5 Inspirational Books Every Ambitious Person Should Read

By Beth Leslie

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Yes Man

By Danny Wallace

“Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.” 

Danny Wallace, a comedian and media personality, was going through a personal rough patch when he met a stranger on a bus who told him to say yes more. Inspired, Danny spent the next six months of his life saying “yes” to absolutely everything he was asked. He ended up making new friends, winning money, and almost joining a cult.


Career Lesson: While you probably don’t want to go as extreme as Danny, opening yourself up to new career opportunities could enhance your prospects in a positive way. Next time a new project or task is announced, volunteer for it. You’ll impress your boss with your enthusiasm and you may learn new skills.


I Am Malala

By Malala Yousafzai

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow."

Malala Yousafzai was fifteen years old when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. Her crime was advocating for women’s education. She survived and went on to become the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Her memoir is not simply an account of her extraordinary life, but a rallying cry for both the rights of women and the power of education.


Career Lesson: Like Malala, you should always be hungry for knowledge. Find ways to keep learning in your job – whether by taking on different tasks, getting to grips with a new system or software, or networking with different people.


Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” 

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist famous for his work on human biases, errors and heuristics. This book summarises much of his research in a style accessible to non-science readers. Kahneman’s main area of exploration is the difference between our instinctive and emotional “fast” mode of thinking and our more rational and logical “slow” mode.


Career Lesson: Accept that you are susceptible to unconscious bias, and actively work against it. Take the time to reflect and analyse your decisions, and be open to the opinions and criticisms of others. Being able to self-examine yourself takes courage. Be brave.  



The Bell Jar

By Sylvia Plath

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” 

Sylvia Plath’s iconic and semi-autobiographical chronical of mental illness follows the tale of Esther Greenwood, who lands a prestigious summer internship at a fashionable New York magazine. On paper, she has it all, but instead of revelling in her glamorous surroundings, she feels frightened and lost. As her mental state decays, Esther becomes more and more removed from the pleasures of life. After a suicide attempt, she receives treatment and begins to make a recovery.


Career Lesson: Mental health is real, debilitating and should be taken seriously by both you and your employer. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or unhappy, don’t be afraid to take a step back to recharge. Mental health is also a perfectly acceptable reason to use a sick day: listen to your body and never feel ashamed for feeling mentally unwell.  


Lean In

By Sheryl Sandberg

“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, "Yes, I have it all.'" Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.” 

Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and a rare example of a prominent female C-suite executive at a world-renowned firm. Her book is about women finding their voice and place in the top offices of the world. Sandberg has faced plenty of criticism – both for being blind to her own privilege, and for advising women to work within the gender norms, but the book still tries to say something about the position of power.


Career Lesson: Exclusion is damaging and unproductive. Work on ways to get the most from everyone on your team, and embrace diversity in all its forms. Value yourself and refuse to let anyone shut you out of the halls of power. You’ve got this.



Beth Leslie is a career and lifestyle writer. She is also the editor of the Inspiring Interns blog, which provides graduate careers advice. Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream job or internship. Click here to browse their London-based graduate jobs, and here for their graduate jobs Manchester page.


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