The Essential Professional Development Reading List

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By CFA Institute and Christine

Note: This is a reading list for candidates that are looking for an engaging read while enhancing their professional development. These books are not CFA curriculum readings and are not intended act as preparation material for the CFA exams.

Looking for something to read? Why not read something entertaining and educational?

We’ve worked with the CFA Institute to assemble a book list to help our readers with their professional development, but at the same time be a fun and engaging read. And you don’t have to take an exam at the end of it – win-win!

The list below, recommended by CFA Institute professional development experts, covers topics such as data science, soft skills, leadership, communication and EQ. Read on and get yourself some quality reading for your spare time!

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund

“One of the most important books I’ve ever read-an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” – Bill Gates

Written by late Swedish statistician Hans Rosling and his long-time collaborators, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, this book changes everything you think you might know about the world, putting the constant ‘bad news’ we are exposed to into fact-based context.

The data that is presented in this fascinating and entertaining book challenges just about everything you believe about the world we live in without in any way minimising the changes that still need to be made. 


Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman

William Easterly of the Financial Times sums it up best:

“There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, distils a lifetime of research into an encyclopaedic coverage of both the surprising miracles and the equally surprising mistakes of our conscious and unconscious thinking.

​He achieves an even greater miracle by weaving his insights into an engaging narrative that is compulsively readable from beginning to end. My main problem in doing this review was preventing family members and friends from stealing my copy of the book to read it for themselves…this is one of the greatest and most engaging collections of insights into the human mind I have read.”


Strengths Finder 2.0
Tom Rath  

Play your strengths, and win

You can’t be all things to all people (or all employers for that matter) so it makes sense to identify your relative strengths and build your personal brand and self-marketing around them. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a tool for identifying the competencies that you are strongest in and provides you with a language for exploring and expressing those strengths. If you happen to manage people or lead teams, you may also find that the way Roth frames the 34 strengths discussed in the book helps you in coaching others


Leaders Eat Last
Simon Sinek

In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. “Officers eat last,” he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort–even their own survival–for the good of those in their care.

A great read to understand what makes good leadership – useful for leaders, aspiring leaders or to understand how effective leadership is done.


Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results
Rob Biesenbach

Study after study confirms that stories have unparalleled power to break down walls, build trust, and influence people to act. More than facts and data alone, stories are fundamental to capturing and expressing our ideas, wishes, and beliefs … and getting the results we want.

Taking a fun, no-nonsense approach, Unleash the Power of Storytelling will teach you: the hard science behind why stories work, a simple three-part structure for telling any story, the role of emotion in fueling great stories, how to cut the clutter and focus your story on the essentials, how and where to find great stories, and tips for delivering your stories in the most effective way possible.

The book also contains tons of practical examples showing you how to use stories in job interviews, presentations, customer calls, employee meetings — even how to craft the right story for a wedding toast or eulogy!


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R Covey

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has captivated readers for 25 years. It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators and parents– in short, millions of people of all ages and occupations.


Emotional Intelligence 2.0
Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves 

By now, emotional intelligence (EQ) needs little introduction—it’s no secret that EQ is critical to your success. But knowing what EQ is and knowing how to use it to improve your life are two very different things.

The book contains proven strategies from a decade-long effort to accurately measure and increase emotional intelligence. Trusted by upper-echelon leaders inside companies worldwide, these strategies will enable you to capitalize on the skills responsible for 58% of performance in all types of jobs.


On Grand Strategy
John Lewis Gaddis

For almost two decades, Yale students have competed for admission each year to the “Studies in Grand Strategy” seminar taught by John Lewis Gaddis, Paul Kennedy, and Charles Hill. Its purpose has been to prepare future leaders for responsibilities they will face, through lessons drawn from history and the classics. Now, Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Gaddis has distilled that teaching into a succinct, sharp, and transformational book, surveying statecraft from Xerxes of Persia to Franklin D. Roosevelt and beyond. On Grand Strategy is an unforgettable expert guide to the art of leadership.


Thoughts? Got your own recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!
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