12 Inspiring Books for (and by) Women Entrepreneurs

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Shonda Rhimes.

As a columnist at Inc.com, I have the pleasure of writing lots of roundups of great business books, from billionaires’ recommendations to new releases. These lists are full of great insights, but one thing frequently bothers me about them — the vast majority of the authors tend to be men. That’s especially true when the recommendations are focused on books by and for entrepreneurs.

This is a shame for two reasons. First, because science shows that having visible role models who look like you makes a huge difference in inspiring the ambitions of young people. Seeing examples of successful women and hearing them tell their authentic stories is hugely empowering for the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

The second reason, as Inc.com recently highlighted with its list of 100 incredible female founders, is that there are just so many amazing woman entrepreneurs out there doing great work — and writing great books. So to remedy the balance, here is a run down of some of the best and most inspiring reads by women entrepreneurs.

1. Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 Into a Billion Dollar Business by Barbara Corcoran

No list of inspiring books by female entrepreneurs would be complete without this one from the Shark Tank investor and real estate mogul. It details her rise from penniless waitress to wildly successful entrepreneur, offering advice for those hoping to follow a similar trail.

2. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso?

Another classic of the rags-to-riches genre, this time by the Nasty Gal founder. The Washington Post called the book “Lean In for misfits.”

3. Body and Soul: Profits With Principles by Anita Roddick ?

If you’re hoping to start a business that won’t just make you money but will also make the world a better place, than this autobiography by the Body Shop founder is a must-read.

4. The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It Into a Global Brand by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor

The complete title pretty much sells the book, but if you need more convincing, HuffPost raves: “This story takes us from making maternity jeans on the floor of a one-bedroom Hollywood apartment to launching collections on the runways in Paris with so much momentum that you just can’t put the book down.”

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Launching a worldwide empire, fighting for social change, and making a boatload of money are all well and good, but you won’t be able to enjoy any of it if you completely burn yourself out in the process. That’s where Huffington’s book comes in, explaining how to reach for the stars while still saying sane and healthy.

6. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes?

Recently, Rhimes proudly announced she’s the highest paid showrunner on television, raking in something north of $400 million for creating hits like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In this memoir, Rhimes offers a startling honest account of how she went from terrified introvert to cultural powerhouse by challenging herself to say yes to everything that scared her for one year.

7. Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong by Jessica Bacal?

Being a woman entrepreneur isn’t all “Atta girl!” moments and inspirational realizations. It also involves plenty of screw-ups and steps backward. In this book, high-achieving women, from business owners to Stanford professors to literal rock stars, describe their biggest stumbles and how they recovered.

8. What I Told My Daughter by Nina Tassler?

In this one, a “diverse group of women reflect on the best advice and counsel they have given their daughters either by example, throughout their lives, or in character-building, teachable moments between parent and child,” explains Amazon.

9. A Good Time to Be a Girl by Helena Morrissey

British CEO-turned-entrepreneur Helena Morrissey’s book is the perfect choice for those who read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and wondered, ‘Why do women always have to act more like the guys? Can’t they adapt to us a little bit?’ In it she “declares that women should be reinventing the system rather than simply ‘leaning in’ to an outdated one,” explains The Independent.

10. Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

Lesser is the founder of the Omega Institute, a retreat center focused on wellness and spirituality, but her book isn’t just for New Age types, insists Forbes‘s Liz Elting. “It’s all about using moments of failure and hurt to spark positive growth and change,” she writes, and “that’s an invaluable skill — and mindset really — for a businesswoman to develop.”

11. Daring Greatly by Bren Brown

Bren Brown went from academic researcher to viral sensation and much in-demand, Oprah-approved consultant with one viral TED Talk. Through her book, she’s helping others make the same leap into greatness by rejecting shame and embracing their vulnerability.

12. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

As a CEO coach, Scott has worked with top companies like Dropbox and Twitter. In this book she shares the same wisdom, teaching leaders how to give feedback, listen effectively, dole out praise, and walk the line between being a pushover and being a jerk.

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