These Inspirational Books Are Perfect Business Gifts!

Challenge your clients' and customers' minds with the gift of reading this holiday season...
Challenge your clients’ and customers’ minds with the gift of reading this holiday season…

In an age of high-tech disruption, why not distinguish yourself by going low-tech with the gift of old-school reading? Call me a Luddite, but I still worship at the altar of paper-and-ink books.

This doesn’t mean I abhor the Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader you may own. What I’m saying is this: “When you care enough to send the very best,” any of the below book recommendations will provide welcome digital relief.

Yes, I’ve read all these books. No, none of them involve someone moving your cheese, a 4-hour workweek, or eating frogs. Yes, it’s an eclectic collection of printed possibilities. But it’s not an exhaustive list, so please leave your book-as-gift recommendations in the form of a comment or other digital smoke sign.

If you do send out books as client gifts this year, don’t forget to pen a personal inscription on the inside cover page. And go ahead, use an ink color that matches your business logo…

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I hope I don’t trigger any controversial commentary by recommending this very recent, very brief, very powerful knockout of a nonfiction book. My hardcover edition clocks in at 152 pages–child’s play for a serious reader!

Written by the red-hot Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me is a (long!) letter to his teenage son regarding how little his young black body is valued in contemporary American society. This book’s title comes from a powerful poem by Richard Wright, author of Native Son.

To tell you anymore would be unfair. Consider giving this book to the more dogmatic clients in your life. Also, carve out time to read it for yourself.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Those of you already familiar with Fahrenheit 451, “a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future,” might think it odd that I consider it an inspirational story. And yet, I do. (Guy Montag, the story’s protagonist, is a troubled “fireman” who burns books.)

The reason: Montag overcomes his herd-mentality acceptance of television as societal savior by questioning authority. As a book lover, I can’t help but cheer for Montag as he claws his way to a more challenging life of independent thought.

Don’t let Mr. Bradbury’s science-fiction credentials and sometimes convoluted dialogue deter you from Fahrenheit 451. The opening is a killer of a first sentence: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

This book would make a fantastic present for your strong-willed, independent-minded clients and customers.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: Before writing her first memoir (and best one, in my opinion), Maya Angelou was an educator and civil-rights worker who considered herself a poet and playwright.

But upon publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her career transcended all previous descriptions. Angelou became a memoirist with a vengeance. To write one fascinating autobiography is an accomplishment. Maya Angelou had enough life experiences to write seven autobiographies!

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings all but implores you to develop the will to survive ANY obstacle life inconveniently trips you up with.

For Ms. Angelou (given name–Marguerite), this included: her parents splitting up while she was still a toddler, enduring the South’s unending, post-Civil War stain of racism, being raped at age eight, and becoming a teenage mother (age 16).

Angelou borrowed her book’s title from a famous anti-oppression poem, “Sympathy,” written by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Give the book to those clients and customers who never tire of an indomitable will conquering the merry-go-round of life’s hardships.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl: A Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suffered unspeakable experiences as a nameless number at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz (ever so briefly), and Dachau.

How he chose to deal with them led to development of a unique psychotherapy method that became known as the School of Logotherapy.

Reading his book has helped many a troubled soul realize s/he has “nothing to lose except his so ridiculously naked life.” His theory’s premise: Human beings’ primary motivator in life is their search for meaning.

After surviving three years as a concentration camp inmate, Viktor Frankl believed that choosing your attitude in a desperate situation is how you “find your way” for a lifetime.

Once you give Man’s Search for Meaning to your clients and they read it (my 1984 edition is only 179 pages), they’ll never forget it.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich: Here’s the subtitle for this impeccably researched book: On (Not) Getting By in America. Author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote this expose of low-wage-earning Americans as an undercover journalist.

Nickel and Dimed, published in 2000, is a real-life narrative regarding the fallout from 1996’s welfare-reform legislation. Sadly, it still seems relevant today for many U.S. workers, despite the shift from manufacturing to an information/technology-based economy.

While gathering her experiential data about why the working poor remain poor, Ms. Ehrenreich hired herself out as a waitress, a hotel housekeeping maid, a cleaning lady, an aide at a nursing home, and a sales clerk at Walmart. She’s more of a Method writer than a Method actor

This is the book you give to those clients and customers passionate about social causes and economic equality.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King: At some point in this blog’s life, I will dedicate an entire post to Mr. King’s fabulous novella. (You’ll find it in a collection of stories entitled Different Seasons.) The film version of this long short story’s abbreviated name is, of course, The Shawshank Redemption.

Despite the gloomy prison setting, “Shawshank” is my all-time favorite story about the transformational power of hope.

I can’t say it any better than Andy Dufresne’s (aka Peter Stevens in the book) closing sentences to Red in the letter that insinuates a reunion in Mexico. “I think you remember the name of the town, don’t you?”:

“Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.”

I hope you’ll consider giving Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption / Different Seasons to the clients and customers wishing to reclaim their own hopes and dreams. “I hope.”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince is the ultimate gift for those clients who ponder what’s most important in life.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s tiny tome (my paperback version is under 100 pages!) reveals the strange cruelness of grown-up behavior that is often at odds with the lessons adults attempt to teach children. Initially, it seems like a book for kids.

The narrator, a pilot, crashes in the Sahara desert and is stranded. He encounters a boy prince who claims he’s fallen from his home, an asteroid called B-612. The prince asks the pilot seemingly simple questions that parallel the symbolic tales the little guy shares with him.

If you’ve never read The Little Prince, pick up an extra copy for yourself before wrapping the ones designated as client gifts…

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale: I bought this book years ago after a surreal conversation with my (sometimes caustic, always blunt) father. He felt I needed a metaphoric kick in the behind during a low point in my illustrious career.

More than a few mental-health professionals have labeled Dr. Peale’s book (holding steady at 210 pages in the pocketbook version) an obsolete piece of self-help hocus-pocus. But I assure you, it’s not, unless you believe you can self-hypnotize by reading this book.

The Power of Positive Thinking does contain religious overtones and Bible quotes, but you don’t have to be a Christian to implement Dr. Peale’s concepts. You decide!

Of all the book’s inspirational chapters, my favorite is “How to Create Your Own Happiness.” It’s a good reminder that, when bombarded by external stimuli, you are the one who decides whether to be happy or unhappy.

Somewhere on a distant heavenly body, Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie are having a drink together. (They’re also laughing out loud about the passive illusion of relying on mobile technology to deepen human connections…)

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: Do certain clients and customers seem deeply spiritual to you? If so, this slim volume is the perfect way to introduce them to concepts of Eastern belief, as represented by Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzu.

The book’s beginning will help your gift recipients determine whether they view the “vinegar of life” as sour, bitter, or satisfying. I suppose it would help to mention a famous painting referenced by Mr. Hoff that the three spiritual amigos appear in, The Vinegar Tasters.

Naturally, the author does a great job of pulling quotes from A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie-the-Pooh stories to support his theological lessons. To tell you more would be…unsatisfying!


Of the gifts you’re considering this holiday season, what do you intend to give your inner circle of esteemed clients and customers?

Have you ever given a book as a business/corporate gift? If so, what motivated you to do it? Now that you’ve read this blog post, which of these books might you give to clients and customers?

Beyond the recommendations included here, what other inspirational books would you add to my long-winded listicle? Just remember: If it’s worth a look, read the book!

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print or web marketing and educational copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or e-mail By All Writes LLC at  for a no-obligation project quote today!

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