What to Read in 2017: 18 Books for Entrepreneurs, Written by Women

What to Read in 2017: 18 Books for Entrepreneurs, Written by Women

Thankfully, the year-end regret that you binged more Netflix than books is closely followed by another chance to do it right. Another stab at being a better you! Isn’t that what the self-help pundits and fitness gurus and motivational gifs keep telling you to do? But what does it actually mean?

If I eat one fewer donut today, am I not a better version of me than I was yesterday? Maybe not. But you do need to define “better” for yourself. Does Best You travel more? Does she work out 3 times a week? 

Best Me reads more. 

I realized halfway through 2016 that I wasn’t, for whatever reason, making time to read—a hobby that I love. I recognized that a shift in my habits would rely on a more powerful motivation: competition. I dusted off my Goodreads account, and established an aggressive (public) goal for my 2016 Reading Challenge. I fell short by two, but I still read 18 books within the last half of the year. Slow start, strong finish!

What motivates you to stick to a habit?

I'm not alone. “Read more” tends to rank high on the list of resolutions each year. And, many self-taught entrepreneurs credit books (vs formal education) with giving them the tools and motivation to get their companies off the ground. If books are on your own list of be-better activities or you want to start a business this year, get serious about reading:

  • Establish clear goals—how many books do you want to read? How will you track your progress? What do you want to learn? Write it all down.
  • Rearrange your life to carve out time. Block your calendar and set reminders.
  • Pick a format that’s most conducive to your lifestyle.
  • Enlist the support of a book club or online community.
  • Compete with yourself. Challenge yourself to up your consumption each month.
  • Download an app like Goodreads to help you create a queue of literary conquests, and track your progress.

What should you add to that queue?

Books for Entrepreneurs, Written by Women

We’ve published book roundups before. Our last one in 2014 recommended 40 excellent titles for our entrepreneur readers. It was time for a redux, but I was troubled: only 7 books in that previous list were penned by women.

Surely, I thought, we could do better.

This time, we bring you a list of 18 books all written by women. They have been read and reviewed by some amazing women here at Shopify, too—UX Researchers, Marketers, and Designers alike weigh in on their picks. But don’t get me wrong. This list isn’t just for women. It’s for entrepreneurs of all ilks, and anyone in pursuit of self-improvement.

Add these 18 women-penned titles to your reading list in 2017 (plus 5 bonus titles from our own to-read lists):

1. Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

Angela Duckworth, 2016

Approx read time: 9 hours (via Audible)

Goodreads rating: 4.07 / 5

Amazon rating: 4.4 / 5

Buy this book (multiple formats)

Recommended by: 
Casandra Campbell, Content Marketer, Shopify

“I have long believed that consistent effort is the key to entrepreneurial success. The people who ‘make it’ don't have always have the best ideas or the most resources. Instead, they keep working and making incremental improvements day after day—no matter what gets thrown at them. This is what Grit is all about. Angela Duckworth uses new research to explain why perseverance and focused learning are the keys to accomplishing greatness in any field. She doesn't just explain why this is true, she teaches readers how they can cultivate more Grit in themselves and the people around them, too." – Casandra Campbell


2. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, 2014

Approx read time: 6 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.73

Amazon rating: 4.4

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Katrina Bautista, Product Designer, Shopify

“We’ve all read the articles about shifting stance and speech patterns to appear more confident, but The Confidence Code challenged how I think about behaviours we associate with ‘capability’ and ‘doing a good job’ but actually erode our own self-confidence. Behaviours like over-preparation instead of action, seeking too much feedback from others at the cost of our decision-making, and self-exclusion/self-selection (declining from compliments or opportunities because we feel we lack merit) are all conditioned behaviours that we can unlearn, hopefully transcending perfectionism in favour of courage and action in a world where we are constantly apologizing for our own greatness.” – Katrina Bautista

The Confidence Code challenged how I think about behaviours we associate with ‘capability’ and ‘doing a good job’


3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Susan Cain, 2012

Approx read time: 10 hours

Goodreads rating: 4.03

Amazon rating: 4.5

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Kayla Boyer, Recruiter, Shopify

“I think this book is great for entrepreneurs because it really teaches you about yourself—what kind of environment helps you best achieve flow state, what kind of environments you do not work well in, etc.” – Kayla Boyer


4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Elizabeth Gilbert, 2016

Approx read time: 5 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.89

Amazon rating: 4.6

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Dayna Winter, Storyteller, Shopify

“What struck me about this book was that it threw out a lot of popular ideas about chasing creative dreams. Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her novel Eat Pray Love, is candid about her distaste for the blind pursuit of your passion. ‘Don’t quit your day job (yet)’ is a consistent message. She suggests that the pressure to provide (as in paying your bills) can kill your creativity. I resonated with her notion that creative ideas have their own life force—that they are things to be nurtured, lest they pack their bags and find a more attentive host. Big Magic reads along in a series of anecdotes, many of them personal to the author’s own bumpy path to literary success, but the lessons she distills are universally relevant to artists and creators in any field.” – Dayna Winter


5. Not That Kind of Girl

Lena Dunham, 2014

Approx read time: 6 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.34

Amazon rating: 3.6

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Lindsey Peacock, Content Marketer, Shopify

"Not That Kind of Girl is Lena Dunham's literary debut and a great reminder that the road to entrepreneurship does not always follow a straight line. The book describes how this well-known actress and writer found her own path with her own brand of irreverence and wit. And aspiring entrepreneurs can keep her account in mind as they evolve their business to fit their passions and their lives." – Lindsey Peacock

Not That Kind of Girl is a great reminder that the road to entrepreneurship does not always follow a straight line.


6. The Sleep Revolution

Arianna Huffington, 2016

Approx read time: 9 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.94

Amazon rating: 4.1

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Solmaz Shahalizadeh, Director, Merchant Services Algorithms, Shopify

"I really liked the fact that the book removes the glorification of all-nighters and burnout as signs of success and talks about the science of sleep and its necessity for humans. My takeaway from the book is to pay more attention to getting enough sleep, rather than cutting it out as the first thing when I'm short in time." – Solmaz Shahalizadeh


7. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

Grace Bonney, 2016

Approx read time: n/a

Goodreads rating: 4.23

Amazon rating: 4.5

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Katie Hudson, Marketer, Shopify

“'You can’t be what you can’t see' is written in the introduction of this book, noting that visibility is one of the most powerful tools to inspire people to pursue their dreams. This book does exactly that: it shares and highlights inspiring advice, quotes, and life stories of women from a variety of careers, backgrounds, places, and races. The book asks each of them a variety of questions from what they wanted to be as a child, to the best piece of business advice they were given when they started out, to sharing their personal/professional motto. This book is a breath of fresh air, and truly an inspiring read. The only thing that would make it better would be if it featured more international women. Currently the overwhelming majority of the 100 women featured are from the United States. If you’re looking to gain different perspectives, or just soak up some serious inspiration, then you should definitely check it out.” – Katie Hudson

This book is a breath of fresh air, and truly an inspiring read.


8. Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success

Jessica Tracy, 2015

Approx read time: 7 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.84

Amazon rating: 3.9

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Danielle Fortin, Recruitment Lead, Shopify

“Take Pride by Jessica Tracy, a professor at UBC, is all about pride and how important it is to find things that we take pride in. Also how to harness the feeling to achieve success. I’m sure many business owners/entrepreneurs would relate.” – Danielle Fortin


9. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Twyla Tharp, 2006

Approx read time: 9 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.97

Amazon rating: 4.4

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Alexandra Middleton, Studio Producer, Shopify

"Writer's block, stuck in a rut, creative dead end, a business lull—whatever you call it, we all have those moments where we're trying to do something and feel like we can't produce anything even remotely good. And Twyla Tharp is no stranger to this. That's why, over her lifetime, she's developed ways to face and conquer the resistance we face in these moments. I've adopted a lot of her techniques into my own creative process, and like a dancer building a muscle, it will continue to strengthen." – Alexandra Middleton

photo: Melissa Gross


10. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

Ruth Reichl, 2010

Approx read time: 6 hours

Goodreads rating: 4.05

Amazon rating: 4.3

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Mary-Rose Sutton, Content Marketer, Shopify

“The unfortunate thing about the word entrepreneurship is that it is so closely associated with the drive for financial success. What is often overlooked when it comes to entrepreneurship—and what Ruth Reichl proves to be the most important ingredient in her memoir Tender at the Bone—is passion. Before she was the New York Times restaurant critic and editor-and-chief at Gourmet magazine, Ruth found a passion for food and the culinary industry. In particular, the role of women in restaurants dominated by male personalities was a problem she was passionate about overturning. Tender at the Bone proves that professional success can come from affection for your craft. A love of food and defining her own taste was what led Ruth to become one of the most well known food writers in America. Warning: you may not want to read this on an empty stomach.” – Mary-Rose Sutton

Tender at the Bone proves that professional success can come from affection for your craft.


11. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Kelly Cutrone, 2010

Approx read time: n/a

Goodreads rating: 3.75

Amazon rating: 4.2

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Jenny Izaguirre, Spanish Translator, Shopify

“This book describes how controlling your emotional intelligence and being clear in what you want in life can get you ahead. Kelly Cutrone is direct and she has no filter. She is a badass PR woman in NY who has a Girlboss kind of past.” – Jenny Izaguirre


12. The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration

Moorea Seal, 2015

Approx read time: n/a

Goodreads rating: 4.34

Amazon rating: 4.7

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Katie Hudson, Marketer, Shopify

"I have always been a list person. The 52 Lists Project is literally taking my list game to a new productive and uplifting level. The book is broken into the four seasons, with a list for each week that causes you to really think (mostly about the simple things in life). It is then followed by an action task based on the list you’ve created. For example, ‘List the things you want to be known for’ …’Take Action: What steps have you taken this year that set you on track to becoming the person you want to be? What steps can you still take on?’

This book is technically a journal, and I’ve never been the journalling type of person. However, this is one book that I know, by the end of 2017, I will look back on and have fully completed. From which, I will probably know more about myself, and taking action in things I would have procrastinated on, or never done in the first place. I highly recommend this book for yourself, or as a thoughtful gift for a friend.” – Katie Hudson

photo: Moorea Seal


13. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Brené Brown, 2015

Approx read time: 8 hours

Goodreads rating: 4.23

Amazon rating: 4.7

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Emma Craig, UX Researcher, Shopify

“Brené Brown describes herself as a researcher and storyteller, and in Daring Greatly she sets out to demystify vulnerability through both fact and story. Brown urges us to embrace and be comfortable with vulnerability—a state of being we often shy away from or perceive as weak.

Brown defines vulnerability as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.’ These are three elements that every entrepreneur is likely to encounter almost daily, and if the approach is to resist vulnerability, it will only persist. This book is an excellent resource for familiarizing yourself with the emotions associated with vulnerability, and becoming comfortable with underlying vulnerability in most emotion and action. Ultimately, through embracing vulnerability and imperfection, readers have the opportunity to become more courageous and engage in greater work.” – Emma Craig

Brown urges us to embrace and be comfortable with vulnerability.


14. The Art of Asking

Amanda Palmer, 2015

Approx read time: 11 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.96

Amazon rating: 4.7

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Cassie Slack, Designer, Shopify

“The Art of Asking is a deeply personal, funny, and helpful book. From feeling like a fraud to asking to get paid or for a couch to sleep on, this book is full of useful stories—even if you're not dressed as a seven foot tall bride asking strangers for money.” – Cassie Slack


15. You Can Heal Your Life

Louise Hay, 1984

Approx read time: 5 hours

Goodreads rating: 4.14

Amazon rating: 4.7

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Jenny Izaguirre, Spanish Translator, Shopify

“You Can Heal Your Life is about understanding your thought process and how your thoughts can make you sick, depressed, and miserable. It shows you the path to self-reconciliation, and to have positive thoughts that later transform into achievements in all aspects of life.” – Jenny Izaguirre


16. Bossypants

Tina Fey, 2013

Approx read time: 5 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.94

Amazon rating: 4.3

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Dayna Winter, Storyteller, Shopify

“Bossypants reads like a memoir, and less like the tactical management guide I expected. It was a great read—funny, vulnerable, and relatable—though Tina Fey’s script-writing prowess doesn’t necessarily translate to a great writing style for print. Shortcomings aside, I do think that this is an important read for women. Between laugh-out-loud moments are some hard learned lessons on the path to ‘having it all’. This is an incredibly successful woman who made it in a 'man’s world', still struggling with universal questions like: ‘Career or baby?’ If you get nothing else from this book but a few laughs and a feeling that your challenges are not yours alone, it’s still a worthy read.” – Dayna Winter

This is an incredibly successful woman who made it in a 'man’s world', still struggling with universal questions like: 'Career or baby?'


17. Unfinished Business

Anne-Marie Slaughter, 2015

Approx read time: 9 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.94

Amazon rating: 4.1

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Jenn Daly, Product Growth Manager, Shopify

“If you don’t know Anne-Marie Slaughter, now is a great time to get to know this remarkable woman. In her career, she’s held many notable positions such as first female Dean at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. It was leaving her role at the U.S. State Department where she experienced the hostile environment faced by working mothers. In her book, Slaughter rationalizes that making changes to the workplace and government policy will benefit everyone.

As more women open Shopify stores, they are creating for themselves more flexible work the way Slaughter did when returning to teaching. I believe hearing the strong fight Slaughter has taken on to make cultural changes above the Lean-In movement is truly inspiring.” – Jenn Daly


18. Yes Please

Amy Poehler, 2015

Approx read time: 7 hours

Goodreads rating: 3.8

Amazon rating: 4.2

Buy this book

Recommended by: 
Lindsey Peacock, Content Marketer, Shopify

"It's nearly impossible to encapsulate all the wisdom the popular Parks and Recreation star imparts in Yes Please. While incidentally funny with a dash of self-help advice, the book's most practical takeaway that's applicable to both life and business is ‘yes, and…’ Rather than saying ‘no’ or dismissing an idea or opportunity outright, build on it using this well-known improv exercise." – Lindsey Peacock

It's nearly impossible to encapsulate all the wisdom the popular Parks and Recreation star imparts in Yes Please.


Since we’re all big fans of lifelong learning around these parts, we’ve added a few more titles to our own to-read lists for 2017: 

Have you read any of these titles? What did you think? Are we missing any of your favorites? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy reading, Best You!

About the Author

Dayna Winter is a Storyteller at Shopify. She follows more dogs than humans on Instagram and isn't a real redhead.

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