5 Professional Development Books to Read This Summer

Summer is in full swing, and whether you’re planning to do some traveling or just spend time relaxing at home, there’s nothing like a good book to keep you company. If it’s a book that might also provide some professional guidance or personal inspiration, even better. 

We recently shared 5 Great Business Podcasts for Your Summer Vacation, so now, let’s get into a little something for the readers out there. (Most of these books come in an audio version, so you could still pop on those headphones if that’s more your speed.) So whether you’re laying by the pool, sitting out on your deck with the squirrels, or pretending to pay attention at your kid’s next soccer game, here are five (not-boring) professional development books to check out.

#1) Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Brené Brown has written over a dozen bestselling books based on her studies of the emotions and experiences that give meaning to our lives, both personally and professionally. Her most recent book, Dare to Lead, digs deep into what leadership truly means. (Spoiler: It’s not about title, status, or power; it’s about empathy and courage.)

According to Brown, daring leaders don’t pretend to have all the right answers and don’t avoid difficult conversations. Instead, they lean into vulnerability and empower others to do the same.

(Dare to Lead is now also a podcast, for all you audiophiles.)

#2) Allies and Advocates: Creating an Inclusive and Equitable Culture by Amber Cabral

As present and future business leaders, we should all be thinking about how to create and influence more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Author Amber Cabral is an inclusion strategist and thought leader, who teaches individuals and teams how to build meaningful connections with people across diverse backgrounds and identities.  

The best thing about this book is Cabral’s straightforward and approachable style; she shares real examples of inclusion best practices and provides helpful takeaways and action items you can really implement at work or any (and every) area of your life, as you learn to become a stronger ally and advocate.

#3) The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick

Now in its 7th edition, this book has become a classic, must-read manual for anyone new to a management role or considering a path to management in the future. Even for individuals who are the best-of-the-best in their field, managing people adds its own host of challenges and can require an entirely new set of skills. 

The First-Time Manager dives deep into the art of motivating others, becoming an active listener, and overcoming resistance, along with many others skills that are essential to great leadership. McCormick’s lessons throughout the book also include helpful examples and action steps, to help you become the best manager you can be. (You’ll be getting that “World’s Best Boss” mug in no time.)

#4) Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

While not a professional development book per se, this autobiographical account of Elon Musk’s life and career is sure to hold your interest — and perhaps make you think a little differently about your own goals and ambitions. Love him or hate him, you can’t say there’s anything boring about this brilliant (and sometimes bizarre) tech billionaire.

Written by veteran tech journalist Ashlee Vance, this book gives you a deep look into the past, present, and future vision of the entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX. From his childhood in South Africa to selling PayPal for $1.5 billion to launching rockets into space, this book explores what motivates Musk and how he hopes to (continue to) change the world.

#5) Atomic Habits by James Clear

We’ve all got a few bad habits we’d like to break — no judgment. Luckily, help is out there in the form of James Clear’s bestselling book. Clear is a leading expert on habit formation, and in Atomic Habits, he reveals practical strategies for forming good habits and breaking bad ones.

He shares his system for change, informed by biology, psychology, and neuroscience. The book helps you understand how actions become habits and acts as a guide to making good habits a regular part of your life. With true stories from Olympians, artists, and other professionals at the top of their game, this book is sure to inspire you and give you the tools to develop better habits, personally and professionally.