Feb 1, 2023

Strategies to Find High-Quality Reads

This blog is set up a little differently. It starts off with my tips for finding quality self-improvement content targeting business owners or entrepreneurs and then shifts over to story-time, namely, my self improvement journey. So if you are short on time, start at the beginning. 

As a business owner, I am always looking for hacks, shortcuts, and cheat sheets to help me understand the marketplace, be more productive, and provide value to my customers while also managing my team. And needless to say, there’s a lot of content out there (and also a lot of noise).  Here’s how I cut through the noise to determine which content is worth my time and energy. 

Image of books and laptop

Review the New York Times Best Seller List

The New York Times Business Best Sellers list is my bullet proof way of finding solid reads in business. The list is updated each month though most books remain on the list for many months. You can check out the New York Time Best Sellers list for business books here:

New York Times Best Seller Business Books (Click the link)

Tip –– start here if you are new to reading business best sellers. The list normally consists of no more than 10 book recommendations.  Other options available can be overwhelming which for a newbie can result in decision fatigue. 

Check Out Amazon’s Business & Money Best Sellers 

Amazon is one of the biggest retailers globally. And though book sales only made up 10% of the $280 billion in revenue the company made in 2021, Amazon's book sales still accounts for a significant portion (approximately 20%) of global book sales. This is why I make it a habit to check out the Amazon Business & Money Best Seller list every quarter:

Amazon Best Seller Books (Click the link)

My tip –– check out the top 50 books (the list includes 100 titles), read reviews, and take things from there.

Image of books and laptop

Check out the Syllabi from the Top MBA Programs Across the Globe

Did you know that most colleges now have OpenCourseware sites where you can access content and syllabi from just 2 to10 years back? You can also find open textbooks, journals, and general media in a variety of places. 

Here’s a few sites where I go to download content that has open access:

Cccoer Org - Click the link

Class Central - Click the link

Tip––this is often the most time consuming tactic for finding solid reads. As a shortcut, I sometimes look at the syllabi from a massive open online course or MOOC.Coursera, Edx, and Udacity  are platforms with high quality MOOCs. Additionally, these sites are easier to navigate and yield quicker results.

Check out Goodreads Business List

Goodreads  is a great resource for finding books, getting reviews and discovering literature that you would not normally come across. Like Amazon, there are reviews, ratings, as well as summaries on a wide repertoire of books in most genres.  

‍ Tip––You can create an account on Good Reads where you can keep a virtual reading list. Unlike the New York Times Best Seller list which gives recommendations for newly released books, Good Reads has lists of “classic” business and entrepreneurial books. 

Ask for Book Recommendations While Networking

‍As a business owner,  I am constantly networking. I come across many individuals through sales calls, networking events, business mixers, and online professional social networking groups. Accordingly, I make it a practice before I end a conversation with anyone I come into contact with to ask them what they're reading. And without fail, I get stellar recommendations. 

The most prized additions to my business literature library have come via recommendations from sales reps, customer service reps, other business owners, and even my SCORE mentor. So when you're out there having friendly conversations in your professional dealings, it's always a good practice to ask whomever you meet, what book or blog they’re reading or what podcasts they listen to regularly. It’s another great way to cut through the advertising noise prevalent in the self-help ecosystem.  

Tip–––I keep a notepad with me to record the suggestions. Additionally, I have both a hard copy and a virtual list that lives in my phone. I make it a habit to review my networking notes so that I can reconcile both booklists on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. 

Book reading and self improvement

Did you know that the self improvement industry is worth over $11 billion annually in the U.S.​?  Another fun fact––there are more than 5,000 motivational speakers on the road each year, some commanding as much as $50,000 per appearance! Now that’s no chump change.

It goes without saying that entrepreneurs are often life-long learners. Whether it’s honing your craft in order to better serve your customer, or perfecting a recipe to stay competitive in the marketplace, an entrepreneur must be able to quickly adapt or his/hers/ or their business will die in a highly globalized and competitive marketplace. 

That said, I have been someone who  likes to learn. I can remember during the early days of my career taking whatever professional development was available through my employer.  And even my decision to go to grad school after working over 10 years didn't come as a surprise to any of my friends or family.

image of books

However, it wasn't until after I finished grad school and was considering doing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) 5 years after completing my first graduate degree that I cultivated the current habits I have around self-help.

So here's the story. I saw several of my colleagues with advanced degrees beyond the Urban Planning degree we all possessed, being promoted at higher rates than those of us with just one advanced degree. So I decided to explore the option of going to get an MBA as I had read that it would yield the best return on investment. At that point, I knew that I wanted to be either an intrapreneur or an entrepreneur. My boss during that time, who is a force, has an MBA. Other women I knew who had made those investments in themselves were also making 6 and 7 figure salaries.

I discussed pursuing an MBA with both my mother and my partner. My mother recommended that I speak to my  financial planner about this since there were both opportunity costs and financial costs in pursuing another master's degree. I needed to understand my financial health and the implications of taking such an action since I was already in significant debt from pursuing a Master's in Urban Planning from Columbia University.

I ended up having a very long conversation with my financial planner. During that session, he listened to my logic regarding pursuing an MBA. He also asked me to recount my short and long term goals.  We ended our session with him asking me to explore alternatives before making the decision about the MBA given the mismatch between my personal financial goals and pursuing an MBA. 

Fast forward 2 months later. After over 30 hours of internet research and informational interviews I came across a Blog that was about a book called Don't Pay for Your MBA. This served as my gateway into the self-help universe.  It’s been 5 years since I took that leap. And I’m so glad I did.

If you want to know more about how to improve yourself and your business, check out our specialty retail resources here. 


Sika is a co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer here at Uncut Lab. She leads the sales, business development, and marketing efforts of the company.