The Best Books of 2021 to Read in 2022

I am a bibliophile (noun: a person who collects or has a great love of books). For the past several years I’ve set a goal to read 52 books a year. In 2021, I upped my game a bit and set my goal at 60. To date, I’ve read 79 books and will likely read a few more before the year is up. Now, why am I telling you this? Well, one, because I love reading and I love books and want to encourage you to love them too! And two, because regardless of how many books you’ve read or listened to this year, I would challenge you to stretch yourself and add a few more books to your growth plan in 2022.

The average person reads 12 books per year. And that number is slightly inflated due to more avid readers. Now, I know you aren’t average. Let’s take a look at another number: CEOs read about 60 books per year or 5X that of your average individual. Think about the additional knowledge and insights you can gain by reading that many books each year.

Be purposeful about the books you choose. Is there a particular topic you want to know more about? Do you want to learn more about one of your favorite celebrities, business leaders, or historical figures? Do you want to explore the classics? Or get lost in a great beach read as part of a self-care routine? As Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Where do you want to go and grow in 2022?

Looking for your next book? Here are my favorites from 2021, in no particular order:

1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Second Edition): No Guilt. No Excuses. No BS. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi

What I liked most about this book was the focus on defining what your rich life looks like (that can include a daily latte!) and then designing your financial life around maximizing those things you love (great vacations, daily takeout, new hardcover books) and then saving on things that aren’t a high priority for you. Once you know where and how you want to spend your money, Sethi walks you through exactly how to get there – by paying down debt, optimizing your credit cards, automating your investments, negotiating a raise at work, and more. Simple and actionable advice to help you achieve financial freedom.

2. Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe

As a recovering workaholic and someone who still finds immense joy and satisfaction from my work, this book really opened my mind to different perspectives, had me questioning some of my long-held beliefs, and has helped me discover a new language to discuss my work and career. Work, of course, can be fulfilling and pleasurable. I hope we all are able to find a workplace like that. But can we truly “love” work if it can’t love us back? Does the concept of “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” actually do a disservice to workers? Are we (and companies) undervaluing our impact and contribution in the name of love? All that and more is explored throughout this book, which offers a journalistic approach and historical context to shape the conversation. Read it and then grab a friend or colleague to discuss!

3. Bet on Yourself: Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities by Ann Hiatt

Bet on Yourself Book for Assistants and Leaders

Hear directly from Ann Hiatt, former right hand to the world’s top tech CEOs—Google’s Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer. Learn how she took charge of her career, leaned into learning opportunities, leveled up her leadership, and the habits and principles that can get you there too. She is a wealth of knowledge and I particularly appreciated hearing about her career journey from assistant to Executive Business Partner to Chief of Staff, and then Founder of her own leadership strategy and consulting company. Her advice will inspire you to bet on yourself and take action towards designing the career of your dreams.

4. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

This is the incredible story of Tara Westover, who was born to a survivalist family in Idaho, kept out of school and mainstream society, and didn’t enter a classroom until she was 17. Despite this, the quest for knowledge fueled her and she went on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. She was born just a year after I was, so her parallel, yet completely different coming-of-age story was really interesting. I love a good memoir that gives you a glimpse into a whole other way of living that many of us are probably not familiar with.

5. That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

This is the untold story of how Netflix came to be (no, it wasn’t because of some late fees at Blockbuster). Randolph, the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix shares the inside story of one of the world’s best-known companies. And, like all great founder stories, the best parts are what went wrong, the failures, and the decision points that could have led Netflix to crash and burn. Along the way, Randolph explains how the idea became a reality, how his leadership evolved, and when he knew it was time to let go. A great entrepreneurial story all around!

6. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

This is the quintessential beach read of 2021. Light. Entertaining. Set in a tropical location. Romance. Humor. It reads like one of your favorite early 2000s romantic comedies starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. It is a complete escape when you need a break from all the business articles, industry news, or professional development books you’re reading.

7. The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel

What stories do you have about money? Is money the root of all evil? Does money give you power and options? Where did you learn your behaviors and thought patterns around money? In this book, Housel sheds some light on how real-world people – like you and me – make decisions about money from emotions, prior experiences, marketing, and our unique view, not necessarily based on spreadsheets. Behavior is the driving force behind financial decisions. Housel will teach you how to take these thinking patterns and behaviors and make smarter decisions about money.

8. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

In this book, Iger shares the lessons he learned while running Disney during their days of massive growth and innovation, including the acquisition of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox. His detailed stories of how he made decisions, handled conflict, negotiated billion-dollar deals, and lead the company of over 220,000 employees worldwide are impressive and inspiring. Iger’s clarity of vision and commitment to seeing it through is a great reminder for us all.

9. Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn

What a story about the man in black! I’ve always been a fan of Johnny Cash’s music, but this book opened my eyes to his many layers. I really liked how Hillburn shared the stories and struggles behind the songs. From his days as an early musical icon, to his TV show, to his personal struggles in between, to his relationship with June Carter, Vivian Cash, and his children, to his financial troubles, to some of his final and most iconic music before his death. Johnny Cash’s career spanned decades from the legendary Folsom Prison concert to his haunting music video for “Hurt”. Truly an American icon and a fascinating man. This biography was the perfect listen before my trip to Nashville in August.

10. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Grant is an organizational psychologist and a Wharton professor, as well as a best-selling author. His books are always well researched and bring a fresh perspective to topics, that leave you questioning your ideas and looking at things differently. I love a book that challenges my thinking! In Think Again, Grant explores the art of critical thinking, strategic thinking, and rethinking to help you set aside your ego, open your mind, and ultimately excel at work and in life. Intelligence isn’t the answer. But mental flexibility and the ability to disagree is. The power of knowing what we don’t know is key.

11. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

A total page-turner. A psychological thriller that had me guessing until the end. A murder. A murderess who refuses to talk. A search for the truth that leads a criminal psychotherapist down a twisting path that consumes him. This is the perfect read for a snowy night with a glass of red wine. Don’t forget to keep a few lights on.

For a list of the best books for those looking to make the move from Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff, check out this post. What were your favorite books of 2021?

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