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Women's Work: Business Books 'Lean In' to a Female Audience

Posted on May 18, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg Lean InTwo years ago, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg told women that in order to succeed in the workplace, they need to Lean In (Knopf, 2013). Her message resonated with readers—hardcover sales per Nielsen BookScan have topped 800K units—and with publishers. New and forthcoming titles encourage women not only to lean in, but also to stand out, grow their value, and take other catchphrase-ready actions.

“[Sandberg] sparked a national discussion with Lean In by encouraging women to pursue their ambitions,” says Dan Ambrosio, a senior editor at Da Capo. “And if you go by recent business bestseller lists, there is clearly a growing and wide-ranging interest in books that speak to female leaders.” In May, Da Capo will publish A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General, by Gen. Ann Dunwoody. The book offers business insight in addition to tales of military leadership, a fact brought home by the foreword, written by Sandberg. (For more on this title, see our Q&A with Dunwoody.)

Shawn Donley, new-book purchasing supervisor for Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., confirms that women are finding advice they can apply to workplace issues from a diverse group of sources. “It seems to be an offshoot of what we’re seeing in other genres: lots of titles with really strong feminist voices,” he says, pointing to 2014 books such as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial) and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me (Haymarket), which may not speak specifically on business topics, but address issues of confidence and self-perception.

In the wake of Lean In, Donley’s store has also seen healthy sales for several female-oriented business books that pubbed in 2014, including Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code (HarperBusiness), Tara Mohr’s Playing Big(Gotham), Arianna Huffington’s Thrive (Harmony), and Sophia Amoruso’s #Girlboss (Penguin/Portfolio).

Amoruso, founder of the online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, offers three main pieces of advice in her book: “Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let the Man get to you.” Readers have responded to her tough talk, with print sales topping 107K units per BookScan.

Read the full story at Publishers Weekly.

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