A love of books is vital for business owners. Not only does reading provide the benefit of the information that's on the page, but studies show that it can actually change the way your brain works for the better. The five Black women founders below get it: Even though they have extremely busy personal and professional lives, they all take the time to read with purpose, whether it's a business book to better inform them on their industry, a spiritual tome to encourage and uplift, or a well-written novel to help them relax. Here are their recommendations for titles that can benefit you and your company as well.
1. Erica Plybeah, founder and CEO, MedHaul
Recommended book: Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues by David Bradford & Carole Robin
I typically like to have one professional development or leadership book and one personal read on deck. Connect uses the foundation of Stanford Business School's Interpersonal Dynamics course, and the focus is building better human relationships. The principles are applicable in life no matter what the situation--personal or business. Knowing how to build and maintain relationships (personal & business) is crucial, and I feel sometimes that I've almost forgotten how to "human" during my journey building a venture-backed company the past couple years. I've been relentless over the last few months about nurturing close relationships. The lessons in the book have given me some tactical strategies to help with this.
2. Jordan Taylor, Co-founder and CEO, Medley
Recommended book: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
At its simplest, Klara and the Sun is about the relationship and growth between a robot and a girl--but the book is truly about finding purpose and love. While I love reading books of all types, ranging from business books to psychological thrillers to even light and happy romance novels, I sometimes find the greatest personal learnings from fiction and memoirs. The plot of Klara and the Sun is hard to describe, but worth the read even if artificial intelligence technology isn't the first thing you are ordinarily drawn to, because the writing style is elegant, simple, and clear. There is a lot of room for interpretation and metaphor in the story. I found myself reflecting on my own sources of purpose, how my environment has shaped me, and even considering the metaphor for religion in the book and in my own life. And when I finished the book, I felt inspired to create and to seek out and prioritize love and sources of purpose. I'd like to read this book again every year because I think I'd pick up on different elements every time.
3. Katrina Ferrell, co-founder of The Mogul Society
Recommended book: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra
The book is about seven spiritual laws: potentiality, giving, karma, least effort, intention and desire, detachment, and dharma. If you live within these laws, Chopra writes, you can have peace and understanding of all things. I've learned not to take people or situations personally, to be more in the moment and understand that people and things come and go. I've also learned how to practice patience and believe that all things will work out in the future. It's about letting go of the need to try to control your destiny.
4. Gwen Marie Davis Hicks, founder and managing partner GDH Law
Recommended book: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
As this book chronicles, Anthony Ray Hinton spent nearly 30 years on death row for a murder he didn't commit. He was set up because the police could not find the person who actually did the crime, and he was an easy target. Hinton finally walked away from Jefferson County Jail a free man, on April 3, 2015. As an attorney, I understand the responsibility to relentlessly fight for justice as Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative did.
5. Michelle Smith, founder and Chief Amazement Officer, One Hawk Capital, LLC
Recommended book: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
This nonfiction book, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Black author, deals with racial identification and gives a new interpretation of the traditional international caste system, as seen through the practice of that system here in the United States. I was reminded that the word "race" was not prevalent until the U.S. became a country--that race is a creation, not a social construct. I surmised that traditional caste systems that currently exist throughout the world are socially hierarchical in nature: arranged marriages, rankings, etc., and that most castes are determined at birth. The new hybrid system, as it exists in the U.S., is more economic and exists in silos--education, housing, and entertainment. Further, the "pillars of caste" that Wilkerson uses are vastly different from the caste pillars of India and Pakistan. In the U.S., it is possible to be born into poverty and still become a billionaire--an important component that distinguishes the U.S. from any other global caste structure.