The best books on living with purpose

Who am I?

I'm a Professor of Finance who specialises in purposeful business and purposeful living. My work on the former shows how companies driven by purpose are ultimately more successful than those driven by profit alone. My interest in the latter stems partly from the former, but also from 20 years of teaching MBA students at MIT, Wharton, and London Business School. While my day job is to teach finance equations, often even more important to my students’ career success and life happiness is living with purpose. There are many self-proclaimed gurus on this topic who shoot from the hip, so I am particularly interested in books based on scientific research.

I wrote...

Book cover of Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit

What is my book about?

A Financial Times Book of the Year! Should companies be run for profit or purpose? In this ground-breaking book, acclaimed finance professor and TED speaker Alex Edmans shows it's not an either-or choice. Drawing from real-life examples spanning industries and countries, Edmans demonstrates that purpose-driven businesses are consistently more successful in the long-term. But a purposeful company must navigate difficult trade-offs and take tough decisions. Edmans provides a roadmap for company leaders to put purpose into practice, and overcome the hurdles that hold many back. He explains how investors can discern which companies are truly purposeful and how to engage with them to unleash value for both shareholders and society. And he highlights the role citizens can play in reshaping business to improve our world. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Why did I love this book?

“Mr Covey has a knack of dressing up spiritual principles in pinstripes,” observed one commentator. This 1990 bestseller reinvigorated the personal development market almost singlehandedly.

It covers several major topics, not limited to but including: being the master of your own destiny, setting goals and priorities, managing your time and separating out the ‘important’ from the ‘urgent’, showing empathy towards others, and thinking ‘win-win’ in relationships.

Nowadays, there are many ‘self-help’ books on topics such as developing habits and time management, but they mainly rehash Covey with far less authority.

By Stephen R. Covey,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller - over 25 million copies sold
The No. 1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century

"[Thirty] years after it first appeared, the wisdom of The 7 Habits is more relevant than ever. On an individual level people are burning out, and on a collective level we are burning up the planet. So Dr. Covey's emphasis on self-renewal and his understanding that leadership and creativity require us to tap into our own physical, mental, and spiritual resources are exactly what we need now." Arianna Huffington

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written,…

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Book cover of The Little Prince

Why did I love this book?

Ostensibly a children’s book, The Little Prince is much, much more.

It’s about the importance of savouring the breadth, length, height, and depth of life, rather than focusing on goals; and about the importance of maintaining your child-like wonder as you mature and what was once novel becomes familiar. While a fiction book, it is consistent with scientific research on what drives happiness is not so much your circumstances, but how you respond to and find joy in your circumstances.

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Little Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as 'The Little Prince'. Richard Howard's new translation of the beloved classic-published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's birth-beautifully reflects Saint-Exupery's unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this new edition has been restored to match in detail and in colour Saint-Exupery's original artwork. By combining the new…

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coelho,

Book cover of The Alchemist

Why did I love this book?

The story of the journey of a shepherd from Andalusia to Egypt has sold more than 30 million copies since it first appeared in 1988.

It is about personal drive, taking risks, and following your dream – and how, if you do so, things fall into place to allow you to achieve it. While it might seem strange to base life decisions on a fiction book, the power of positive thinking has been backed up by scientific research.

By Paulo Coelho,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Alchemist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A global phenomenon, The Alchemist has been read and loved by over 62 million readers, topping bestseller lists in 74 countries worldwide. Now this magical fable is beautifully repackaged in an edition that lovers of Paulo Coelho will want to treasure forever.

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. This is such a book - a beautiful parable about learning to listen to your heart, read the omens strewn along life's path and, above all, follow your dreams.

Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is…

How Will You Measure Your Life?

By Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, Karen Dillon

Book cover of How Will You Measure Your Life?

Why did I love this book?

An excellent book on how to find meaning and fulfillment in your career and personal relationships, and to be true to your values even when it’s tempting to make an exception ‘just this once’.

In a surprising change of career tack, Harvard Business School’s Clay Christensen moves from contemplating innovation and industry change to seeking to understand how you truly gauge success.

By Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, Karen Dillon

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How Will You Measure Your Life? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do you lead a fulfilling life? That profound question animates this book of inspiration and insight from world-class business strategist and bestselling author of The Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton Christensen.

After beating a heart attack, advanced-stage cancer and a stroke in three successive years, the world-renowned innovation expert and author of one of the best selling and most influential business books of all time - The Innovator's Dilemma - Clayton M. Christensen delivered a short but powerful speech to the Harvard Business School graduating class. He presented a set of personal guidelines that have helped him find meaning and happiness…

Book cover of How to Win Friends and Influence People

Why did I love this book?

Originally published in 1937, this was the original self-improvement book. Carnegie described it as a “practical, working handbook on human relations”.

After reading it, you might think that none of his tips are earth-shatteringly surprising, but you may not have thought of them before reading the book. This is indeed the mark of a great book – something that makes lots of sense after you read it (and so you’re most likely to put it into practice) but you wouldn’t have guessed yourself; and certainly would not have framed it in as clear and convincing manner as Carnegie.

By Dale Carnegie,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked How to Win Friends and Influence People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Millions of people around the world have - and continue to - improve their lives based on the teachings of Dale Carnegie. In How to Win Friends and Influence People Carnegie offers practical advice and techniques, in his exuberant and conversational style, for how to get out of a mental rut and make life more rewarding.

His advice has stood the test of time and will teach you how to:
- make friends quickly and easily
- increase your popularity
- win people to your way of thinking
- enable you to win new clients and customers
- become a…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in success in life, Spain, and fairy tales?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about success in life, Spain, and fairy tales.

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