Back to School Reading List: 3 Cornerstone Books for Professionals of Any Age

Summer is quickly drawing to a close and the smell of sharpened No. 2 pencils is filling the air. And you know what that means, right? It’s time to buckle down and dig into some Back to School reading! Whether you spent the summer lazing by the pool or pressing your nose to the grind, everyone can do with some wise words and a new perspective. So, polish up your reading glasses and find a cozy spot on the couch because we’ve picked out three great reads to help you kick off September and carry you through the fourth quarter. These are appropriate books for professionals of any age, from the corporate executive to the young entrepreneur. And as an added bonus, we’ve broken them down into three easy-to-digest categories. This way you can divide and conquer (like a boss) and be ready when the next list drops in Q1!

ZBS gears up for Back to School reading

The Snappy Read

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Published in 2000, this is the debut novel and international number one best-seller of journalist and New Yorker staff writer, Malcolm Gladwell. Considered by many as required reading for marketers, The Tipping Point explores how an idea (or product) can go from complete obscurity to mass popularity, seemingly in an instant. The title refers to that “one dramatic moment”—the tipping point—“when everything can change all at once.” Gladwell compares this phenomenon to a viral epidemic; a concept anyone who’s seen “Sneezing Panda” can understand.

Critics will argue that this book has lost its bite. One Goodreads reviewer claimed it was like looking at a “snapshot of a fossil.” Ouch. Yes, Gladwell published this book almost twenty years ago. And, yes, his data is drawn from 1990’s case studies. Furthermore this book was published before social media truly boomed. (Which truly lends a whole new connotation to Gladwell’s thoughts on the power of word-of-mouth, eh?) But, so what? None of these characteristics are reason for dismissal. Every book is indicative of the time in which it was written. And if you, dear reader, are half the intellectual I suspect you are, then you’ll know to take pseudo-science with a grain of salt.

Settle in with these books for professionals of any age

The Tipping Point is a quick and thoughtful read that will have you looking at the world around you differently. Simple as that. (Don’t you wish all your childhood Back to School reading had been like that?) If you don’t expect a highly scientific sociological breakdown and are comfortable with large doses of anecdotal evidence, you’re in for a punchy enjoyable read. Compared to many recommended books for professionals that are dull, dry, and dense, Gladwell’s work will feel like a breath of fresh air.

Watch for: Discussions on networking, social change, persuasion, and the power of storytelling

The Deep Dive

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

How many times have you heard “based on a true story” and wondered how much Hollywood glitter you’d have to dust off to get to the truth? Too many to count? Well, no more disappointments because Lansing’s Endurance is a proper harrowing and gripping account based on an actual true story. Chronicling the 1915 journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 27-man crew on their South Pole expedition, Lansing describes in sobering detail the horrors these men faced as their ship was crushed by ice floes and they struggled to survive a 1,000 mile trek to safety. Through survivor accounts and diary entries, Lansing reveals the strength and determination these men showed as they endured incredible hardships. With leadership, trust, and extraordinary teamwork, Shackleton and his entire crew survived an odyssey of biblical proportions.

A young woman dives into Back to School reading.

First published in 1959, Endurance struggled to capture an audience increasingly interested in consuming Space Age-related material. The book eventually went out of print until publishing company Carroll and Graf resurrected it in 1986. Publisher and editorial director Kent Carroll purchased the rights after being charmed by an old copy in a used bookstore. Over the next ten years, the book climbed the New York Times best-seller list and sold a half-million copies. By the early 00s, it had inspired three films and two business books. And today, it graces many lists of best books for professionals, as well as required reading for high schoolers. (That’s what you call a comeback.) History masquerading as thrilling adventure, this book also contains plenty of juicy bits for deeper introspection.

Watch for: Themes of perseverance, sudden change, resourcefulness, teamwork, and the complicated facets of leadership

The Coffee Table Book

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

We know you’re a busy professional and may not be able to devote quite as much time to Back to School reading as you’d like. Besides, after an arduous trek through snow and a deep look at modern trends, you’ll be itching for something light. Allow Letters of Note to fill that void. Based on the incredibly popular website of the same nameLetters of Note is a compilation of over 125 letters penned by some of the world’s most interesting people. With notes from Elvis Presley, Queen Elizabeth II, and Roald Dahl, this book runs the gamut from entertaining to inspiring. As a celebration of the lost art of letter writing, it shows us the power that can be unleashed when pen meets paper.

A collection of inspiring letters makes for a neat addition to a list of books for professionals.

Presented in a beautiful layout that includes explanatory introductions, transcripts, and snippets of the actual correspondence, Letters of Note is best enjoyed in its hard cover format. Check your local library or score one on Amazon for around $20. With its engaging content and visual weight, it would be a worthy addition to any coffee table.

Watch for: Words of inspiration and graceful examples of classic letter writing

Did we meet your expectations for Back to School reading? Let us know in the comments what great reads you recommend as ideal books for professionals. And don’t forget to check back for next quarter’s assignment!

Leave a Reply