There are so many good books in the world to read, so sometimes, it’s hard to even know where to start. And when it comes to professional books that impact us and shape us, there are so many options to choose from – and not all of them are actually helpful. As the year is winding down, you may find that you have some windows of time. Now is a great time to crack open a new book and do a little bit of professional development.

Top 10 Books for your Professional Development

While everyone has different opinions on what is a good book for them, I have focused on books that have pushed me in life and work. I only put books on this list that I’ve read because I want to be able to actually vouch for them.

1. The Happiness Advantage

So, this book is the only one in the list that I listed in order of my favorite… it is without a doubt, the one book that has changed my outlook on life more than any other on this list. Written by Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage looks at the idea of success and how we think we get there. Here’s a snippet from the book jacket, “Most people want to be successful in life. And of course, everyone wants to be happy. When it comes to the pursuit of success and happiness, most people assume the same formula: if you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. The only problem is that a decade of cutting-edge research in the field of positive psychology has proven that this formula is backwards. Success does not beget happiness.” This is an absolute must read for everyone.

2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Simon Sinek is by far, my all time favorite public speaker. Simon’s Ted Talks occupy most of the top 10 Ted talks for a reason, he is brilliant… and not boring. His book, Start with Why, approaches the reason why many of the world’s greatest leaders achieved their success. If you are a leader or aspire to be a leader in the workplace, whether civilian, military, or elected…this is a book you must read. If you want to inspire others to take action, and you are in a position to do so (or want to be), read this book!

3. The Missing Piece

At first glance, this book looks like a children’s book. However, Shel Silverstein is one of the greatest authors and poets of our time, and he did such a good job of teaching life lessons through simple means. So no, this is not a children’s book. The Missing Piece is a story about a circle that is missing a piece, like a slice of missing pizza. The circle rolls down the road in search of it’s missing piece, all the while singing:

Oh, I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece

I’m lookin’ for my missin’ piece

Hi-dee-ho, here I go

lookin’ for my missin’ piece

Finally the circle finds the missing piece which fits perfectly, but something is wrong… the circle can’t sing and do the things it likes doing. How often are we like the circle? Looking for something to make us happy when in fact it’s right in front of you? Read this book then sit and think about it. 

4. Who Moved My Cheese

What a great book! Who Moved My Cheese is about change in the workplace and how you adapt to it. When you are used to the “cheese” being in the same place day in and day out, how do you react when it’s not where you are used to it being? Change in the workplace and life and how you react to it can define who you are and how successful you can be. This is a timely book in light of so much changing this year in how we work.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This book is an all time classic! Steven R. Covey’s book on building not just habits but the right habits has been read all over the world. Covey passed away in 2012, but his legacy remains. Translated into 40 languages and over 25 million copies sold, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People continues to change lives every day.

6. Emotional Intelligence

Everyone knows about IQ tests, but what about emotional intelligence? Are you emotionally intelligent? According to Psychology Today, Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Can you manage your emotions in the workplace? Better yet, can you manage other’s emotions? Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence with the idea that you can conquer your emotions and use them for good. Equally important, can you learn to manage your employees and coworker’s emotions?

7. The Power of Habit

Habit is a powerful force in life. Throughout your life, you will learn bad habits and good habits. Overcoming bad habits is a powerful thing; however, learning to build good habits is even more powerful. The Power of Habit explores why and how we build habits and how to use good habits to your benefit in the workplace and out of the workplace.

8. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World

On May 17th, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven gave the commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin. This speech was so inspiring, the Admiral turned it into a book called Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World. By making your bed first thing when you get up, you have already accomplished something within the first 10 minutes of your day, and it will set the stage for how the rest of your day will go. Just as a primer on Admiral McRaven, here’s a small bio:

Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed and the New York Times bestseller Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces.

I would say he qualifies as someone who can get things done!

9. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

This book is an absolute joy to read… no pun intended. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu collaborated on this book to discuss the idea of joy and how one can achieve it in life. One of the most interesting stories in the book is from the Dalai Lama on how focusing on someone else’s struggles and pain can help you to forget about your pain. If you get outside of yourself, you can experience more joy by helping others and being present.

10. Think and Grow Rich

For 25 years, the author, Napoleon Hill, spent his time studying the most successful men in the world. One of his foremost subjects of study was John D. Rockefeller, who by today’s money would be worth $318 billion dollars! The output of Hill’s study is what he called “The Laws of Success.” I won’t give it away, but this is truly an amazing book that will change how you think about success and the way in which you can achieve it.

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Greg Stuart is the owner and editor of He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He has 20 years of IT experience and currently works as an IT Consultant both in the private and public sector. Greg holds a BS in Information Technology and an MBA degree. He currently resides in Southeast Idaho. You can follow him on Twitter @vDestination, read his blog ( and listen to his podcast (