Molly Beck's
Smart, Pretty & Awkward
Book Recommendations

I absolutely love to read, and the only thing better than reading is sharing my favorite books. Both this page and my Book Recommendations Pinterest board are updated each time I find a new book to love and share. Happy Reading!

Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire) by Jen Glantz. Jen is a great friend of mine (who was actually at my wedding, although as a guest, not a bridesmaid!). You can see my full review of Jen’s funny, heartfelt memoir on the book’s Amazon page – but needless to say, I loved it.

The Name Therapist by Duana Taha. This book was a little offbeat, in the best way: it went really deep into what names mean and how they shape your life. It’s also one of those books that I find myself talking about all the time – there was a lot of interesting facts in it that are fun to share in conversation.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. The back cover of the book reads: “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.” It sets the tone for a book that is both playful and serious about creativity, writing, and idea generation. It’s an engaging, fun read, especially if you are a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert – I also love her podcast Magic Lessons which is based off some of the ideas in the book.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. A funny, inspiring book that is both an insider’s peek into the world of Hollywood glamour and a tribute to the power of being an amazing writer. Highly recommend!

Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, & Live Happily Ever After by Miki Agrawal. The whole book is a rallying cry for not just why you should do what you love, but the practical how to get your idea off the ground. Miki also includes other cool tidbits, like best practices for staying healthy while being an entrepreneur and how she married her husband at Burning Man. It’s a comprehensive book that would be perfect if you’re looking to shake-up your mindset.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I read this book on my commute for the past week and was laughing out loud basically every single subway ride. It’s a really, really funny and honest look at being a celebrity, being a woman, and just generally being a successful person. The last chapter on confidence should be required reading for….everyone. Highly recommend! [I also loved Mindy's last book, which I recommended here].

Rising Strong by Brene BrownRising Strong is the newest book from the author of the successful 2013 non-fiction Daring Greatly [I recommended that one here]Just like her earlier work, this book is sparking a cultural conversation – this time around failure, success, and the value in the stories we tell yourself when you fail. This is one you don’t want to miss.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg. I saw Aziz perform stand-up as a surprise guest at a comedy club a few years ago, and I have been a huge fan of his ever since. I was so excited to read this book, and it was as enjoyable as I hoped. It’s a great mix of funny jokes and really interesting research (the book’s co-author is well-respected sociologist Eric Klinenberg) on modern dating and relationships. Would be an awesome book for a book club to discuss.

The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum and Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren. Both are honest, well-written, fascinating memoirs about the huge variety of experiences that make up modern womanhood. I read both books within the same week and was enthralled by each of them.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. I read this book because a good friend was raving about it and I could not have loved it more – I already have bought two copies to pass along to friends for Christmas. [FYI it does touch on some deep adult topics, like sex, drugs, profanity, and similar themes].

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Amy’s book is half-memoir, half-advice, all funny. The stories veer into drugs/sex/etc. on occasion, but overall the clear message is: work hard and be nice, with tons of Hollywood behind-the-scenes scoop and comedy references thrown in. It’s a great read that gives the more serious topics it covers like body image, shame [the chapter "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" would be amazing for a book club to discuss], and divorce the weight they deserve without feeling too heavy.

Welcome to the Real World by Lauren Berger. An awesome read for successfully navigating through your first few jobs out of college, this fun book mixes practical advice for networking with co-workers, organizing your inbox, dealing with tough bosses, and more using tips from the author’s (the founder of own experiences. This would be a great read if you are at the beginning of your career, and/or just want to brush up on quick productivity lessons for the workplace.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. Whether you love fashion, want some entrepreneurship inspiration, or just want a kick-in-the-pants to go after your dreams, this is the book for you.

The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators by Chris Brogan. This great read focuses on how you can leverage your unique personality to find success. What I really appreciated about the book is that much of the advice and examples apply whether you are working inside a company or you are already an entrepreneur or you are currently doing both [like me!]. I’d recommend this book if you want a jump-start to living a life better aligned to your future goals.

Eat Sleep Move by Tom Rath. Each chapter of this book has one specific tip for optimizing your eating, sleeping, and exercising. I left the book with some really tangible take-aways, plus this was an easy read to pick up and put down because each chapter is self-contained. This would be a great book to share with someone whose health and well-being you care about.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom RathThis read starts off with a quiz to determine your five strongest strengths (out of 34 potential characteristics), and then shares tips for how to maximize and develop each strength. It is an easy read – the majority of the work is taking the quiz, and then reading in-depth on each of your strengths, and you leave the book with deep insight what you can uniquely bring to work and personal situations.

The Power of Style by Bobbie Thomas. The book focuses on the idea that Style = Confidence + Fashion, which I love. So the first half is dedicated to ideas such as empowerment, body language, and self-esteem, while the second half focuses on topics like color analysis [my favorite chapter!], body proportion, and really unique, interesting shopping tips. This would be a great read to kick-off a new commitment or reinvention of your style and/or personal care.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guilleabeau. Besides being a must-read for those working in startups, the promotion and marketing chapters would be very helpful for anyone running a blog or Etsy store, and/or interested in unique business concepts and ideas. I really enjoyed this one.

Financially Fearless by Alexa Von Tobel. A great read for increasing your money know-how, the book was surprisingly easy to read for a financial tome and will get your head spinning about both everything you are doing right [and you are definitely doing some things right] and everything you can improve on, with tips that range from small daily tweaks to bigger investment decisions.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. This book will open your mind to a million new ways of thinking about art, gifts, and being valuable at work. If you want to stretch your mind in a new direction in the best way possible, I would start by reading this book. I loved it.

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. This quick read is a series of 21 easy-to-understand productivity strategies, each just a few pages long. It would be perfect to read a strategy each morning while eating breakfast or on a work commute to get into the right mindset to be productive for the day. This would also be a great book to give someone starting a new job or big project.

Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success by Dan Schawbel. This book shares tons of unusual, interesting ways to shine at work. Covering both how to leverage your digital presence as well as how to spend time doing in-person activities that enhance your reputation at work [like joining the company sports team], Promote Yourself is packed with really helpful personal branding insights for the workplace.

Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build An Incredible Career, ed. by Jocelyn K. Glei. This book is perfect breakfast or commute reading. Its small size and bite-sized chapter format, each written by a different author with a positive, career-focused pump-up message, would be the best way to start a workday. I was highlighting inspirational phrases and paragraphs on almost every page.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. The subtitle of this book is alone reassuring: you have more time then you think. A great read on the best ways to structure your 168-hour week so that you have time for all that you have to do and all the things that you want to do. Practical, reasonable, and very interesting, this is one of my favorite time management books I have ever read.

Powered by Happy by Beth Thomas. The book’s subtitle is “How to Get and Stay Happy at Work,” but the strategies shared apply to all aspects of life, both in and out of the office. The book is a relatively quick read, and it’s small size and short-chapter format makes it easy to toss into your bag and read on your commute to start the day off right.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam. A jam-packed read about how others live their lives, full of great ideas to adapt or modify so you can live your best life.

Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day by Cali Williams Yost. This book focuses on helping the reader create and execute achievable goals, or “tweaks,” so that your day-to-day life best represents what you want to focus on in the long-term. I loved the way the book integrated a plan for identifying tweaks to make in your own life with expert advice on a huge variety of topics and real case studies (of people from many different backgrounds) to show the huge variety of ways to structure your day so that it matches your values. A focused, helpful read.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I wanted to read this book for a while, but didn’t find or make the time. What a mistake: I wish I’d read it earlier. I feel newly inspired to set higher goals, and bring and spread more joy. I highly recommend.

Skinnygirl Solutions by Bethenny Frankel. This book has a HUGE amount of content, with tons of helpful tricks on topics as varied as how to get ready faster, clean your house better, start your own business, etc. Great beach/vacation/downtime read to pump you up for the start of fall.

Quiet by Susan Cain. This highly-cited book has excellent advice for dealing with the world if you are an introvert, and/or have close relationships (your partner, your boss, your child) with someone who might consider themselves an introvert. It is both an academic read, and  a practical one, too.

Give and Take by Adam M. Grant. I first got interested in Adam’s work after reading this fascinating NY Times article, and the book expands on his research wonderfully. It is a really insightful, interesting piece on how generosity in your interactions can increase other people’s success…and your own. Highly recommend.

101 Secrets For Your Twenties by Paul Angone. Expanded from this blog post that went viral, the book is a positive, funny read, and would be ideal for someone struggling with a quarter-life crisis, or who just wants an extra boost to get through their 20′s.

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. I am not sure what words I could say that would accurately convey how strongly I think every 20-something needs to read this book, except to say that if you are 20-something, I couldn’t recommend this book more. Even my friends that traditionally don’t choose non-fiction books really loved this one.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. A well-written book with many case studies about both how habits work and how to change them. The whole book was great, but the appendix with the chocolate cookie example was probably my favorite part.

Love At First Click by Laurie Davis. I really enjoyed this fab, fun read filled with online dating hints and tricks. The book has tons of easy-to-apply takeaways, whether you’re just thinking about online dating or have been looking for love on the Internet for a long time.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. Highly recommend for anyone who either works in or is interested in getting into marketing.

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen. I was writing down notes on almost every single page, and it would be a fantastic choice for a book club to discuss.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. One of the most-referenced books of 2013, for a reason.

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin. A rallying read on leadership and the difference one person can make in a movement, with an idea, or to a group of people. I really loved this book and the message. Also, the physical size of the book is small and it is written in a mini-chapter format, making it easy to throw in your bag to read between classes or on the train.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. An amazing, amazing read about the importance of being and feeling vulnerable to live a more fulfilling, genuine life.

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon KedarThis comprehensive overview of all things personal finance is written in a relatable style, and is probably the most accessible version of a personal finance book I’ve read in a long time. I highly recommend, especially if one of your goals is to become better informed about your own financial choices and decisions.

Blog Inc. by Joy Cho. Great for bloggers of any stage, from just starting out to well-established; I got a lot out of the book myself. Besides being written by the talented Oh Joy!, it also includes interviews with some other favorite bloggers, including Emily Schuman and Naomi Davis.

The Gaggle by Jessica Massa. One of the most insightful dating books I’ve read; I have been encouraging every girl I know to read it.

Dare, Dream, Do by Whitney Johnson. An enjoyable read about the importance of identifying goals and going after them, with lots of real-world stories by female dreamers and do-ers mixed into a hopeful message about what someone can accomplish. [And tons of quotes, which I loved].

The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Great read for anyone transitioning into a new role at work. It is an easy-to-follow business book written within the framework of a blueprint for the first 90 days of the new position, whether the position is within the current company or at a new one. I was so enthralled I read it in an afternoon before I started a new job.

Seriously, I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. A fun, lighthearted read; would be a great choice to read before you fall asleep to clear your mind of the day’s stresses, or to read on a plane if you are a nervous flyer.

Bossypants by Tina Fey had me laughing at loud on almost every page, but the book also was rooted in a message I really liked about working hard to make your dreams come true.

A Place of Yes by Bethenny Frankel. I re-read this book often, as I admire Bethenny’s business and branding sensibilities.

Renegades Write the Rules by Amy Jo Martin. Well-written, engaging read for those who are interested in corporate social media, and/or applying those strategies to your own business or brand.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. This is an easy, funny read: ideal vacation reading material.

6 Responses

  1. Great list! I read “On my Own Two Feet” early on in college. Definitely a must-read for anyone, and especially nice that it was catered to women. Completely unintimidating.

    I just finished “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore” for a new book club. Quick read and entertaining!

    Thanks for this list – will have to update my Good reads :)

  2. xandra ★ says:

    So excited to discover this page today! After the latest “Smarter” book recommendations, I was like geez, Molly, just start a book club! I’d join :)

  3. [...] have Coffee! Molly Ford's Smart, Pretty & Awkward AboutBook RecommendationsAs Seen In “Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of [...]

  4. [...] your inspiration? Thank you! My biggest source of inspiration is from the books I read. I only recommend the ones I really love, but I read about a book a week.  I think the constant flow of new ideas from authors helps to [...]

  5. Hannah says:

    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog, was captivated by the name and I’m really enjoying your writing. I noticed that you read the strengths finder book. What were your top 5? I’m completely obsessed with this inventory and have been teaching workshops with my staff. My 5 are Arranger, Learner, Strategic, Achiever and Futuristic.

  6. Mugdha says:

    I’ve read nearly all the ones by female comedians on here, and they are some of my favorites! I love how frank and no-nonsense they are about serious issues! I hope to handle many things with that kind of grace someday.

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