Talent Management

10 Enlightening HR Books That Will Benefit Your Career

Published by in Talent Management

I have this theory about quotes about books. People love quotes about books because they make them look intellectual without the work of actually reading. I developed this theory based on the people I interacted with when I worked for a large public library, and I validate my claim with Pinterest boards with hundreds of quotes that all say roughly the same thing.

Cynical? Yes, but I’m a writer, and that’s sort of our thing.

That said, I have two quotes about books and reading that I really do like, and now that I’ve given you my disclaimer, I’d like to share them with you.

enlightening hr books

The first: “The book you don’t read won’t help.” – Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn was a writer and motivational speaker, and he has a good point. If you want to learn, you’re just going to have to read. If you never crack the spine, you’re never going to gain the knowledge inside.

It’s in this spirit that I give you this list of the ten books every HR professional must read. These are books that will alter your thinking, improve your knowledge, and grow your understanding of your career. Since HR is about more than just having a killer talent management system. I’ve pulled these books in particular after a hefty amount of research and review, and if you have comments on them or other suggestions, I happily welcome comments so I can keep updating and improving the list.

Oh, and that other quote? This one comes from political satirist P.J. O’Rourke. “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”

Hopefully that won’t happen, but if it does, these HR books will help you go out dedicated as heck.

1. First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently  by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

What makes a great manager? What rules do they follow?

Their own, as it turns out.

Everything you know about managing (never play favorites, everyone can achieve greatness, training matters more than natural talent) is a rule that a great manager feels free to disregard, because they trust themselves to know what’s best. Can you learn to know when to break the rules, and how to break the rules for the best results for your business? This book will give you the motivation to do just that.

2. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead  by Sheryl Sandberg

TED Talk speaker, Facebook COO, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and one of Forbes’ 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, Sheryl Sandberg knows a thing or two about women in the business world.

When it was published in 2013, Lean In attracted tons of media attention—some positive, some not so positive (Is she too feminist? Is she not feminist enough?).

Three+ years later, the hype has mellowed out, and we can take this book for what it is: a flawed but valid take on some of the challenges faced by women in today’s workplace, and suggestions for solutions.

3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business By Charles Duhigg

What’s the first thing you did when you woke up this morning?

Is it the same thing you did yesterday morning?

Perhaps every morning?

Do you have a routine for starting the day when you get to work, maybe boot up your computer, get a coffee, check your email, read the news? Everyone has routines they do, and habits they form. Why? What do these habits say about who you are? Are your habits effective, or could they be holding you back? How can you make your habits better for your work? There’s a scientific key to it, and great potential to be reached by hacking your habits. This book can help you break your unproductive cycle and find ways to propel yourself forward, and take your staff with you.

4. Falling Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success by John C Maxwell

They say that the difference between a beginner and a master of anything is that “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” That’s the object of this book. We all make mistakes, and we tend to view mistakes as setbacks. But what if you could change your perception and see mistakes as a way to keep moving forward? Learn to deal with failure in a constructive way to maximize your potential and never lose momentum in your work.

5. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

How does Google do it? The head of Google’s People Operations, Laszlo Bock, has some insight for you: pay unfairly, take power away from managers, and learn from your employees (who should always be smarter than you).


Bock argues that it’s these qualities that makes Google “Google.” Want to have the power and passion of Google employees? Read this book.

6. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

We tend to laud the extrovert in our society. We celebrate go-getters, friendly team players with plenty to say.

Introverts are viewed as quieter, more reserved, even shy. And perhaps those things can be true, but there’s more to the introvert than being the wallflower at the party.

Discover how introverts can become successful, and how to manage the introverts on your team to tap into their full potential, helping them (and you) excel.

7. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler

In HR and talent management, you often have to have hard conversations—ones you’d rather not be having, but must be expressed.

What if you could make those talks a little easier by having a method for them?

A crucial conversation is one where “the stakes are high, there are strong emotions, and there are many options as to what to do.” Gain the tools for efficiency, positivity, and respect to make these conversations as painless and productive as possible.

8. Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution by Cali Ressler

We spend more time in our lives working than doing anything else. With the exception of the privileged few who do what they love and love what they do at all times, most of us hate work at one point or another. A happier workplace delivers better results, so how can you create the happiest, most productive workplace possible? This book will help guide you in creating a better workplace for everyone (including yourself).

9. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

Written as fiction disguising important lessons, author Patrick Lencioni calls his book a modern workplace fable. And that’s fair, since a fable is a fictional story that teaches people something about the world around them.

In the story, a tech company’s CEO must unite five warring teammates before they bring their company down around her ears. Readers will uncover the five main ways people can be dysfunctional at work or in any team, and how to find and solve those problems.

This book is so good that Capterra’s very own Ryan Yeoman mentions it in not one, not two, but three articles on how Capterra creates strong teams. That’s my metric for what to be impressed by!

10. Games People Play by Eric Berne

Published in 1974—no, no, don’t walk away yet! Games People Play is an insightful and enduring (over 5 million copies have been sold; talk about evergreen content) examination into why people behave the way they do.

People play games at work and they play games in their lives as a whole. Understanding why and how the rules work helps you get ahead of the games and stay ahead, improving your ability to manage people and predict their actions.

What’s in your library?

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have any other suggestions? Tell me about it in the comments below. I might even add suggestions to this list later on!

Looking for more ways to boost your HR game? Take a look at talent management software, which can help you with everything from career development planning to goal setting to training management. Your company’s employees will thank you for it.

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


Comment by Karen on

Hi, Halden, thank you for sharing. My favorite one is “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”. I’m planing to write an overview of this book on my blog CareeristWorld.com. Will be glead to hear your thoughts on my future article!

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