11 Unexpected Books Every Millennial Woman Should Read for Her Career (and, You Know, Life)

11 Great Books Every Woman Should Read for Her Career
by Kit Warchol
December 21, 2016
We've all got a little downtime coming up over the next few weeks. Here are some books you should be reading, like, yesterday.
Grab one for yourself and two for a favorite woman in your life (hint: they don't actually have to be a millennial to appreciate this list). Or just buy them all for yourself—we won't judge. 

1. Grace Bonney's In The Company of Women

You've probably seen In The Company of Women all over Instagram and for good reason. Bonney, the founder of DesignSponge, interviewed 100 women entrepreneurs, makers, and creatives around the U.S. about how they got where they are. The interviews are raw and real and diverse—meaning there's something for everyone. 

2. Elana Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels

If you haven't caught "Ferrante Fever" yet, now's a perfect time. The 4-book series, which includes My Brilliant Friend (2012), The Story of a New Name (2013), Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014), and The Story of the Lost Child (2015), center on two women best friends in Italy and follow them from childhood to adulthood. So what can that teach you about your career? We wrote a whole article about it here

3. Stephen King's On Writing

You might not expect someone as prolific (and sort of old school) as Stephen King to make it on a list for millennial women in the workplace, but trust me on this, it's a must-read. In his memoir, On Writingthe man makes some incredible points you can use in your own work—even if you aren't an aging author. In addition to discussing the finer points of good writing (less is more, people, especially when it comes to adjectives), King goes into great detail about what it's like to do creative work on the side, deal with terrible day jobs, and try to make ends meet. The perfect book for any side hustler out there who needs a little pep talk from someone who's been there, done that. 
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4. Joan Didion's White Album and/or Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Many millennial women (especially the English majors) have thrown themselves into reading Didion's canonized novel, Play It As It Lays. But it's Didion's essays from the collections, The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that will stick with you into your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. As a woman writer who climbed rank in the 60s male-dominated literary landscape and is still active and writing today, Didion is essentially the patron saint of working women, in part because she's not afraid to tell it like it is. You'll read her cultural insight alongside raw moments of honesty about her personal life, health, and family. And throughout it all, you'll be thinking: this woman is so, so cool.  

5. Jessica Bennett's Feminist Fight Club

Feminist Fight Club began as a secret friendship huddle in a tiny New York apartment. The women would gather around, air frustrations about sexist work situations, and then work together to figure out ways to combat what they were experiencing. And now....there's a book. A must for any woman in the workplace who believes in honest camaraderie and no bullshit advice. 

6. Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

A couple weeks ago, we took to Instagram to ask our followers what they'd recommend we read ASAP. One of them just replied: "Anything by Austin Kleon." And it's true. I got to see him speak at a conference a couple years back, where he proceeded to doodle the whole time, rant about vampire personalities (e.g. the sort of friends and acquaintances who leave you exhausted rather than energized), and real talk about how to get through creative blocks, and let me tell you: he's funny and charming but, most of all, his approach just makes sense.

7. Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist

Feminism looks different for all of us, so why not celebrate that? Gay's essays in Bad Feminist explore her experiences as a woman of color in today's social, political, and cultural landscape. She's got insightful and funny observations on everything from Chris Brown to teaching in grad school to Vogue's September Issue. The deeper you get into the collection, the clearer it is—Gay is a voice of our generation—one that's simultaneously spectacularly unique and shockingly honest—and she's got more than a few opinions on how we can all do better. 
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8. Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

This book makes the list care of our senior designer, Sarah. It was the book that inspired her to pack up her apartment in New York and make the move to Los Angeles to join the Career Contessa team. We think anything that inspires someone to move across the country for a career opportunity is probably worth the read. 

9. Sloane Crosley's How Did You Get This Number

Says our social media coordinator, Jacqueline: "I don't know if you remember, but awhile back that I Was Told There'd Be Cake book was immensely popular. Anyways, she wrote this second collection of essays with stories millennial woman can definitely relate to. The first book was about being young and starting out in your career, but in this, she's quite a bit past entry level. Kind of a different take on the whole 'millennial in the workplace' topic."

10. Zadie Smith's Swing Time

Oh, Zadie. We'll keep this short. Every woman, millennial, Generation Zer, Gen Xer, Baby Boomer—you get it—should read at least one of her novels. And given that her latest, Swing Time, just came out this year, your timing's perfect. 

11. Amy Cuddy's Presence

This final recommendation comes from another one of our Instagram followers. As women, all too often we feel self-conscious leading meetings or overcoming big hurdles, especially when we're in the public eye. Turns out Cuddy, perhaps best known for her TED Talk on power poses, is a great writer as well. Presence will help you stop worrying about the impression you make on others and tweak your mindset so that you feel truly empowered at your next big meeting or presentation or whatever.
What books do you recommend we read?