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.


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Penguin Great Ideas edition
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations – Essential reading. The Stoic classic, all the more powerful for being Marcus’s notebook rather than his text book.
You, Only Better by Nicholas Bate
Bate, Nicholas, You, Only Better – Find your strengths, be your best and change your life.
Against Democracy by Jason Brennan
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.

History of Work by  Richard Donkin
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.
The Shift by Linda Gratton
Gratton, Linda – The Shift: The future of work is already here – A must-read for every sovereign professional.
Handy, Charles, The Empty Raincoat – From 1995 and surprisingly prescient. Along with The Sovereign Individual, this book clarified my thinking and my view of the future.
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).
The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
Machiavelli, Nicolo, The Prince – Lessons in leadership from the sixteen century. Not what you might expect.
Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod
MacLeod, Hugh, Ignore Everybody – Seeking inspiration? I have three of Hugh’s cartoon on my office wall.
Marcus Aurelius: A Life by Frank McLynn
McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius: A Life – I learned so much about Marcus the man and about Rome in his time.
12 Rules by Jordan Peterson
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.
Drive by Daniel Pink
Pink, Daniel, Drive – Autonomy, mastery, purpose.
Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink
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.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Pressfield, Steven The War of Art – Creative? You need this book. It will lead you to The Odyssey, via Lawrence of Arabia.
The Sovereign Individual - James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg
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.
The Art of War by Sun-tzu
Sun-tzu, The Art of War – A fascinating and succinct guide to strategy that’s relevant beyond the military.


Dickens, Charles, Dombey and Son – a cautionary tale of pride, arrogance and pomposity.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein - a libertarian clasiic
Heinlein, Robert A., The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – A classic of libertarian fiction.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Mantel, Hilary, Wolf Hall
The life and progress of Thomas Cromwell, a masterclass in navigating a political landscape.
Orwell, George, Animal Farm
The tarred wall and the sheep. Always relevant.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
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.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Rand, Ayn, The Fountainhead – A refusal to compromise personal and professional integrity. An easier read than Atlas Shrugged, offering plenty to ponder.