A sovereign professional reading list

I am collating a list of books that might be useful to fellow-travellers. These are books on freelancing, the world of work, the gig economy etc. But also, there are books on mindset, attitude and philosophy.

My criteria here are simple: books that I’ve read and would recommend to like-minded souls: freelancers, interims, talent economy workers, gig economy workers, solopreneurs … sovereign professionals. I’m sure I’ve missed some, and the list will inevitably grow, but this is a start.


Marcus Aurelius, Meditations – Essential reading. The Stoic classic, all the more powerful for being Marcus’s notebook rather than his text book.
Bate, Nicholas, You, Only Better – Find your strengths, be your best and change your life.
Beckwith, Harry, Selling the Invisible – Fist published in 1997, the examples are wonderfully dated, but the insights on marketing services are timeless.
Brennan, Jason, Against Democracy – If you are at all uneasy at recent democratic outcomes, this is the book for you.
Brown, Derren, Happy – Stoicism for the modern age. A wonderfully practical, but beautifully crafted book.

Coase, Ronald, The Nature of the Firm – Back in 1937, Coase explained why firms and employees exist in the first place. The answer, transaction costs, explains the current growth in sovereign professionalism. This is not a book, but an academic paper available free, via Wiley (and other online sources).

Donkin, Richard, The History of Work – From hunter-gatherer to googler, an expansive, insightful and readable history. The further you look back, the further forward you can see.
Frankl, Viktor, Man’s Search for Meaning – Harrowingly authentic. Inspiring.
Gratton, Lynda, The Shift
Handy, Charles, The Empty Raincoat – Along with The Sovereign Individual, this book set me thinking about the sovereign professional model.
Harding, Ford, Rain Making – A professional’s guide to attracting new clients.
Hopson, Barry & Ledger, Katie – And What Do You Do? – Starting out? A 10-step guide to creating a portfolio career (but also useful if that portfolio starts out as just one).
Machiavelli, Nicolo, The Prince – Lessons in leadership from the sixteenth century. Not what you might expect.
MacLeod, Hugh, Ignore Everybody – Seeking inspiration? I have three of Hugh’s cartoon on my office wall.
McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius: A Life – I learned so much about Marcus the man and about Rome in his time.
Murray, Douglas, The Madness of Crowds – Cutting through our time’s obsession with identity politics.
Murray, Douglas, The Strange Death of Europe – Insightful and troubling.
Peterson, Jordan, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos – A densely written, fascinating book that draws on evolutionary biology, philosophy, religion and psychology to shine light on our lives. Highly recommended.
Peterson, Jordan, Beyond Order – The follow-up to 12 Rules for Life. Equally fascinating.
Pink, Daniel, Drive – Autonomy, mastery, purpose.
Pink, Daniel, Free Agent Nation – From 2002, some of this has happened, some hasn’t (yet), but still a great exploration of the various dimensions of being a free agent, a sovereign professional.
Pressfield, Steven The War of Art – Creative? You need this book. It will lead you to The Odyssey, via Lawrence of Arabia.
Rees-Mogg, William & Davidson, James Dale, The Sovereign Individual – The book that started my journey.
Robertson, Donald, How To Think Like a Roman Emperor – a remarkable book that combines story, history, text and handbook.
Sun-tzu, The Art of War – A fascinating and succinct guide to strategy that’s relevant beyond the military.
Tetlock, Philip & Gardner, Dan, Super-forecasting – Read this if you want to think clearly about the future.
Wade, Michael, Random Thoughts – As the sub-title says, brief reflections and moments of clarity. Ideal for dipping into.


Dickens, Charles, Dombey and Son – a cautionary tale of pride, arrogance and pomposity.
Heinlein, Robert A., The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – A classic of libertarian fiction.
Mantel, Hilary, The Wolf Hall Trilogy
The life and progress of Thomas Cromwell, a masterclass in navigating a political landscape, and a beautifully written tale, as well.
Orwell, George, Animal Farm
The tarred wall and the sheep. Always relevant.
Orwell, George, Nineteen Eighty-four – The thought police.
Rand, Ayn, Atlas Shrugged
1,200 pages of almost unreadable prose, but still a worthwhile antidote to commonly accepted perspectives. Gird your loins, pin your eyes open and trudge through at least the first couple of hundred pages.
Rand, Ayn, The Fountainhead – A refusal to compromise personal and professional integrity. An easier read than Atlas Shrugged, offering plenty to ponder
Stephenson, Neal, Snow Crash – First published in 1992. Sometimes it’s eye-opening when you look back to see forwards.