There is one solid way to prepare yourself for the upcoming year: read. Tech mogul Bill Gates has an annual must-read list and trailblazing entrepreneur Jessica Mah reads a new book every week. It's not a coincidence.

I've had a particularly intense 12 months, from selling my first startup to balancing new family needs. Here are the three books that have me well prepared for the upcoming year.

Why it is a must-read: The wise VC Brad Feld breaks down the layered, confusing world of financing into the clearest terms. A must-read if you're even considering entering the startup arena.

Key passage: "While it would be desirable to do venture capital deals with a simple agreement on price, a handshake, and a short legal agreement, this rarely happens."

Why it is a must-read: A powerhouse consultant and speaker, Alan Weiss shares why any work you do should be based not on an obscure hourly or deliverable rate, but on the actual value you're giving to the client.

Key passage: "Most independent consultants find this hard to comprehend: The mere access to your advice and counsel is of significant value to the client. Hence the degree to which that access is used is minor compared to the comforting knowledge that it is there. You are a life insurance policy, in a sense, and the more important the executive life, the more there is riding on it, the higher the premium payment."

Why it is a must-read: An admitted overachiever herself, sociologist Christine Carter gives actionable ways to balance your life, your health, and your career. This book is packed with smart advice and hard-earned wisdom.

Key passage: From our interview: "For high-achieving people, the big problem is confusing happiness with gratification. We've learned happiness is very fleeting. Getting meaning is more lasting, and meaning almost always leads to happiness. It's important to understand the difference."

Bonus: The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution, and Chance by Kayt Sukel (read advance copy, out March 2016)

Why it is a must-read: Cultural scientist Kayt Sukel breaks down why aggressive entrepreneurs are as thoughtful, if not more thoughtful, than more conservative businesspeople, and how smart risk taking is both important and necessary to succeed in your career and your life.

Key passage: From our interview: "Folks who risk and end up ruling the day, most of the time, are not acting impulsively.... But from the outside, we don't see all this preparation and foundation setting. We only see the jump. That's why it's so easy to confuse the addict with the seasoned risk-taker."

What books are getting you ready for the upcoming year?