Our Favorite Memoirs for Growth

Updated on
May 22, 2024

Building the industry bookshelf one recommended read at a time.

Shoe Dog, Phil Knight

Shoe Dog is a memoir by Phil Knight, the creator of Nike. We all are familiar with Nike’s products, but most of us don’t know about the history and journey of Nike and its founders. With this book, Knight goes in depth about the early days of the company and its evolution as it grew to become one of the largest brands on the planet. I chose this book because I have always loved Nike — from the products, to the simplicity of the marketing, all the way down to the way the brand has adapted and adjusted with the times without ever straying from its core identity.

What I liked most about this book is that it isn’t an egotistical celebration of Knight’s successes or a glamorization of the hardships of entrepreneurship. It’s a surprisingly raw and honest account of Knight’s personal and professional journey through the ups and downs of pursuing a dream and creating something from the ground up. Aspiring entrepreneur or not, this book is a fascinating story and has a lot of great wisdom to take away for anyone.

Riley Collins, Junior Producer

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

There Is an Urgency, Greghri Love

I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Love for the better part of 3 years before I got to redpepper. He looks and dresses like a hardened drill sergeant, but he’s easily one of the most caring, compassionate, and genuine people I know. Mr. Love was born into a world of torture and chaos. While he was placed in horrifying foster homes, they were nothing compared to the experiences he had with his Father Bobby.

This book is a memoir of his life and how he uses his experiences to make a difference in the lives of children who grow up much like he did. There is an Urgency is not an easy read and will leave you wanting to put the book down at times due to the unfathomable abuse he endured, but his triumph in life is what makes it so gripping to read. 100% of profits generated from the book go to organizations dedicated to helping children like Mr. Love get out of terrible situations.

Spencer Watson, Designer

Bobby is the only father that I knew as a child. Without question or argument, Bobby was the most evil creature I have ever known.

Becoming, Michelle Obama

I’m inspired by trailblazers who recognize true bravery (the kind that coexists with fear but is chosen in spite of it) and seek out the “why” in their surroundings to fuel their growth. 

Samara Anderson, VP of Sales & Marketing

What I knew from working in professional environments—from recruiting new lawyers for Sidley & Austin to hiring staff at the White House—is that sameness breeds more sameness, until you make a thoughtful effort to counteract it.

How to Fall in Love with Anyone, Mandy Len Catron

This is such an interesting memoir from the author of the NYT essay ‘To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This’. Catron covers the history, psychology, and biology of love to present answers to some of the most basic questions of love. I found that this book, although it didn’t directly support my knowledge and growth as it pertains to advertising and marketing, has helped me make more sense of the world we’re living in and the relationships we have. 

It’s also important to mention that this is not a self-help book, nor does it give you a prescription for the perfect love..and that’s one of the things I like about it the most.

Clare Thomas, Account Executive

Romantic love is capacious. And I mean that not in the mystical sense – it cannot contain anything or everything and it is never without conditions – but rather it is capacious in the daily way that any expression of love might also express trust, doubt, regret, resignation, humor, self-congratulation, or sacrifice. Love can contain all of this, but love stories rarely do.

The Virgin Way, Richard Branson

Whether you are a “manager” or not we are all leaders. And every leader has their own style and approach. If you are craving to learn more by example, I would suggest picking up this book and diving into the stories of his successes and failures.

Samara Anderson, VP of Sales & Marketing

Listen — it makes you sound smarter.

Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard

This memoir by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, talks in depth about his upbringing and his vision / inspiration for creating a company like Patagonia, while also making sure it aligned with his own personal values and principles. I already really liked Patagonia for the quality and the adventurous persona of the brand, but reading this book made me love it and want to support it even more.

It also opened my eyes to a lot of the realities of entrepreneurship, fast fashion, and environmental sustainability in business. As a born and raised coastal Floridian, the environment has always been something I cared a lot about…so reading about Chouinards’ untraditional approach to business with Patagonia was super inspiring and showed that you don’t need to sacrifice what’s important to you in order to achieve success. If you read this and don’t come away reflecting on consumerism or wanting to do a little more for our planet, I’d be shocked.

Riley Collins, Junior Producer

If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, “This sucks. I’m going to do my own thing."

Untamed, Glennon Doyle

I find that immersing myself in the perspectives of female leaders I admire sparks the curiosity in me to push forward in my own path, and taking the quiet time to read their words is one of my favorite ways to do so.

Samara Anderson, VP of Sales & Marketing

What we need are women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done. She lets the rest burn.

The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch

Prior to his passing from pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch, a professor of human and computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon, gave his final lecture on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The lecture was filmed and immediately went viral. It was later turned into this book which expanded on his story and key takeaways from his famous ‘last lecture.’ I’ve read this book probably fifteen times cover to cover and have laughed, cried, cried some more, and always left feeling more inspired to do more and be better. 10/10 would recommend to everyone.

Don’t complain. Just work harder.

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