Posted January 27, 2014 by in Book Lists

The Best Books about Work Life Balance

Let’s face it. Although our favorite pastime is staying up late and devouring as many books as we possibly can, many of us still need to set aside some time to work if we’re going to make money. That said, there’s ways of finding balance between our reading, work, and personal life, and what better way to study than to read books about work life balance? While most books on this list are nonfiction, one recommended book is fiction to mix things up a bit. The one thing they all have in common? They’ll inspire your working life, whether you’re looking for a new career or just looking to be happier with the job you have.


Working by Studs Terkel

When Terkel was interviewing hundreds of people for this oral history about the daily life of workers in a number of jobs, people viewed work differently. They found a career that they kept for life. Even though that’s far less common now, the insights that these workers gave into why they did what they did is wonderful, and not just because it’s in their own words. While part of Terkel’s agenda is to show how dehumanizing some work can be, he also shows the power of meaningful work, such as how a bookbinder stuck with his job, not because of his pay, but because of his passion for the job.


Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

While much more philosophical than Terkel’s book, Csikszentmihalyi’s nonfiction work deals with how people can achieve “flow” or full immersion in what they’re doing. It’s about those moments when people lose all track of time because they care that much about what they’re doing, just like being immersed into a good book. This immersion can occur anywhere from social interactions to your job. The key, the author says, is often participating in your favorite activity.


Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

In this humorous novel set right after the dot-com bubble burst, the main character is a first-time novelist who is writing about how people spend most of their lives at work. While he writes, he’s also working at a white-collar job;  his ad agency has been tasked with creating a campaign that helps breast cancer sufferers laugh about their cancer (no easy task). The book is at once entertaining as well as thought-provoking, as it shows that there can be small pleasures in any working day, like free bagels and participating in tiny rebellions against management. In this world, as in real life, work can offer meaning and purpose.



Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

No list about work-related books is complete without mention of Sandberg’s highly popular book, Lean In. As she studies why women’s progress has stalled in leadership positions throughout the working world, she teaches her readers to forget excuses and justifications. If you tell yourself you can juggle both family and work, she says, you’ll find a way to do both, as long as you’re not using workers’ compensation. In the end, her important lesson is simple: stop doubting your own abilities. Reach for what you want, and you will succeed.


Off Balance by Matthew Kelly

Kelly redefines what we mean by “work-life balance” by turning the phrase into “work-life effectiveness.” That’s because he believes the tasks we should do in our personal and professional lives should be more about cultivating energy and finding satisfaction, rather than happiness. His book teaches you to set your priorities and to overcome philosophies that burn us out.


Books are powerful in many ways. While so many of them serve as entertainment, these books, among other nonfiction books and novels about work, can also inspire us to live a fuller life.

Courtney Gordner