Sasha D'Arcy23 August 2021

The 3 best business books I’ve read in 2021

If you’re anything like me (a humble Melbourn-ian), these on-again off again lockdowns have had a small silver lining… more time for books.

I’ve always loved to read, but somewhere between an eight-year sentence at university and working full time, having space and mental clarity to get stuck into a good business book has slipped right out the window. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few pages of fiction in before bed at night, but reading about work…. after work hours? Not going to happen.

So back to these lockdowns. I’ve suddenly found myself with more time to read (and an inability to do much else). Here are three business books that are very popular at the Inventium (remote) office that I have loved getting stuck into this year:

Humour Seriously – Jennifer Aaker & Naomi Bagdonas: This is without a doubt, the funniest business book I have ever read. Funny and business can sometimes seem like an oxymoron but it is in fact the very work of Psychologist Jennifer Aaker and comedian Naomi Bagdonas who teach a course called “Humour – Serious Business” at Harvard Business School. This book is based on their hilarious teachings and if you’ve ever seen one of my weird and wacky out-of-office messages (about hats for toads and other ridiculous topics) it’s because of this book. They implore you to approach your work and the world with more levity and give you a whole host of easy and practical tips to do so. A must-read if you’re in need of a giggle. If you want a teaser for some of the topics covered in the book, Naomi was interviewed by our founder Amantha on the How I Work Podcast earlier this year. The “who let the dogs out” part is my favourite, click here to have a listen. 

A World Without Email – Cal Newport: If you’ve worked with Inventium before you probably know how much we LOVE Cal Newport (I’m looking at you Workday Reinvention Program). A professor of computer science at Georgetown University, Cal writes fastidiously about knowledge workers and the hyperactive hive mind state we find ourselves in, in the age of overload. The latest from the Deep Work author summarises what so many of us feel intuitively, that how we’re working, isn’t working. The overloaded, always on, hyperconnected knowledge worker is burnt out, stuck in reaction mode and struggling to find time to focus. Newport offers a path back to sanity with powerfully simple techniques to carve out more productivity and get time back for the things that matter.

Everybody Writes – Ann Handley: I’m not a confident writer, I never have been. I um and ahh over wording, and to be frank I find the process quite excruciating, and yet here I am, writing to you all. These days you don’t have to be a journalist for your words to count, infact top marketing guru Ann Handley argues that every one of us is a writer in this content-driven world. Handley argues that our online words are our currency, they tell our customers who we are. Considering I’ve already mentioned “who let the dogs out” and toad hats in my first 400 words of this article, you can probably guess that I’m a very serious person who hates fun. Each chapter focuses on a different way “to write better and hate writing less” with short and sharp practical tools to get you started. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I took from this Wall Street Journal Bestseller.

Now if you’ve got this far and you’re thinking, this all sounds great but I just can’t bear another business book, I understand, it’s been a pretty weird 18 months. May I offer you the most captivating fiction escape in Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. A tale that follows a Korean family across three generations, from university halls, through street markets and deep into the criminal underworld, this story is a whirlwind of complex characters and breathtaking landscapes. I don’t want to give too much away, but everyone I’ve recommended it to has not been able to put it down.