general. Allowing myself to get lost, to not know, and to stay open even when things seem scary...these are the gifts this collection can give you. If, of course, you're open to receiving them.
PrairyErth by William Least Heat Moon
Jill Adams: This is a giant collection of small essays about the people, geography/geology, ecosystems, culture, and history of one county in eastern Kansas, Chase County. (The author calls it a "deep map.") Chase County is the beginning of the tallgrass prairie that reaches west, and he paints such a beautiful picture of all the minutiae that made settling the west, and the dust bowl, and our modern sense of "Americana" and flyover states what it is. A really lovely meditative book.”
Doing Good Better by William MacAskill
Joseph Fraley: His book summarizes much of his research on the most efficient strategies for making the world a better place. His research concerns how to tell which causes have the greatest impact in the world, how to decide the best use of our money and time, and how to think about choosing a career that makes the biggest possible difference. It's hard to say it better than MacAskill: "...because of that economic progress, we live at a time in which we have the technology to easily gather information about people thousands of miles away, the ability to significantly influence their lives, and the scientific knowledge to work out what the most effective ways of helping are. For these reasons, few people who have ever existed have had so much power to help others as we have today." At just 200 pages, it's probably the easiest thing you can do to start expanding your impact in the world.
Reading is not just fun- it is also a healthy habit to develop! Research published in the Journal of Direct Instruction has shown that it can improve your verbal skills and the National Literacy Trust’s research overview details how reading for pleasure increases general knowledge, insight into decision-making, and community participation. Just creating this list has built an increased sense of camaraderie and community in our office as we learned more about each other’s interests, creative process, and motivation!
We hope our list has inspired you to read a new book or reflect on a book you would have included.
By Jhia Jackson