Looking for the perfect book gift for an ambitious woman who wants to grow and develop in 2019?
Here I’ve gathered the best insights from friends and connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Women whose opinions I trust. These are books worthy of your attention because they will help you to grow, develop and learn about yourself, so that you lead a happier and more successful life. No matter your definition of ‘successful’.
Some I have read; others are on my ‘waitlist’ or my birthday wishlist!
For full disclosure, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases – sadly not enough to run away to live in a cottage by the sea – and it costs you no more to buy that way.
And please leave a comment if there’s a book you’d like me to include.
65 of the best personal development books for ambitious women
In no particular order – and you might want to bookmark this post so you can come back to it later.
- Playing Big by Tara Mohr – personally I loved her Inner Mentor visualisation and found this a very powerful exercise.
- Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell – its title has become a catchphrase. Despite criticism in the press for her role at Facebook, this is a classic for all ambitious women to reflect on how to step into a leadership role.
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers – lots of stories to help you change your negative thoughts into positive thinking patterns.
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – Goodreads tells us that Elizabeth “shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear“.
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins – who doesn’t want more everyday courage. Check out Mel’s TED talk on How to stop screwing yourself over.
- Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee – I love this book and have made so many small changes which have made an extraordinary impact on my happiness. I loved it so much I chose it for the first journey with The Confident Mother Book Club.
- The Choice by Edith Eger – “One of the best books I’ve read in a long time that continues to impact me … we choose our response to what happens to us.“
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck – the mother of all mindset books. “Inspiring and actionable at the same time“. This is where we first learn about fixed mindset and growth mindset.
- Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N Turner
- Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis (author of Girl, Wash Your Face) is published in April 2019. “I believe we can change the world. But first, we’ve got to stop living in fear of being judged for who we are.”
- You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero – one of the best things I’ve done in 2018 is to buddy up with a badass accountability partner. Don’t just read this book. Do the exercises if you want to change your money mindset.
- How to Be Really Productive by Grace Marshall “Simple, practical tips that help with mindset and busyness, this book helps you get out of overwhelm and into being truly productive” for example, setting ‘Do Dates’ rather than ‘Due Dates’.
- Dare to Lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts by Brené Brown – so many Brené Brown books to choose from however this is the one that women in leadership recommend over and over. “It ties everything together from her previous books (and research), and challenges you to put your shame and guilt aside, and simply be you”.
- The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. We all want and need more confidence. This book shows you how to get it.
- She’s Back: Your guide to returning to work by Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan – turns out Lisa and I both worked at Arthur Andersen at the same time though our paths didn’t cross. Lisa founded She’s Back in 2014, in response to the lack of clear opportunities for women to return to professional life after a career break.
- Project Me by Kelly Pietrangeli – I first came across Kelly 3 years ago and was inspired by her positive and upbeat approach to life, especially when you’re an overworked and overwhelmed mum. Her book is filled with practical strategies, guiding questions, and recommended resources to keep on learning.
- Find Your Thing by Lucy Whittington – so many of us struggle with knowing what ‘our thing’ is. This book is for you if you want to stop doing what you’re good at, and do what you’re brilliant at instead. Or if you already know what you’re brilliant at, get famous for it! Aimed primarily at business owners however the lessons are equally applicable to women in corporate too.
- The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal – explore the science of self-control (how it works and why it matters) and how you can use this to harness your health, happiness and productivity.
- Light is the New Black: A Guide To Answering Your Soul’s Callings and Working Your Light by Rebecca Campbell – describes itself as a guidebook for women who are here to be bright lights in the world – modern-day lightworkers. See also Rise Sister Rise.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama – it’s the book that every woman is reading in 2019, “inspiring in a down to earth manner“. Don’t miss out.
- Get Rich Lucky Bitch: Release your Money Blocks and Live a First Class Life by Denise Duffield-Thomas – I love Denise’s down to earth approach. Denise aims to teach you how to unlock your hidden potential for abundance and break through your money blocks around money. “I wrote this book to give you permission to be as rich as you want”.
- The Universe has Your Back: How to feel safe and trust your life no matter what by Gabrielle Bernstein – “My commitment with this book is to wake up as many people as possible to their connection to faith and joy. In that connection, we can be guided to our true purpose: to be love and spread love.”
- Trusted: The human approach to building outstanding client relationships in a digitised world by Lyn Bromley & Donna Whitlock – “We live in turbulent times where trust has become a massive issue across the globe … bombarded by fake news daily, the media is full of stories that erode our trust. Trusted is full of clear practical advice and guidance about building and maintaining strong relationships, and the ingredients needed for this.”
- Strip Naked and Redress with Happiness by Maria Hocking – described as a handbook not only for surviving adversity, but for discovering how to thrive as a result.
- Fierce Conversations: Achieving success in work and in life, one conversation at a time by Susan Scott – a guide to getting your message across and getting what you want.
- Step Up: Confidence, success and your stellar career in 10 minutes a day by
- Rainbow in the Cloud by Maya Angelou. Again many books to choose from. I like this one because it’s a book of her quotes, organised in themes.
- I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai – this autobiography is an inspirational tale of a girl who fought for her right to be educated and was shot on her way home from school.
- Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Arianna Huffington – co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, Arianna is one of the most influential women in the world. In Thrive she shares her own challenges in balancing career and family life.
- Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin – a great insight into the different ways we create habits, by the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home.
- Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a “Course in Miracles” by Marianne Williamson – practical exercises to encourage you on your own spiritual journey, so that you live a more whole, fulfilling and spiritual life.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, a London-based, award-winning journalist.
- The Pay it Forward Series: Notes to My Younger Self by Kezia Luckett – 18 women from around the world contribute words of wisdom they would have written to a younger version of themselves, in a bid to pay forward their knowledge and experience.
- Me.You. Not a Diary by Dawn French “filled with humour but it seems very much a ‘mindset / clear limitations / create a happier life” kind of book – through sharing her own personal journey
- The Magical Unfolding by Helen Rebello -“Becoming who we really are takes courage… and Helen Rebello has courage in spades as she models the paradox between power and vulnerability in the sharing of her personal story. This is a book about the power of hope and possibility in the often complex journey of life.“
- A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax – lots of guides to mindfulness available and this one brings a sense of humour to the pages.
- Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work: Language, Sex and Power by Deborah Tannen – have you ever wondered why women and men behave and communicate differently? Do you sometimes wonder whether we’re even talking the same language? Deborah is brilliant at demystifying the conversational rituals of women and men. This book focuses specifically on the workplace conversations.
- A History of Britain in 21 Women: A Personal Selection by Jenni Murray. And also A History of the World in 21 Women, also by Jenni Murray.
- The Confident Mother by Sherry Bevan (that’s me). It’s my list so why wouldn’t I include my own book! I interviewed more than 20 successful mothers and experts to find the secret to having it all. I discovered that it’s not about having it all, it’s having the confidence to live your life the way that works for you. Click here to read a sample chapter.
- Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P Frankel.
- Reset! A blueprint for a better life by Rosalyn Palmer – this book promises a journey of self-discovery so that you can overcome and reprogramme negative patterns.
- The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence by Brigette Hyacinth – lots of food for thought in a rapidly changing world with the introduction of artificial intelligence.
- Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam, one of the world’s leading experts of time management and productivity. Many of us feel pressured for time however Laura’s research discovered that those who are mindful of their time are the ones who feel they have enough time.
- How To Feel Differently About Food: liberation and recovery from emotional eating by Sally Baker and Liz Hogon – how to think differently around food. Given that 65% of women are currently “on a diet”, it’s a top of mind subject for many women.
- Fall In Love with Life by Donna Higton – in which she shares her favourite techniques, tips and tools for helping you fall deeply, madly in love with your life, based on her experiences as a coach.
- Bent Back into Shape: Beating Addiction Through Yoga by Esther Nagle – although it’s a personal story of overcoming addiction, it has lots to offer non addicts, especially those experiencing other stress related difficulties.
- Work Like a Woman: A Manifesto for Change by Mary Portas – this is not about leaning in. This is about a different way of working altogether. Her style is engaging, the stories are real – lots of talking points!
- Storm in a D Cup by June Kenton – the story of the woman who transformed the fortunes of Rigby & Peller, now an internationally renowned lingerie retailer.
- How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings by Sarah Cooper. “A bittersweet funny book. One where you wish it wasn’t so accurate.”
- Letters from The Way: A story of self-discovery on the Camino by Angela Barnard – this appeals to me because I would love to walk the Camino de Santiago. When I was training for my marathon hike earlier this year, I loved the time and space for thought and reflection.
- Loo Rolls to Lycra: The Ironman Dreams of an IBD Sufferer by Caroline Bramwell – worth the read for the title alone, surely. This book is described as the “the epitome of the self-belief that anything is possible“. Definitely on my wishlist.
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The author’s journey in a year to boost her happiness, based on scientific studies and her personal insights with top tips on how to create your own happiness project.
- How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. The authors talk about 12 habits that tend to hold women back at work.
- Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias by Dr Pragya Agarwal. Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist. Hive describes this as a ‘thoroughly researched and comprehensive look at unconscious bias and how it impacts day-to-day life, from job interviews to romantic relationships to saving for retirement’.
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
- How to Change Everything by Naomi Klein.
- Be A Free Range Human : Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills by Marianne Cantwell. How to break out of your career and get paid for being you.
- How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned by Elizabeth Day. “Brave, honest, raw, and inspiring, it helped me see a side of myself that I’ve rarely been brave enough to unpick, but at the same time felt comfortable, like I was chatting with a trusted friend.”
- The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis. is good “for building confidence that taking time out or moving to a different industry is not a disaster for your career and how to get benefit out of it”.
- Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott is based on a dynamic of caring personally while challenging directly, to show “you how to be successful while retaining your integrity and humanity“.
- Grit by Angela Duckworth in which the author argues that talent and intelligence matter less to success than grit. Discover what grit is, where it comes from, how it drives success and how you can develop your grit.
- The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart. Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it.
- The Discomfort Zone: How to Get What You Want by Living Fearlessly by Farrah Storr.
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – a year that changed her life when she said YES to everything no matter how scary.
Thank you everyone who has contributed suggestions for this list. Which ones will you be adding to your wishlist?