We Asked, You Answered: 7 Books You’ll Turn to Again and Again

Association pros take inspiration from literary sources—both expected and unexpected—to do their jobs. Here are just a few books that inspire Associations Now readers.

Association staff members may be busy managing and leading their organizations, but when they’re not hard at work, they just might be reading.

In honor of National Read a Book Day on September 6, we asked our readers which titles have given them unexpected career inspiration—with an eye toward books beyond management tomes.

Our audience took inspiration from all kinds of sources. Multiple readers cited the Bible. Nods to modern book series (Harry Potter) were just as likely to show up as classics (The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton). Fiction (such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho) was heavily cited; so, too, was nonfiction (‌The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown’s 2013 book about a rowing team that won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin). And given the audience, business books (like David Allen’s ‌Getting Things Done) naturally also got mentioned.

Read on for a few standouts among those who responded to our recent survey.

Wendy-Jo Toyama

CEO, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

The story of No-No Boy by John Okada takes place during a period in American history that is not widely covered. It centers on a Japanese American man living in an internment camp during WWII. He chooses not to denounce his Japanese heritage nor join the U.S. Army. Those who answered “no” to two questions were deemed “No-No Boys.” As American citizens, they felt that by answering “yes,” it implied they were not loyal to begin with, and they were unwilling to fight for a country that did not treat them as citizens.

The story captures events that inform my motivation and deep desire to be involved in work on diversity, equity, and inclusion—reinforcing my values of justice, courage, and family. Also, as a sansei (third-generation) Japanese American, it is powerful to read a work written by another Japanese American—sparking a lifelong dedication to include Asian authors and topics on my reading list.

Maria Matthews

Grassroots Advocacy, ‌American Society of Civil Engineers, Inc.

For me, it’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I remember reading it as a child and loving it because it was Dr. Seuss. I now love how it conveys that your future is yours to design, with the caveat that you have to accept it all to be really successful—the good and the bad. My dad gave me a copy when I graduated from high school, which is now part of my kids’ library. I hope that they’ll appreciate it as much as I do one day!

Michele Driver

‌Training Coordinator, Society of Petroleum Engineers

It’s actually a series: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I began by reading The Hobbit in my fourth-grade class and have read the trilogy every year since then. I also read most of the associated books often. It reminds me that we have more courage than we think we have, that commitment to an honorable task must be kept, that what looks most beautiful can be most dangerous, that friendships are invaluable, and that the darkness in life is ultimately overcome by light.

Laura Northern Venhaus

Certification Coordinator, American Association of Professional Landmen

Always Room for One More, a somewhat obscure but Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book by Sorche Nic Leodhas, is a book that I think of almost every day. With singsong text and gentle illustrations, the author tells the story of Lachie MacLachlan, who lives in “a wee house in the heather” (with his very large family!) who is determined to share whatever he’s got with travelers on a stormy night. It’s a lovely message of generosity and inclusivity, and “there’s always room for one more” has become our family motto.

Tara Barker

Staff Liaison to Volunteer Committees, Institute of Management Accountants

My mother gave me a book early in my life titled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. It was one of her go-to books, and it has become one of mine. It was copyrighted in 1944, and it still stands the test of time, as it is filled with practical advice that can be used in personal and professional life. A powerful line for me was, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” So, keep thinking positive, especially now. I have given copies of this book as gifts to family and friends.

Sarah Cook

‌Development Manager, CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois

Not only did I read [The Hunger Games series] in two days, I feel like it taught the long-running story of rising up during terrible times, but in its own way. When all odds are against you, what else can you do but try your best to succeed? In terms of work, I channel the mindset that no matter how bad/hard/rough things can get, my effort to do my best or do better will make a difference. And it has. As a side note, during the pandemic I have been running more because I once had a terrible dream that we were in The Hunger Games. So I guess you could say it applies to all aspects of life!

Tip Tucker Kendall

‌Director, Member Services, International Society of Arboriculture

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is the one book that I go back to again and again for inspiration and philosophical direction. I know that I can open it up to any page and find something in the text that moves me and reminds me how to be more present and how to live a more meaningful life.

Have any inspiring books on your shelf? Share your literary inspirations in the comments below.

(Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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