My Top 9 Books for Creative Entrepreneurs

9booksThere are a lot of things that went into building Jane Reaction. I went to school, I got a lot of advice from friends (Google was my best friend) and years worth of trial and error. I also read a few great books along the way that changed the way I looked at things, broke down my fear, or taught me how to make more money. Here are my top 9 favorite books that helped me get to where I am today as a creative entrepreneur. If you want to try something new, if you have a crazy idea but don’t know what to do with it, if you want to be inspired to go out there and get what you want, read these books.

9. The power of starting something stupid by Richie Norton – Stupid is the new smart. (Shameless plug – I designed the cover for this book and some of the art within it’s pages -so yay for me! haha) This book is great for anyone who has ever had a stupid idea that they thought could make them a lot of money. I love this quote the most – “If someone thinks that your ideas, or the changes you want to make, or the dreams bubbling up inside of you, are stupid, welcome to the Club.” We’re all scared, we’re all being told our ideas are silly… but it’s the people who believe in themselves, push forward and don’t look back that make the magic happen.

8. Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk- Because if you are going to start anything today you need to know how to compete with all of the noise. Social media has drastically changed the way we consume, socialize, and LIVE. This book will help you understand the way different social platforms function, the psychology behind likes, shares and comments and how to throw a mean right hook.

7. Essentialism by Greg McKeown – Take a deep breath. Read this book, and get ready to let go. Let go of stuff, things, responsibility that doesn’t serve anyone, guilt, things that waste your time, activities that don’t feed your soul… Read this book – it will help you give yourself the permission to let go of things that don’t make you a better you.

6. “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”  by Paul Arden – Need a quicky? Feeling a little ho hum? Read this book while waiting in line somewhere. It will give you a boost. I promise. It’s a feel good quick read. It makes you think, “Heeeey! I really do want to be good at something, therefore I am good at something. The end.”

5. Re-work by Jason Fried – This is another quick read. I loved this book because it points out where creatives fall in to the trap of thinking they need to have more money, or more followers, or better branding, or a nicer car in order to get going on something. You don’t need half the stuff you think you do in order to start a business. You just need to start.

4. 4 hour work week by Timothy Ferriss – Read the book or listen to some of the TED talk. These ideas are worth getting in your brain. Want to work less and live more? Duh, we all do. This book will help you figure out how you can do more of the living stuff and less of the stuff you don’t really like doing.

3. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg  – This was a great book for me when I was dealing with guilt over raising kids and pursuing a career at the same time. If you are a woman struggling with being a anything but masculine in the working world read this book. You’re not bitchy, you’re confident. You’re not greedy, you’re just looking out for you’re family’s well being. This book helped me re-think a lot of the negative characteristics our society places on successful women. I’m not a bad mom because I work. I am a better mom for showing my kids that I value hard work, that’s it’s ok to feel good about your accomplishments, and that working hard means you get to play harder!

2. Daring Greatly – by Brené Brown – Brené. You. Are. A. Genius. If you can’t read her book at least listen to her TED talks. They will change your life. I promise. I listened to the TED talks and then I read the book. And then I made my book club read the book so that I could talk about the book even more. If you’re scared, if you’re wrestling with fear, if you have ever felt shame or guilt read this book. It’s not just a good book for creatives, it’s a good book for ANYONE. I think this book specifically helped me with my business by helping me work through some of my own fears and also realizing that a lot of clients I work with have their own fear that they are bringing to the table. It’s now part of my creative process to understand what some of their fears are, what negative thinking might be holding them back from taking big risks and daring greatly – and then helping them overcome that.

1. Breaking the time barrier  by Mike McDerment- ok this isn’t really a book. It’s a PDF that you can find here. It’s a quick read. It’s not over the top inspiring. It’s not going to make you feel like you can conquer the world. BUT this is HANDS DOWN the single most helpful thing I read while learning to operate a creative business. It’s so good and so valuable that I really, truly hesitated sharing it here. But here you go. Read it. After reading this you will value your time and your services twice as much as you do now – which will only make you more successful. More successful = more money. So you’re welcome, I basically just gave you a raise.

Books on my list to read next – Creative Confidence, Nicely Said, Growth Hacker Marketing and Girl Boss. Anyone want to start a book club? We could all read the same book in the same month and then discuss here?


  • Meagen

    Thanks so much for this list. Definitely putting “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” on my must read list!

  • Kirstin

    Thank you for sharing so many great recommendations! I’m definitely going to check out “Breaking The Time Barrier”. The two books that have helped me the most in my photography business so far have been Annie Leibovitz At Work which gave me a ton of inspiration but the best part of the book is the section in the back where Annie answers questions she’s gotten over the years, and the second was The Investment Answer by Gordon Murray and Daniel C. Goldie. Reading that book was the BEST thing I have ever done for myself in my adult life. As a freelancer I can’t rely on a company to invest in my retirement for me and I knew NOTHING about how to do that myself. This book spelled it all out in frank and easy terms. I now have a retirement account and the whole process (and theory behind it) was much easier than Wallstreet wants you to think!

  • Erika

    Y’all made the internet worthwhile today (thanks for chiming in, Kirstin!) Awesome recommendations. I’m down for a book club!

  • Lucrecer

    I have read some of the books on the list and they are good ones. I am game for a book club!

  • Kendra Aronson

    Hi Jane! Yes please, I’d love to join in on your book club!!! Shoot me an email, let’s read, and nerd out together :)

    Thanks for sharing these recs, I just added a bunch to my Amazon wish list! Please let me know which book you plan on reading first and I will order it asap!

  • Laurel

    This is so timely for me! Thanks for the suggestions. Even reading some of your write-ups was already very encouraging! I recently read Breaking the Time Barrier, and I loved how it explained why our work is valuable and that its not just about how long it takes to get the job done. I’d also suggest Amy & Jen Hood’s (hoodzpahdesign) e-book called How to Establish Your Small Design Business. Those ladies are so on point!

  • kat t.

    oh yes, brene brown. that woman is amazing. i read daring greatly after noticing a sidebar graphic over at brandi bernoskie’s site. brene is inspiring. have you heard about her audiobook called ‘the power of vulnerability’? equally awesome, inspiring, and funny!

  • Paige

    Hey there! I’m thinking of putting together a book club, too! Would love to have you join/collaborate on it! I’m thinking GirlBoss for March — it’s a quick easy read!

    Love these books, too! Going to revisit The Power of Starting Something Stupid!

  • Joanna

    Hi Jane, I’m so happy to have found this. Thank you so much for sharing these. I am currently struggling with juggling my career, my blog, and my big idea. So in need of some encouraging words and direction!
    I would love to be a part of this book club!

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  • Kelsey

    Hah on the last one :) I read it a couple months ago and it has changed my entire business since! Amazing stuff. I’m excited to dig in to more of these this summer! Thank you for the inspiring list.

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  • Kirsten

    Hi Jane

    Thank you so much for all the book suggestions! Just starting out (again) they were just what I needed (I ordered quite a few from your list) and already forwarded the ‘time barrier’ PDF to my sister who needed to hear what McDermott had to say, urgently ;-), as did I !!

    Thank again and all the best from London

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