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This was a fruitful year for reading books that helped me build the writing and skills I needed to grow my business. 

What I haven’t included on this list are the many, many books I read to help navigate a serious chronic pain flare that lasted six months. If you’d like to know more, message me and I can share that list with you.

Here’s the list of my favourite non-fiction books from 2023:

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | Women Leadership and Saving The World by Belinda Clemmensen

Women, Leadership, and Saving The World

Belinda Clemmensen

I was fortunate to be an early reader of this book and I loved it, so I read it again twice this year. Each time, there are new elements that help me in my work and family life. 

Clemmensen’s model for women’s leadership, focused on purpose, power, and presence, creates a new foundation for how women can look differently at leadership, an approach that allows us to leverage our strengths without needing to change who we are or adapt to fit into a corporate model that wasn’t designed for us.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | The Road Less Stupid by Keith J Cunningham

The Art of Gig

Venkatesh Rao

I have been looking for books that help me better understand the nuances of growing a consulting business beyond a “freelancer” mindset (for both me and my clients). The Art of Gig is a series of essays originally posted on the author’s popular Ribbonfarm blog. He shares the unvarnished truth about consulting work, challenges industry norms and myths (maybe you don’t need retainers or anchor clients), and introduces new models that can help you grow your consulting business sustainably without burning out.

I’ve put Art of Gig 2 on my list for early 2024.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | How We Do It edited by Jericho Brown

How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice, And Skill

Edited by Jericho Brown

I don’t see enough people sharing the work of non-white male authors—even organizations that claim to be extremely progressive fail to share diverse reading lists. (It’s a massive frustration of mine and the first thing I check in a newly published book list, every time.)

How We Do It is a collection of essays by Black authors sharing their influences, experiences, and family storytelling that inspired and guided their writing. Some authors I’ve read, like Tayari Jones (who wrote An American Marriage) but many others were new to me and it led me to read their work. 

I always enjoy reading about writers and their writing process, but reading what has inspired or influenced their work as Black authors has helped expand my own understanding of Black history, which was sorely lacking. Please, please add this book to your list (or books like it) if expanding the diversity of your reading list is something you need to do.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | Intuitive Writing by Jacqueline Fisch

Intuitive Writing

Jacqueline Fisch

Intuitive Writing promises to help people overcome writer’s block, something I had read about extensively but still struggled with at times. I have all the right systems in place—exactly what I teach my clients—but there has been a deeper issue of not quite landing the purpose or “so what” of my work that has held me back from writing and publishing.

Intuitive Writing helped me look at my writing much more holistically and consider my environment more broadly. Was I starting my day with the right writing signals and making my writing a priority over everything else? Did I have the right habits in place? (Example: the book led me to remove Instagram from my phone, something I’ve realized was a procrastination escape crutch whenever I felt stuck.) 

I know I’ll be picking it back up again in 2024—it’s the type of book that will have new insights as my writing skills evolve.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | Metaphorically Selling by Anne Miller

Metaphorically Selling

Anne Miller

I have always stuck to a “just the facts, ma’am” type of writing in the past; writing that wouldn’t be out of place on Harvard Business Review or MIT Sloan. But as AI starts to improve its clinical, facts-based writing outputs, storytelling will be the differentiator so it’s a skill I knew I needed to improve.

Metaphorically Selling provides models, structures, and practical lessons for crafting better metaphors to use in stories, sales pages, or anything you’re creating to convince or sway others. 

The book was published almost 20 years ago and can be hard to track down, but worth the effort. It was recommended to me by John Bejakovic after a conference we both spoke at in the UK in the fall, and I know it’s a book I’m going to continue to refer back to again and again.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | The Road Less Stupid by Keith J Cunningham

The Road Less Stupid

Keith J. Cunningham

As business owners, we run into roadblocks often, and some of the issues we face are because of our own poor decisions weeks, months, or even years earlier. In The Road Less Stupid, Cunningham shares a series of practices and frameworks to help us think better in our role as business owners that will hopefully help prevent errors or issues down the road.

The core practice from the book is something he called “Thinking Time” on a scheduled basis—not revolutionary, many others have recommended something similar—but the extensive prompts he shares have helped me find new insights from my reflection practice.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | The Persuaders by Anand Giridharadas

The Persuaders

Anand Giridharadas

This book fits into multiple categories—marketing, politics, neuroscience, and social policy—but ultimately, the author shows us how marketing and our ability to craft persuasive arguments permeate every aspect of our lives. 

If convincing others to change how they work or change their minds about a topic, Chapter 5 on The Art of Messaging is a masterclass. 

There were so many stories from The Persuaders that stuck with me for months. A big thank you to my coaching insights group for recommending it.

Top 2023 Non-Fiction Books | Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg

The Girl In The Window And Other True Tales

Lane DeGregory

This book is like having a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whispering their secrets in your ear as you read their work, helping you become a better writer in the process. 

DeGregory is a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times but don’t let any biases about a “regional” newspaper keep you from picking up this book. The stories are incredible pieces of writing that draw you in and entertain you, while notes in the margins help you learn how to become a better storyteller in your work. It’s amazing.

As I looked back on my books from this year, I’ve realized that I haven’t read enough in the leadership and change space because I’ve been so focused on work to help me build my business.

I’m going to bring my focus back to that space next year as well as continue to seek out and support diverse authors. (We have enough all white-male author lists, so I’m determined not to follow that trend.)

And if you’re interested – I’ve also posted my favourite fiction books from 2023, so please check those out as well!

Author

Alyssa Burkus

Alyssa Burkus

Alyssa Burkus is a thought leadership strategist, writer, and coach. She's the founder of Shift Wisdom, a writing agency based near Toronto, Canada where she specializes in helping business owners and corporate leaders build their authority and influence through writing.

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