10 books to read before you quit your job to work out what’s next

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In May 2018, on my twenty-fifth birthday, I woke up and didn’t need to go into the office for work.

The previous day I’d packed up my desk at my full-time job. It was now my first day of self-employment, one month after quitting my job on good terms but feeling totally burnt out.

I’d initially planned to find another full-time job, but a few people reached out to me about freelance projects. I had enough of these offers to actually make it work, and I jumped at the opportunity.

The following six months saw big ups, many emotional outbursts, and waves of fear and loneliness. But I didn’t go broke, and I had more time and freedom than ever to enjoy living in Switzerland, the land of cheese, chocolate, mountains, and sky-high living costs.

I was building my business and writing the draft of what would become Mountain Song; all while doing a lot of writing, thinking, and watching nature from my little Heidi house by the mountains.

Five years on, I’ve never gone back to a full-time job. This isn’t for everyone, but it’s worked for me. (I talk about this in my newest book, Simple Business.)

Books have been with me the whole way before, during, and after quitting my job. Which is needless to say, really. They are always there.

In case they’re useful for you too, here are the books that helped me to decide whether to quit my job, figure out my next moves, and find the courage to go through with it.

The house in Meiringen, Switzerland where I spent my first year after quitting my job.

The best books to help you decide whether to quit your job (and work out what to do next)

Reinventing You by Dorie Clark

I love Dorie Clark’s writing. When I started my business, her book Entrepreneurial You was an incredibly valuable guide to creating several revenue streams.

When you’re planning a change in your life, Dorie’s book Reinventing You is a great choice. Read it to imagine your future and work out where you’re doing next.

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks

Four Thousand Weeks is one of my favourite non-fiction books of the last few years. It asks one crucial question better than any other book I’ve read: what should we really be prioritising?

Read this when you’re feeling lost in your career for philosophical food for thought. What do you want to do during your time on earth?

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna

This book is the perfect inspirational read for when you’re at a crossroads or planning a career change. The Crossroads of Should and Must is Elle Luna’s guide to listening to the voice inside of you rather than the opinions and expectations of others.

Whether you’re starting out or starting over, making a career change or a life change, read this to decide how you can heed the call and act on what you must do, rather than what you should do.

Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life by Laura Gassner Otting

Sometimes ignoring everyone else is the best thing you can do for your life and career. Limitless by Laura Gassner Otting is a fantastic guide to doing just this and finding a unique path where you can thrive.

Lean Out: A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life by Tara Henley

What if you want to do less and be more? I’ve written before about Tara Henley’s excellent memoir Lean Out in the context of more people than ever seeming to want to move to the middle of nowhere and start a farm (guilty).

Lean Out is Tara’s story of getting burnt out, quitting her job, and exploring different ways of leaning out from the hustle and grind.

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

When I was unhappy and unhealthy in my full-time job, I started reading a whole lot of get-out-of-a-rut non-fiction. One of these books was You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero.

Yeah, it’s got an embarrassing title. But it really helped. It helped me realise that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wasn’t healthy, either.

I’ve always struggled with my skin, but it was the worst it had ever been. My sweat smelled like stress, which happens when I’m in a really bad place. I also ended up in hospital with a suspected kidney infection.

I wasn’t moving up in my career, nor was I supported. There were people around me who were definitely bringing me down. Reading Jen Sincero gave me the kick in the butt I needed to make a change, even though I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going.

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Vision and Make Things Happen by Tara Mohr

Around the time I quit my job, I also read Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Vision and Make Things Happen by Tara Mohr.

It’s an excellent kick-in-the-butt guide to understanding when you’re letting fear get in the way and what to do instead. If you feel held back or like you’re not achieving what you’re capable of, definitely read Playing Big.

Freedom Seeker: Live More, Worry Less, Do What You Love by Beth Kempton

Freedom Seeker was the perfect book for me to read while starting my own business and feeling a bit lost. It’s an inspiring but gentle guide to doing what you love by the author of Wabi Sabi, Beth Kempton.

It’s an especially great book to read if you’re itching to do something different but don’t know what (or how). Alongside advice on living the life you want, Beth also shares her own journey to freedom and doing what she loves every day.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I’ve thought a lot about life design in the last decade. It was one of the main reasons I started this website, in fact. I wanted to share my stories of creating a life I loved, but also see if I could help others get closer to their own definition of living well.

One of the best books about designing your life is the aptly-named Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Read it to take a step closer to figuring out what you want and how to get there.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built book

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is one of the most heartwarming and wholesome fiction books about a character who quits their job. In this case, it’s Sibling Dex, a non-binary gardener-turned-tea-monk who can’t figure out what their thing is. Even though their work is okay, it’s just not… it.

Becky Chambers is one of the best authors to turn to when you’re feeling lost in life, and I couldn’t recommend a better novel to read when you’re thinking of quitting your job.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library

At the stroke of midnight on what she plans to be her last day on earth, Nora finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which leaves her with the all-important question: what is the best way to live?

The Midnight Library is a book about fresh starts that will inspire you to think about the decisions you make every day, as well as your big-picture vision for life. That, of course, includes your work. Read this and ponder what the different versions of your life could look like – and what you want your next step to be.

Before I quit my job, reading and thinking a lot helped me work out what I had to do.

I’d known it for a while, but I feared the insecurity of not knowing what I’d do next. I quit my job with no other option in place – a luxury of being young, mortgageless, and childless, but scary and unsettling nonetheless.

After I opened up that space in my life, new opportunities flowed in.

It hasn’t been a seamless journey: my work has pivoted a lot and looks very different now than five years ago. But I’ve learned a tonne.

Throughout the journey since quitting my job, books have continued to show me the way.

Mary Oliver’s words comforted me, as they always do. They encouraged me to sit outside, spend time in the woods, and write about nature, life, and how I was feeling. She reminded me to pay attention.

I read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig to take my mental health seriously and know I was not alone when I felt anxious or under the weather. I learned that our planet makes it all too easy to feel that way, but we can fight that.

Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki reminded me that I didn’t need to be earning megabucks. If I had enough to support my living costs and have what’s important to me, that’s enough in so many ways.

With the inspiration and encouragement of good books, I’m building a career that works for me; one that best cares for my values, creativity, lifestyle, and wellbeing. I hope that books can help to guide your instinct and show you the way too.

If you liked this post, you might also like my collection of the best books to read when you feel lost in your career and my guide to working out what it is you really want.

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