As much as I love watching shows, movies, and documentaries, reading a book is a very different experience. It forces you to slow down and reflect on things in a way that is a bit harder when you are more passively watching (or listening) to a story. Especially if you're an entrepreneur, you don't get very many moments to slow down--so reading encourages you to take that time for yourself.

This past year, I read a handful of books that ended up having a strong impact not just on my life, but on my business as well. All of these books share a common theme, and that's the undeniable effect that having a better culture and being a better leader can have on anything you're building--whether it's a company, a family, or a new version of yourself. 

If you haven't read these books, I highly recommend giving them.

1. Rituals Roadmap by Erica Keswin

This is Erica Keswin's second book, and it's incredible. Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines Into Workplace Magic is all about the art of employee engagement, how to help co-workers better connect, and what separates authentic relationships in the workplace from non-authentic or non-fulfilling roles and duties.

Pulling from case studies from companies like Starbucks, Chipotle, LinkedIn, and Microsoft, and sharing fun, actionable tips for fostering meaningful interactions, I would recommend this book to any company leader. It's the little things that make all the difference.

2. Humor, Seriously by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

The book shares interesting stats like "98 percent of executives prefer employees with a sense of humor, and 84 percent of executives believe these types of employees do better work." And yet, humor is often one of those things that either gets avoided, tip-toed around, or lost in translation. There's little to no emphasis on how and when it is appropriate to "be funny" in the workplace--when really, it's those moments of laughter, joy, and connection people tend to remember most.

3. Brandsplaining by Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts

As a founder of a female brand, this book really hit home. Brandsplaining: Why Marketing Is (Still) Sexist and How to Fix It sums it up. Much of the messaging toward women hasn't changed in decades. Companies still use women as sex objects in their marketing all the time. Women are still left out of many conversations and are hardly considered viable markets for certain types of products (and don't get me started on how female-founded companies are underrepresented and less likely to be funded than companies founded by men).

Most of all, this book reveals how many of the experiences women have remain either misrepresented or entirely ignored out in the market. This book summarizes exactly how far we've come, and yet, how far we still have to go for female representation to be more active, and more important, more accurate out in the market.

4. The Creativity Leap by Natalie Nixon

Creativity is not exclusive to the arts. In The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation, and Intuition at Work, fellow Inc.com columnist Natalie Nixon explains why being creative is crucial to scientific and entrepreneurial success. She goes further to make the case that "humans are hardwired to be creative," and shows how creativity is a skill (not just an innate talent some people have and others don't) that anyone can develop.

I love a book like this because it confirms how advantageous it is for business leaders to take creative risks and foster environments that give unconventional ideas the opportunity to flourish. No matter what industry you're in, this is a terrific book to read with your team--and engage in conversations around what it means to be "creative" in the context of your industry and business.

5. Undaunted by Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin is an inspiring founder, and her book is an inspiring reminder of what it takes to be successful in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts + Doubters is her story of building Hint into one of the most successful beverage businesses today. One half personal stories, the other half actionable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, this is an up-close-and-personal look at what it takes to build something out of nothing. 

All of these books are both interesting and enjoyable to read. So if you're looking for new ways to improve your business, I encourage you to give these a try.