7 Books Sheryl Sandberg Thinks You Should Read—But Only if You Want to Be Awesome at Work
Previous posts have provided the recommended reading lists of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. Now I figure it’s time to expand our reading beyond the billionaire boys’ club.
This post consists of books that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recommended in a recent New York Times interview. While she didn’t identify these books as being specifically for women, they all fit well with Sandberg’s own book, Lean In.
1. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
Five-Second Summary: A novelist explains her philosophy of life through a series of loosely connected personal observations.
Why You Should Read It: Quindlen’s fictional works center around women’s roles and how they see themselves, so women will find her encouragement and advice about thses topics particularly apt.
Fun Factoid: The core of this book was a commencement address that Quindlen didn’t deliver due to planned protests from anti-abortion activists.
Best Quote: “But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart.”
2. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Five-Second Summary: A talented comedian takes a wry look at life, the media, motherhood, and her career.
Why You Should Read It: Amid the humor, Fey takes on the big issues of women in the workplace, like the glass ceiling and the tendency of men to diss women in meetings.
Fun Factoid: In 2014, Sandberg launched a campaign to ban the word “bossy” to encourage young women to seek more leadership roles.
Best Quote: “My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”
3. Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman
Five-Second Summary: How success emerges naturally from holding to and acting on ethical values.
Why You Should Read It: Studies have shown that in the workplace men are more likely than women to act unethically. This book’s redefinition of the role of ethics thus plays to women’s strengths.
Fun Factoid: Sandberg regularly recommends this book to Facebook employees.
Best Quote: “Have you ever driven down the highway on cruise control, engaged in a conversation or daydreaming, only to realize you missed your exit? You didn’t literally lose consciousness, but you dimmed your awareness. Relevant details, such as your location and the actions needed to reach your goal, receded from the forefront of your mind. Your eyes were open, but you didn’t see. This is a poor way to drive—and an even poorer way to live.”
4. Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis
Five-Second Summary: An unsparing, funny look at fatherhood from a husband’s viewpoint.
Why You Should Read It: Working mothers face many difficulties in the workplace; it helps to know that working fathers struggle too.
Fun Factoid: Lewis is best known for his books about business and finance, such as The Big Short.
Best Quote: “Memory loss is the key to human reproduction. If you remembered what new parenthood was actually like you wouldn’t go around lying to people about how wonderful it is, and you certainly wouldn’t ever do it twice.”
5. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton PhD
Five-Second Summary: Where most business books tell you to strengthen your weaknesses, this one suggests you make yourself better at what you already do well.
Why You Should Read It: The assumption in the workplace is often that women must develop and adopt a masculine management style to be successful leaders, when in fact they’d be better off building on their own ability to manage in their own unique way.
Fun Factoid: Facebook considers itself a “strengths-based organization” in the sense that it tries to fit jobs to people rather than the other way around.
Best Quote: “From this point of view, to avoid your strengths and to focus on your weaknesses isn’t a sign of diligent humility. It is almost irresponsible. By contrast the most responsible, the most challenging, and, in the sense of being true to yourself, the most honorable thing to do is face up to the strength potential inherent in your talents and then find ways to realize it.”
6. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber
Five-Second Summary: Describes how Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe and hairstyles came to represent the decadent excess of the French court.
Why You Should Read It: It will make you feel better about having to wear uncomfortable suits to work.
Fun Factoid: Weber was Sandberg’s college roommate.
Best Quote: “Although, as many scholars have pointed out, she did not evince a sustained interest in politics qua broad-reaching international or domestic policy, it is my belief that she identified fashion as a key weapon in her struggle for personal prestige, authority, and sometimes mere survival.”
7. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
Five-Second Summary: A guide for building a business on a shoestring budget.
Why You Should Read It: Women are underrepresented as founders of startups. This book provides a strong foundation for starting a company.
Fun Factoid: Facebook encapsulates this philosophy by hanging motivational posters reading: “Stay Focused & Keep Shipping.”
Best Quote: “The first problem is the allure of a good plan, a solid strategy, and thorough market research. In earlier eras, these things were indicators of likely success. The overwhelming temptation is to apply them to startups too, but this doesn’t work, because startups operate with too much uncertainty. Startups do not yet know who their customer is or what their product should be. As the world becomes more uncertain, it gets harder and harder to predict the future. The old management methods are not up to the task. Planning and forecasting are only accurate when based upon a long, stable operating history and a relatively static environment. Startups have neither.”
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