Reading can be just as important as dressing to the nines or practicing your firmest handshake when you're gearing up for a job interview. When the stakes are sky-high and your eye is on that corner office, picking up a book might feel irresponsible. Reckless. Maybe even dumb. But, good news, readers: I'm here to report that spending time with text that's not your resume or your potential employer's website could be the key to you landing that dream job.
We all know reading is good for your health; studies have linked reading to improved memory and brain functioning, longer life expectancy rates, and better self-reflection skills. But there's also evidence that reading helps us reduce stress — and when is stress higher than before a job interview? Except for those exceptional people who get a rush from championing their skills in a high-pressure situation, I'm pretty sure most of us would rank job-interviewing right up there with public speaking. That's why reading, like any other stress-buster, is important to prioritize before a job interview. University of Sussex neuropsychologists found that six minutes of reading relieves stress better than taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea, or listening to music.
So the next time you're interviewing for a major gig, take out your earbuds, skip the treadmill, and spend your prep time with one of these eight books that will help you land the job.
1. Ovenman by Jeff Parker
Though you might not aspire to be When Thinfinger, the punk skateboarder hero of this novel, his epic journey through restaurant jobs and pizza-selling gigs just might motivate you to try harder — or discover that success can take many forms.
2. Presence : Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges by Dr. Amy Cuddy
Raise your hand if you haven't seen Cuddy's 2012 TED talk. (It's only the series' second most-viewed video of all time.) Spending some time with Presence will remind you that you have all the tools necessary to meet whatever challenge might await in that conference room.
3. Hotels Of North America by Rick Moody
Moody's novel was one of my favorites of 2015: I want everyone to read it. But it's also perfect if you're staying in an unfamiliar city for an out-of-town interview. Structured as a series of hotel reviews by motivational speaker Reginald Edward Morse, a top contributor to RateYourLodging.com, Hotels of North America is one man's life story as told through vignettes. They're just as frequently gross-out funny as they are heart-wrenching and, luckily for you, Job Seeker, many of them take a mere six minutes to read.
4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Reading Roxane Gay is a surefire path to feeling empowered and confident in the best way — because these essays also celebrate our individual nuances and complexities. Smart but accessible, Gay's voice is a great one to have in your head before any high pressure situation.
5. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Ignatius J. Reilly is a protagonist so singular he's bound to get you out of your head. Plus, Toole's tragicomic novel brilliantly pokes fun at the very nature of the corporate workplace (against the unlikely backdrop of the Levy Pants factory), especially with Ignatius's hysterical text-within-the-text, "Journal of a Working Boy."
6. Those Who Leave And Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
A lot has been written about how vividly Elena Ferrante portrays female friendships, but her Neapolitan novels also portray working life in a detailed and realistic way. Elena and Lila's career paths are just — if not more — interesting than their sex lives.
7. Stories In The Worst Way by Gary Lutz
If you're a writer who's preparing for a job interview (yes, some writers do have to work), there's a good chance you know Lutz's now-renowned essay, "The Sentence Is a Lonely Place." If you're new to Lutz, though, start with his stories, which comprise sentences so radical they'll make you re-evaluate the parts of speech.
8. Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
If you really can't stop thinking about the interview and need the coolest coach ever to give you a pep talk, turn your six minutes over to Cheryl Strayed and soak up the wisdom.