Updated: Apr 7
With the pandemic keeping employees around the world home in quarantine, many believe it is the best time to start a business. While we are not completely rebutting that fact, not everyone is destined to be an entrepreneur in the traditional sense. Owning your own business or brand is a lot of work and a lot of pressure. Sure, it's nice to be able to answer to yourself, but a lot of people ignore the fact that once you start your own business, you become an employee to your patrons. If you're ready for that responsibility, that's great! More power to you. However, we believe that you can be just as impactful as an intrapreneur, taking leadership initiatives at your current place of employment, as you could be as an entrepreneur owning your own business.
For women like us though, owning and thriving in spaces confidently is another challenge. The traditional Idea of success is generally not inclusive for Black women, the overwhelming feeling of not being good enough and the unrealistic expectations and responsibilities we carry. Our voices aren't amplified in most workspaces, our experience is often overlooked and it seems like we are hiding in plain sight. The good news here is that the solution to overcoming this is to pave and define our own rules in success and professional development.
Truthfully, it's quite difficult to think about anything other than the state of the world at the moment and it's toll on health, security, peace of mind and humanity. Instead of understandably using the time to panic, join TikTok challenges, indulging in quarantine snacks (if you're fortunate enough to) or anything else that may be a welcome distraction, let's disrupt productivity and commit to building the tools needed to fuel our passions and awaken leadership in any space, at any level. Now's a better time than any.
Here are 23 books by Black women around the world on career and success for women like us. So be it employed, stay-at-home guardian or unemployed, business owner or employee, fiction or non-fiction, young or young at heart, there's something to be learned from all of these women and their journeys to achieving their goals and becoming the best version of themselves.
1. Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible
From education to work to dating, this inspirational, honest and provocative book recognizes and celebrates the strides Black women have already made, while providing practical advice for those who want to do the same and forge a better, visible future.
Illustrated with stories from best friends Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke's own lives, and using interviews with dozens of the most successful black women in Britain - including BAFTA Award-winning director Amma Asante, British Vogue publisher Vanessa Kingori and Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis - Slay in Your Lane is essential reading for a generation of black women inspired to find success in every area of their lives.
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she's constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break-up from her white long-term boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places...including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, "What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?" - all of the questions today's woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With "fresh and honest" (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today's world.
3. The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table
Most business books provide a one-size-fits-all approach to career advice that overlooks the unique barriers that women of color face. In The Memo, Minda Harts offers a much-needed career guide tailored specifically for women of color.
Drawing on knowledge gained from her past career as a fundraising consultant to top colleges across the country, Harts now brings her powerhouse entrepreneurial experience as CEO of The Memo to the page. With wit and candor, she acknowledges "ugly truths" that keep women of color from having a seat at the table. Providing straight talk on how to navigate networking, office politics, and money, while showing how to make real change to the system,The Memo offers support and long-overdue advice on how women of color can succeed in their careers.
4. Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman's Playbook for Love and Success
In our society, women earn the majority of degrees and are increasingly bringing home the bacon - and frying it, with 40% of American households having female breadwinners. ESSENCE Senior Editor and author Charreah K. Jackson interviewed and researched more than 150 professional women including everyday powerhouses and famous faces for strategies to thrive in our personal and professional lives. Boss Bride includes insight from more than 1,000 years of marriage and career success by accomplished women and shares the little-discussed realities at the intersection of work and love, and how women can avoid a collision. We are a generation of women with the most professional opportunities and accomplishments of any women before us - which can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting. This book is a bridge to create a love life and career that fulfills you: it's time to Go Hard AND Go Home.
5. Double Down: Bet on Yourself and Succeed on Your Terms
As African American women who have climbed their way to the highest ranks of the media world, Tricia and Antoinette have learned that to win when the deck is stacked against you, you need to ditch the old Status Quo rules. Whether you’re starting your career, wondering why you’re not further along, or looking to pivot, you’ve got to double down on yourself, and you’ve got to cultivate a tribe of people who will double down on you, too.
Now, they share their wisdom with the next generation of Boss Ladies looking to up their game. If you’re tired of getting second-class rewards for first-class work and you’re ready to be respected for who you are, Double Down will give you the tools and tactics to go all in on your dreams.
6. Taking Up Space: The Black Girl's Manifesto for Change
As a minority in a predominantly white institution, taking up space is an act of resistance. And in higher education, feeling like you constantly have to justify your existence within institutions that weren't made for you is an ongoing struggle for many people.
Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi, two recent Cambridge graduates, wrote Taking Up Space as a guide and a manifesto for change: tackling issues of access, unrepresentative curricula, discrimination in the classroom, the problems of activism and life before and after university.
Featuring honest conversations with students past and present, Taking Up Space goes beyond the buzzwords of diversity and inclusion and explores what those words truly mean for young black girls today.
7. Its About Time: The Art of Choosing The Meaningful Over the Urgent
Our culture makes it so that even the most organized and efficient among us feels the pressure of the ticking clock and the possibility and regret of missing out. Modern life has evolved in a way that sets us up for stress, pressure, and overload. New norms and attitudes tap into deeply-wired psychological impulses that make it harder than ever to take control of your time. Many of us also have innate personality traits that make the struggle even worse.
No wonder time can become a tyrant that leaves us chronically stressed and discontented. Unlock an approach to life that bestselling author Valorie Burton calls “living timelessly.” You will come to understand the gradual changes that have led us to a place where having too much to do and too little time to do it is the norm, the vision for what it could look like if you were free from the stress of time and how to blast through the obstacles to those possibilities, and the practical steps to choosing the meaningful over the urgent so that your life is unhurried yet purposeful and reflects the values and impact that are unique to you.
It’s About Time helps you reimagine a life that is meaningful, at a pace that is natural, with a load that is doable and equips you with the tools to make it happen.
8. Such A Fun Age
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
9. More Than Enough
Throughout her life, Elaine Welteroth has climbed the ranks of media and fashion, shattering ceilings along the way. More than Enough is a riveting and timely memoir, the groundbreaking journalist unpacks lessons on race, identity, and success through her own journey, from navigating her way as the unstoppable child of an unlikely interracial marriage in small-town California to finding herself on the frontlines of a modern movement for the next generation of change makers.
Welteroth moves beyond the headlines and highlight reels to share the profound lessons and struggles of being a barrier-breaker across so many intersections. As a young boss and often the only Black woman in the room, she’s had enough of the world telling her—and all women—they’re not enough. As she learns to rely on herself by looking both inward and upward, we’re ultimately reminded that we’re more than enough.
10. Believe Bigger: Discover the Path to Your Life Purpose
Reinvention strategist Marshawn Evans Daniels delivers a practical and inspirational guide for women ready to reclaim their lives and discover a higher purpose after experiencing regret and disappointment - demonstrating that through disruption, life can become sweeter than ever imagined.
Marshawn thought she was on the right path. She was a high-powered sports attorney ready to marry the man of her dreams - until she learned he was being unfaithful six days before the wedding. After heartache flipped her seemingly perfect world upside down, she found herself craving a life soaked in purpose, not just success.
Believe Bigger is about resilience, reclaiming your life, and how God uses disruption to awaken something greater within. Marshawn opens her heart and shares what it takes to breakthrough to a new, more confident you. She shows readers how painful or unexpected circumstances can redirect you towards what God created you to do.
Whether you are drowning in self-doubt and regret, feeling stuck, or sensing a shift but are unable to discern what's next, Marshawn's five stages of divine reinvention will help you gain insight into your ultimate calling and the courage to pursue it. You'll see that disruption is not designed to devastate or destroy, but to develop and redirect.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.
Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
12. The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women
Rich with wisdom, this practical gem focuses on the building blocks of true leadership—self-confidence, effective communication, collaboration, and courage—while dealing specifically with stereotypes (avoid the Mammy Trap, and don’t become the Angry Black Woman) and the perils of self-victimization (don’t assume that every challenge occurs because you are black or female).
Some leaders are born, but most leaders are made—andThe Little Black Book of Success will show you how to make it to the top, one step at a time.
13. Your Next Level Life: 7 Rules of Power, Confidence and Opportunity
If you’re feeling stuck or trapped by other people’s expectations of what you can achieve, it’s time to stop playing small and start redefining what success can mean for you. It’s time to get that upgrade. Karen Arrington―founder of the Miss Black USA Pageant, creator of the Next Level Women’s Summit, and mentor to thousands of confident, successful young black women―is your guide to getting Your Next Level Life.
Leave a legacy of black excellence: With the seven simple rules, you’ll learn how to bring your career, income, and lifestyle to that next level. Don’t settle for a life of invisibility and mediocrity. Set ambitious goals, reach for bigger opportunities, and know that you are brave enough to get what you deserve.
14. The Smart Money Woman
Meet Zuri. She’s living a fabulous life. Great car, gorgeous apartment, well paid job.
Meet Zuri. Broken down car, an apartment she cant afford, a job she’s about to lose.
What’s a broke girl to do?
With her best friends Tami (the flighty fashion designer), Lara (the tough oil and gas executive), Adesuwa (the conservative lawyer), and Ladun (the fabulous housewife), Zuri grows a little, learns a lot and navigates her way to making better financial decisions and building wealth.
The Smart Money Woman tackles, debt, spending, the consumerist culture of the African middle class, the fear and misconceptions surrounding money and the lack of it, love, friendships, cultural and societal pressures and the roles they play in success. With each chapter comes a Smart Money Lesson, there to help you work your way up the financial ladder.
15. WERK 101: Get-Your-Life-Together Guide
WERK 101: Get-Your-Life-Together Guide is the ultimate handbook sharing health, wealth, and lifestyle lessons for the modern-day woman. Koereyelle DuBose, "the voice of single women," fiercely empowers you to WERK for what you want by first WERKing on you. Get ready to let go of the victim mentality and be liberated as Koereyelle shows you how to create a powerful, positive mindset, and design your life's destiny on your own terms.
16. Year of Yes
This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood creating imaginary friends to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her (like Cristina Yang, whose ultimate goal wasn’t marriage, and Cyrus Beene, who is a Republican and gay). And it chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech; when she learned to say yes to her health, yes to play and she stepped out of the shadows and into the sun; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.
This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too.
17. Heart and Hustle
From the early lessons she learned growing up in South London, to the moment she gave up the 9 to 5 to do what she loved, Patricia Bright’s story will revolutionize how you think about work, life, and what it means to succeed.
Packed with her trademark attitude, style and sense of fun, Heart & Hustle is an inspirational guide to taking control of your own future.
18. The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose
Everyone has a purpose. And, according to Oprah Winfrey, “Your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you are meant to be, and begin to honor your calling in the best way possible.”
That journey starts right here.
In her latest book, The Path Made Clear, Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The book’s ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life’s detours are there to teach us.
19. Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up or Start Over in Your Career
Whether we’re starting out, striving toward a promotion, or looking for a new opportunity, the working world isn’t what it used to be. Wall Street veteran Carla Harris knows this, and in Strategize to Win she gives readers the tools they need to get started; get “unstuck” from bad situations; redirect momentum; and position themselves to manage their careers no matter the environment. With her trademark galvanizing advice, Harris identifies and clarifies issues that are often murky, offering lessons on: Identifying and making the most of your work profile (are you a Good Soldier? a Leader? an Arguer?); preparing for a career change without going back to school or taking a step down: honing three essential skills industry leaders possess (and how to get them); tuning into unspoken cues; and thriving through change.
Introducing a new way of planning one’s career in five-year units, Strategize to Win distills battle-tested and step-by-step tools that Carla has used to launch and sustain her own successful career and help others move forward, recover from setbacks, and position themselves for success.
20. Future Proofed: The New Rules of Success in Work and Life for our Modern World
Constant change and disruption have impacted everything from how we navigate our careers to how we think about our lives. What you need to know right now, are the new rules of getting ahead and staying ahead in our modern world. Whether you're starting your first job, starting your own business, changing careers, or searching for a better life, Future Proofed is a must-read guide for thriving in fast-moving times.
Future Proofed shows you how to take control of your destiny by giving you the new rules and tools you need for succeeding on your terms, as well as a step-by-step pathway for thriving in fast-moving times. It’s a wake-up call that will challenge your assumptions about what it takes to be successful in our more complex world. It provides a clear roadmap for greater clarity even in increasing uncertainty, as well as empowering you to move forward with confidence toward a more inspired future.
21. Confessions of a Domestic Failure
There are good moms and bad moms—and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who's trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.
When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she's always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop?
With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Confessions of a Domestic Failure creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother. At its heart, Ashley's story reminds moms that there's no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great.
22. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn't easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award-winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert--whether she's navigating love, work, friendships, or rapping-- it sure is entertaining. Now, in this debut collection of essays written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself --natural hair and all.
A reflection on her own unique experiences as a cyber pioneer yet universally appealing, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one--awkward or cool, black, white, or other--will want to miss.
23. Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media
Every one of your favorite influencers started with zero followers and had to make a lot of mistakes to get where they are today—earning more money each year than their parents made in the last decade. But to become a top creator, you need to understand the strategies behind the Insta-ready lifestyle . . .
As nightlife blogger, then social media strategist, and now Senior Director of Influencer Strategy and Talent Partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media, Brittany Hennessy has seen the role of influencers evolve and expand into something that few could have imagined when social media first emerged. She has unrivaled insight into where the branded content industry was, where it is, and where it's going.
Whether you’re just starting out or you're ready for bigger campaigns, Influencer guides you through core influencer principles. From creating content worth double tapping and using hashtags to get discovered, to understanding FTC rules and delivering metrics, she’ll show you how to elevate your profile, embrace your edge, and make money—all while doing what you love.
24. The Brown Mama Mindset: A Blueprint for Black Moms on Life, Love and Home
The Brown Mama Mindset is a blueprint for Black moms on life, love and home. Single moms and married moms alike will find a set of parenting principles that will guide Black moms on a journey to: Efficiently manifest your life’s purpose on a timeline that is conducive to raising happy, healthy and well-rounded children. Engage in productive relationships from a place of self-love and abundance, rather than control and lack. View your home and the role of being a Brown Mama for what it really is: your own personal breeding ground for self-mastery. Rather than telling you how to be a mother, this book will help you understand that motherhood is not just about taking care of your children, it’s about transforming into the woman that you are divinely destined to be.
There you have it. You may not read all of these books, but we hope that one of these books sparks your untapped potential for the journey.
Can you think of any more books to add to the list? Share them with us?