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5 Unexpected Books Every Consultant Should Read

You see a lot of book lists floating around the interwebs. Many contain great recommendations of useful books for consulting firm leaders. However, the books on the list are largely not unexpected or trajectory shifting.

(I say that despite many lists highlighting one of my books, which is flattering, of course.)

Some of the most life-changing and business-changing books aren’t about business at all.

Isn’t that more interesting?

My team and I tossed around non-business books that absolutely transformed our business thinking.

After eliminating all the dessert cookbooks, we developed a shortlist, four of which are noted below. (The word clouds show readers’ tags and are courtesy of

What should the fifth book be? You tell us.

5 Unexpected Books Every Consultant Should Read

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

The origins of Right-Side Up Thinking are in the pages of this classic parenting book.* I read it when I was a young manager and first-time parent. It forever changed how I viewed the world and profoundly affected the success of my consulting career.

No Contest: The Case Against Competition

by Alfie Kohn

Consulting firm leaders who work with our group know we strongly encourage partnerships. We believe every aspect of your consulting practice, including marketing, delivery and infrastructure, runs more effectively and efficiently when you view your consultancy as a series of partnerships. Much of that thinking was influenced by Kohn’s seminal book.

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

by James Clear

This well-known book verges on business-related; however, since the word cloud doesn’t show “Business” in a large size, we included it. Good habits affect every part of your life and your business, and Clear’s book contains so many useful tips and approaches, we felt it has to be on the list.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself and Win

By Maria Konnikova

A memoir that explores the relative importance of skills, expertise and human connection through the game of poker. You’ll find concepts in the book that translate directly to consulting, such as understanding your client’s context, emotions and decision-making processes. For those of us who lead with our deep expertise, Konnikova’s tale provides a counter-balance that significantly improves our consulting game.

What should the fifth book on this list be?

The rules for inclusion:

  1. The book is not about business or intended for a business audience (i.e., no books about sales, marketing, fundamentals of operations theory, etc.)
  2. The book must be commercially published (no self-published books).

(You can tell whether a book qualifies by searching for it on They display a word cloud about the book’s tags, and if none of the large tags is “Business” the book qualifies!)

What non-business books have transformed your thinking?

  1. Dianna Rudd
    February 15, 2023 at 7:19 am Reply

    The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
    I like it better than Atomic Habits.
    and the classic
    7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    • David A. Fields
      February 15, 2023 at 7:54 am Reply

      Two great books, Dianna! Alas, neither one qualifies under the non-business book rules. Nevertheless, they’re good suggestions for every consultant’s reading list. Thanks for suggesting them!

      compound effect word cloud

  2. Jerry Bauer
    February 15, 2023 at 7:28 am Reply

    Who Moved My Cheese?: A Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Your Life

    It’s not business related, however, life-related. It happens to us all, and usually more than once each decade.

    • David A. Fields
      February 15, 2023 at 7:56 am Reply

      A classic, Jerry. It doesn’t officially qualify for the list because it is a business book; however, everyone will benefit from reading that little fable. Great suggestion.

      who took my cheese word bubble

  3. Daniel Aronson
    February 15, 2023 at 7:31 am Reply

    The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

    • David A. Fields
      February 15, 2023 at 7:57 am Reply

      Although that book is clearly in the business genre, so doesn’t qualify for this list, it’s a great suggestion, Daniel! I appreciate your contribution.

      5th discipline word cloud

  4. Mike Robinson
    February 15, 2023 at 7:34 am Reply

    21 Lessons – Yuval Noah Harari.

    If I can have a trilogy then all three! 🙂
    Homo Deus
    21 Lessons

    • David A. Fields
      February 15, 2023 at 7:58 am Reply

      Outstanding, Mike! I haven’t read that trilogy, but will add them to the list. And they qualify because “Business” does not show up on the word cloud. Well done!

      21 lessons word bubble

  5. Karen Martin
    February 15, 2023 at 7:42 am Reply

    Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein (a gifted and loving human who passed away two weeks ago). He had a profound impact on my consulting approach (and is inspiring me to write my 6th book!).

    • David A. Fields
      February 15, 2023 at 8:19 am Reply

      Congratulations on the 6th book, Karen! While “Humble Inquiry” doesn’t qualify for the list because it’s a business book, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a great read for consultants. Well done!

      humble inquiry word bubble

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