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10 Non-Business Books That Will Motivate and Inspire You in the Office

If you checked out our recent article about professional development books, then I’m sure that your reading list has already grown significantly.

Sure, business and personal development books are great for challenging your thoughts and helping you gain a new perspective. But, who’s to say that it’s the only genre capable of doing that? That’s right—there are plenty of non-business books that can still serve to motivate and inspire you, both in your career and your personal life.

Don’t believe me? Well, here are 10 inspiring books that you’re going to want to get your hands on. And, just like the list of business books, these were all recommended by your fellow Ninjas! So, you know they’re going to be good.

1. The Nightingale

by Kristin Hannah


Set in war-torn, German-occupied France during WWII, this novel tells the overlapping story of two sisters dealing with love, survival, and freedom. Vianne Mauriac must live with the enemy in her requisitioned home after sending her husband off to the Front. Meanwhile, Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is young and in love. But, when she’s betrayed, she joins the Resistance to risk her life and save others. It’s an inspiring and captivating novel that gives heartbreaking insight into the tumultuous landscape during WWII.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Undoubtedly, we all go through tough times that can cause us to feel completely defeated and hopeless. But, this book reminds you of your strength and the “resiliency of the human spirit.” That’s a reminder we could all use at times!

What Other Ninjas Say

“Reading the stories of how people were treated so poorly just because of their religion broke my heart. Then there was the realization that maybe things aren’t so much different today. All in all, it is a really good book.” –Lori L., Executive Assistant

2. Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime

by Bill Gates, Sr. and Mary Ann Mackin

Showing Up

Bill Gates, Sr. is a pretty successful man—and raised even more successful children. Needless to say, there’s a lot we could learn from him. Using different chronological narratives in his deeply personal memoir, he discusses the values and principles that he learned in his childhood while growing up during the Great Depression.

What You’ll Take Away From It

There’s no doubt that Bill Gates, Sr. has his fair share of interesting tales to share. But, beyond entertainment, Gates also reinforces the importance of hard work and speaking your mind—values you can apply both personally and professionally.

What Other Ninjas Say

“A short collection of stories, memories, and life lessons. Great things can happen in life by simply showing up!” –Corrine A., Senior Executive Assistant

3. The Happiness Project

by Gretchen Rubin


It’s easy to get weighed down by assignments and to-do lists and let the little things that genuinely make us happy fall by the wayside. Well, author Gretchen Rubin decided to kick that idea to the curb and dedicate a year to working on being her happiest self. She called it her “Happiness Project,” and the book chronicles her journey. It’s a read that’s relatable, motivating, and thought-provoking.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Aside from being inspired with multiple ideas of how you can incorporate more happiness into your daily life, Rubin’s book also includes a guide to help you get started on your very own happiness project.

4. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

by Felicia Day

Never Weird

Actress, comedian, and writer Felicia Day had pretty humble beginnings as a homeschooled, “uncool” kid in the Deep South. So, it’s likely that not many people expected her to wind up being a huge force in new media. Her rags-to-riches rise to fame is inspiring, and throughout her book Day talks candidly about the many roadblocks and challenges along the way—including struggles with anxiety and depression.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Sure, there are plenty of books out there about struggling on the way to success. But, Day shares her story in a way that’s engaging and hilarious. Plus, the book will motivate you to celebrate what makes you unique and remind you to never be afraid to share your true self with the world. After all, it obviously worked out well for her!

What Other Ninjas Say

“I am currently reading this since it only came out Tuesday. I bought the book because I am a total Geek and LOVE LOVE LOVE Felicia Day. Her story is so inspiring. She describes how her strange upbringing and struggles with crippling anxiety and depression impact everything she does and yet has come out on top as ‘Queen of the Geeks’. Amazing woman.” –Chandra M., Executive Assistant

5. 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life

by John Kralik


We all know how powerful a handwritten note can be—especially in this age of tweets and Facebook posts. But, for some reason, we’re all still pretty stingy with dropping a card in the mail. Lawyer John Kralik was going through rough time dealing with a failing law firm, a divorce, and family issues. However, one day he was struck with the realization that he should start placing more emphasis on the thing’s he’s grateful for, rather than the things he’s unhappy with. He set a goal of sending 365 thank you notes in the coming year, and his touching memoir is an inspiring reminder of the impact of simply being grateful.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Much like The Happiness Project, this book will motivate you to start improving your routines and your daily life in order to be a better version of yourself. You’re guaranteed to walk away with a new perspective about life. And, if that’s not enough, I’m willing to bet you’ll want to crank out a few lingering thank you notes when you’re done reading!

What Other Ninjas Say

“Any kind of book about gratitude can give one a fresh perspective. I like the book by John Kralik, 365 Thank Yous. It is a very easy going quick read. Nothing majorly astounding but there was something about it that I really liked. It made me reflect and give thanks for everything that I should be grateful for.” –Denise S., Assistant to VP

6. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Cheryl Strayed


Following the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed was lost. Her family drifted apart, her marriage was crumbling, and she was experimenting with heroin. So, she made an impulsive decision. She would hike over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail—completely alone. Although she quickly realized that she was completely unprepared, she persevered and ultimately ends up finding herself. Wild is a candid account of her experience, as well as the life lessons learned while on the trail.

What You’ll Take Away From It

We can’t all lace up our hiking boots and set out on a life changing journey. But, Strayed’s story is incredibly inspiring and a worthy reminder that you can make it through any hardship, as long as you keep trying. Strayed’s time on the trial also reinforces the value of always being true to yourself—even when you’re feeling a little lost.

What Other Ninjas Say

“Even in the most hopeless and darkest of times, this writer shows you that everything is a choice and you are the captain of your own ship.” –Kiyomi M., Office Ninja

7. Tiny Beautiful Things

by Cheryl Strayed


With two books on this list, you know that Cheryl Strayed is a must-read author! Posing as Sugar, the once-anonymous online columnist for The Rumpus, Strayed doled out advice to tons of eager readers. This book pulls together all of the best pieces of advice from her column, as well as a few columns that were never actually published. It’s a funny, honest, and incredibly insightful read.

What You’ll Take Away From It

While the book is sure to entertain, it’s also undeniably heartfelt and compassionate. As a blend between a memoir and a self-help novel, the book is encouraging, inspiring, and empathetic. Plus, since it’s full of dozens of her best advice columns, it may even address a concern or two of your own.

What Other Ninjas Say

“Cheryl Strayed delivers the hard truth about love, life, and humanity with such validation and tender gentleness; her words are poetry.” –Kiyomi M., Office Ninja

8. Man’s Search for Meaning

by Viktor E. Frankl

Mans Search

Psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl was held in four different Nazi death camps between the years 1942 and 1945, and his memoir tells the captivating story of spiritual survival. While his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all perished in the camps, Frankl learned a lot about the strength of the human spirit and how we deal with suffering. Frankl’s book is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Frankl developed the theory of logotherapy, which derives from the Greek word “logos”—which means “meaning.” He recognizes that we can’t completely avoid tragedy and suffering, but that we can choose how to cope with it, identify meaning in those circumstances, and then move forward with a renewed purpose. You’re sure to put down the book with a refreshed perspective on how you react to unfortunate circumstances.

What Other Ninjas Say

“Even in the face of death and cruel torture, Viktor demonstrates living with dignity, having a positive mindset, and looking toward the future.” –Kiyomi M., Office Ninja

9. Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom


Mitch Albom always looked to his college professor, Morrie Schwartz, as a mentor. But, as many people do, they lost touch over the years. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom reconnects with Schwartz in the last months of his old mentor’s life, and they spend every Tuesday chatting in his study. Albom winds up with a lot more than friendly visits with an old confidante. Instead, he receives many lessons on how to successfully live out the rest of his life with love, laughter, and joy.

What You’ll Take Away From It

This book has sold over 12 million copies and has been a treasured story for years—and it’s easy to see why. The heartwarming recounts of the duo’s honest conversations are sure to inspire you to not only reconnect with an old friend or mentor, but also to always work on creating the kind of life that you want.

What Other Ninjas Say

“I read Tuesdays with Morrie in my teens and that book inspired me to create my own culture.” –Carlo I., Director of Workplace Experience

10. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

by Don Miguel Ruiz

four agreements

Rooted in beliefs from Ancient Mexico, Toltec wisdom asserts that there are four agreements in life that are necessary for a path to personal freedom. Shamanic teacher and healer Don Miguel Ruiz takes an in-depth look at each of these agreements, and how they can help readers on their path to self-discovery.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Aside from being educated about a different belief in philosophy, you might just be inspired to implement the four agreements in your own life. The author asserts that they’ll transform your life into something that is “filled with grace, peace, and unconditional love.” A few things every Ninja will be happy to increase in their lives!

You don’t necessarily need to find a book in the “Business” or “Self-Help” section in order to take away lessons that are applicable for improving both your life and career. Choose a few (or all!) of these 10 books to add to your reading list, and you’re sure to be inspired!

Have you read any novels lately that really inspired you or made you see circumstances in a whole new light? We want to hear about them! Leave your book recommendations in the comments below so that we can share them with other Ninjas!


  1. I printed that list and can’t wait to start reading each and every one! Great job selecting titles for this list!

  2. My favorite book of all time is “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews. It is a fiction book (maybe) that is FULL of life lessons. I try to read it every January to set the tone for the year ahead. I loved it so much that I booked Andy Andrews to speak at a conference that I organized, and we received rave reviews! Read it . . . you won’t be disappointed!

  3. Lovely selection of books that I have never read. Thanks for bringing these to the forefront.

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