THE BLOG
12/11/2014 03:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Top 5 Business Books I Read This Year

I don't usually read a lot of business books. My primary reading time is right before bed, and reading books about business right before going to sleep not only doesn't feel right, but it also leads to weird dreams.

So my situation of choice for reading business books is strapped in to an airplane seat. On a business trip, preferably -- not on vacation! And fortunately for me, I had a lot of long flights this year, which led to my reading some truly inspirational books. So if you too want to be inspired about your work, your life and making a difference in this world, here's my recommended list:

1. The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership by Richard Branson

Well, what can I say? I just love this guy and his "screw it, just do it" attitude. Although I am not sure I would want to be his close friend or a family member -- he seems like a bit of a troublemaker! -- I certainly admire his vision and courage, and I laughed so hard at some parts of this book that I'm sure my plane-mates thought I was reading a comedy. Thanks, Richard.

2. The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally

This book qualified for bedtime reading, since it's deeply reflective and spiritual. A friend who is a shaman gave it to me, and I found it to be incredibly helpful in understanding how I might get in my own way sometimes. And, more importantly, what to do about it. If there is only one line you need to know from this book, it's this: "Money itself is created by maintaining a generous state of mind."

3. Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

I read this in preparation for speaking at and attending the Conscious Capitalist CEO summit. It's a great, thoughtful book on the role of values, love, and purpose in business. And because it's reflective of so many hugely successful businesses, such as Mackey's company Whole Foods, it legitimizes a whole new way of doing business and leading.

4. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Being completely, shamelessly honest, I still need one more business trip plane ride to finish this one. But I will. We all kind of take Google for granted. It just IS. But after attending Google Zeitgeist and hearing cofounder and CEO Larry Page speak, I needed to know more. And my curiosity was rewarded by a very inspiring look at what it takes to succeed in this new world.

5. Working For Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living by Jeff Klein

Jeff Klein gave me this book over the summer and invited me to speak at the Conscious Capitalism Summit. And then he died -- suddenly, heartbreakingly, and too early. His death and his life are reminders to seize the day and make everything you do matter -- matter in the Big Way -- because you never know when it will be over. The work will never be done, but your life will be. So enjoy every moment and only do what you believe in.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com