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10 Professional Development Books Recommended by Ninjas

If you’re anything like me, when you think of “reading” you might picture stretching out on the beach with a trashy romance novel and a margarita, or curling up in front of a fire with a mug of cocoa and an engaging thriller. It’s something you do for leisure—and even on vacation!

Reading for fun is a great way to relax and unwind. But it can be easy to forget that diving into a great book is also an effective way to challenge your thoughts, learn new things, and even gain a whole new perspective.

Here at OfficeNinjas, we’re totally in favor of anything that helps us soak up more knowledge. We’ve discovered plenty of apps, websites, and other digital resources, but today we want to kick it a little old school. So, we’re sharing a few awesome business books that also include helpful, actionable takeaways. Even better? They were all recommended by your fellow Ninjas!

So, settle in and check out this roundup of 10 books that are sure to teach you something new.

1. Sitting on a File Cabinet, Naked, with a Gun

Filing Cabinet

Co-authored by your fellow Ninjas (Joanne Linden and Linda McFarland), this read is equal parts entertaining and insightful. It offers an insider look into the offices of a few powerful and influential Silicon Valley CEOs—and debunks the myth that Executive Assistants are “just secretaries.” Engaging, empowering, and packed full with relatable moments for other EAs, you can pick up a copy here.

What You’ll Take Away From It

First things first, if you don’t feel supercharged with power after reading this book, we’ll be surprised. The authors emphasise the fact that Executive Assistants almost always have the CEO’s ear—making them pretty darn influential in offices. So, you can bank on the fact that you’ll feel empowered and motivated after you’ve finished reading. Plus, if you’re considering working your way up to an EA position, this insider knowledge is invaluable.

What Other Ninjas Say

“This helped me get through some tough times as an EA… and it was entertaining!” – Janine B., Administrative Services Manager

2. Creativity Inc.


As one of the co-founders of the wildly successful and Academy Award winning animation studio, Pixar, Catmull is definitely a guy I think I could learn a few things from. Working in a notoriously creative business, Catmull offers some amazing suggestions for knocking down the barriers to creativity in business. Plus, you’ll get some insight into what it’s actually like inside those infamous Pixar “Braintrust” sessions.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Just because you’ve always done things one way, doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to do them. Catmull will encourage and inspire you to break the status quo, and help you to foster a work environment where your fellow employees thrive on this originality. You may not be sketching Buzz Lightyear all day—but that doesn’t mean your work culture can’t be innovative and fun!

What Other Ninjas Say

“One of the best books I have read about leadership, employee engagement, the creative process, and running a start up.” -Kiyomi M., Executive Assistant

3. A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

New Earth

Tolle first made his way onto the map with his question-and-answer book The Power of Now. But, A New Earth expands on those principles in narrative form, with fresh anecdotes and philosophies that are sure to inspire a new way of thinking.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Throughout the book, Tolle explains how our ego-based thinking has a hugely negative impact on our happiness. Our attachment to our ego is responsible for a lot of our anger, jealousy, and other not-so-pleasant emotions. Luckily, Tolle also shares methods and philosophies that can help you completely overstep your ego—leading to a better you and a happier life. If a book can promise you that much, I think it’s definitely worth a read!

What Other Ninjas Say

“This was such a great read and gave me a whole new perspective on spirituality and living in the moment. I highly recommend it.” – Kat M., Administrative Assistant

4. Why Isn’t My Brain Working?


We’re all familiar with feelings of grogginess, anxiety, or having a tough time focusing. And, while you might typically write them off as a case of the “Mondays,” they can actually be signs of brain degeneration. Sounds scary, right? That’s why Dr. Kharrazian is here to share advice for improving our brain health.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Quite simply, you’ll learn different lifestyle and diet changes you can implement in order to greatly improve your brain’s function. Improved focus, decreased anxiety, and more energy? Yeah, this deserves a spot on your reading list (and maybe mine, too)!

What Other Ninjas Say

“[This book c]hanged my understanding of nutrition and brain health.” – Carlo I., Vibe Manager

5. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most


Difficult and uncomfortable conversations are a part of daily life—whether you’re in the middle of a family disagreement or need to deal with an awkward conflict at work. Too bad there’s not a manual for getting through those challenging talks, right? Oh wait, this book is that manual!

What You’ll Take Away From It

Yes, difficult discussions are a natural part of life. But, that doesn’t mean they need to be positively panic-inducing. Throughout this book, the authors will teach you step-by-step approaches for handling these talks with “less stress and more success.” At home or in the office—these tips are sure to improve your communication skills (an absolute must for any Office Ninja)!

What Other Ninjas Say

“We all have difficult conversations in work and in life. This book will help you see past the surface and understand the underlying causes and issues from your side and the person’s perspective. It teaches you how to think more clearly like a mediator. You’ll never look at or dismiss a person’s feelings as simply ‘uncalled for’ again.” – Melissa S., Virtual Assistant

6. Lead with Luv: A Different Way to Create Real Success


Let’s face it—the business world can be pretty cutthroat. But what about those famous phrases like, “You catch more flies with honey” and “Kill them with kindness”? Well, this book is on niceness’ side. Colleen Barrett began her career as an Executive Assistant, but was chosen to succeed her company’s founder as President. Where? Well, she’s President Emeritus of a little organization called Southwest Airlines, and she was chosen for the job simply because she knows how to “love people to success.”

What You’ll Take Away From It

Needless to say, you’re bound to learn a lot. The book touches on everything from what “love” means in an organizational context, to why leading with love doesn’t make someone a “soft” manager. Whether you’re in a management position or not, this read is bound to inspire you to practice kindness in business, and help to develop and foster a culture that believes in compassion and collaboration. After all, you really do catch more flies with honey.

What Other Ninjas Say

“Seeing how much a company values its people and really gives them the credit for making it great is a testament to the Leaders and it makes you appreciate giving back to it that much more.” -April N., Executive Assistant

7. Delivering Happiness


Whether you’re a major shoe-lover or not, you’ve likely heard of Zappos. While the company places huge emphasis on customer service, their number one priority is actually company culture—something I think we can all support. Hsieh, Zappos CEO, believes that if you’ve got a great culture, everything else will fall into place. Not convinced? The anecdotes and details of Zappos practices throughout this book are sure to help you see the light!

What You’ll Take Away From It

This read is packed full of actionable ways that companies can achieve amazing success. You’re sure to learn a lot about fostering a corporate culture that aims to improve the lives of everyone it interacts with—not just customers, but also employees! With a lot of explanation around Zappos’ core values, you’ll also learn how those philosophies can be applied outside of the office, creating happier, more productive, and successful employees. As the book claims, “Creating happiness and record results go hand-in-hand.”

What Other Ninjas Say

“This book demonstrates great leaders care about their employee’s personal and professional growth, caring about the customer is more important than marketing spend, and making sure employees are happy too.” – Kiyomi M., Executive Assistant

8. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth


We’re all looking for ways we can grow and evolve, right? If you aren’t, you should be. Packed full with tons of helpful advice and lessons, this book is all about helping you reach your full potential.

What You’ll Take Away From It

Maxwell claims that there are plenty of tried and true principles that can really help you improve. This book will teach you how to constantly increase your potential. After all, we’re never done learning!

What Other Ninjas Say

“You can’t really move forward until you have a true grasp of where you are. I started reading this book with the intention of getting through it in 15 weeks. It took me a full year! So often I was faced with things that I didn’t know were in me, good and not so good. I had to face them head on. One of the best exercises was writing 100 positive qualities you possess—much harder than it sounds. After completing the book (which certainly doesn’t need to take a year to complete) people will tell you how different you are.” – Melissa S., Virtual Assistant

9. Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together


Today, hopping from job to job has become pretty common. And, while that allows for a variety of experiences, it can lead to a pretty scattered job history. How can you make sense of and explain that career that’s seemingly all over the place? This book will help you out!

What You’ll Take Away From It

Whether you have an unfocused career history or not, this book is a great read for anyone looking to build a powerful personal brand. It will teach you to find common connections among your diverse positions and accomplishments, sell your personal story, and continuously build upon your brand.

What Other Ninjas Say

“Body of Work is a great resource because it teaches you how to combine all of your skills into one cohesive story and career path. It’s truly invaluable during a time of transition, but I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys professional development and introspection.” -Alexis C., Office Manager

10. Turning Pro

turning pro

Sometimes we stop learning, growing, and reaching simply because we get too comfortable. Staying where we are is just easier than wanting more. Pressfield’s book challenges that idea, but doesn’t skate over the hard parts and challenges. It’s realistic and inspiring—and definitely a worthy read!

What You’ll Take Away From It

This book contains practical advice for nearly every area of your life. Not only will it motivate you to jump out of your comfort zone and get all that you can out of your life, but it will provide guidance for how exactly you can “turn pro.”

What Other Ninjas Say

“Sometimes we are successful and simply can’t prove it. We’re not published nor have tens of thousands of followers. We might not be paid what we’re worth or acknowledged as the expert. This book is a quick and easy read. If you’re a ‘pro’ you’ll never doubt yourself or require validation again.” – Melissa S., Virtual Assistant

There you have it, 10 books that should definitely make their way onto your reading list! Whether you’re aiming to get more out of your life, your career, or even both, these reads are sure to help you out.

What books have you read that have challenged your way of thinking or taught you something new? We’re always looking for new suggestions to add to the list. So, leave a few of your favorites in the comments!


  1. Really helpful! Like your recommended books. I never know and read them before. Will pick up sod them for my self improvement.

  2. Any book by Joan Burge of Office Dynamics International is great for administrative professionals. A favorite is “Who Took My Pen … Again?”

  3. Kat, thanks for the honorable mention of “Sitting on a File Cabinet…” I hope your audience enjoys the entertaining stories as much as we enjoyed writing them. Thank you!

  4. Kat, I was surprised and delighted to see our book at the top of your list. Thank you for the recommendation. Joanne

  5. The “Sitting on the File Cabinet’s” cover is so entertaining that I’m totally buying it!!

  6. Great recommendations. I give all of my mentees a copy of “Sitting on a File Cabinet”. I think it does a great job of illustrating the wide range of tasks we do, situations we find ourselves in and resources we need to have. A ninja must always be prepared.

  7. Thanks, Kat! I’ve added a few of these to my must-read list for 2016!

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