We’re big readers at Doist. You’ll often find our team sharing book recommendations in Twist threads, discussing our virtual book club’s latest read, and (for some us 😅) spending our monthly education perk stockpiling more books than one could ever hope to keep up with.
You can even trace many of our company’s guiding principles back to a book:
- Our “Hell Yeah or No” framework was born directly from Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. We use this heuristic for deciding everything from what projects to work on next and who we should hire.
- Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman has served as a guiding example of what it looks to build a large and impactful company while remaining deeply ethical and committed to good.
- Both managers and individual contributors at Doist “care personally” and “challenge directly” based on the advice laid out in Kim Scott’s Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
- We built our team communication tool, Twist, based on a desire to detach from the always-on culture we experienced with Slack. We needed an asynchronous tool that enabled “deep work”, a concept named by Cal Newport and expanded upon in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek has inspired us to be intentional in everything we do and have a clear “Why” when we make decisions – from revised landing pages to new product features.
But we don’t just read business books. The following recommendations from members of our team run the gamut from self-improvement and leadership to science fiction and memoir. The authors include a comedian, a chess master, and an NFL coach just to name a few.
Why not just stick to “useful” books? We believe there’s immense value in reaching across the shelf to discover ideas outside of what you’d usually be drawn to. When you read to follow your curiosity, there’s no telling what new perspectives and serendipitous connections you might discover. These books all have one thing in common though: They’ve shaped our thinking about the world in ways big and small. We hope you find them as inspiring, thought-provoking, and entertaining as we did.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
Book Summary: Penned by the Co-Founder and President of Pixar Animation Studios, this book explores how to cultivate creativity at scale and examines the blockages that stand in the way of executing ambitious and innovative projects. Catmull and Wallace emphasize the importance of methodically seeking feedback from employees, eliminating the fear of failure, and opting for the perfect team rather than the perfect process. Filled with interesting anecdotes straight from the walls of Pixar, this book is a working guide for building an imaginative work environment where inventiveness thrives.
Recommended by Ana Ferreira (@ac_f), Head of Design
- Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It – Mike Monteiro
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
Book Summary: This book extends far beyond material minimalism. Instead, the author asks us to apply clarity to every facet of our lives to determine what should stay and what should go. Essentialism is a roadmap for ridding ourselves of the desire to do everything, choosing to focus only on the things in life that positively impact our wellbeing, and doing them to the best of our ability.
Recommended by Ernesto García (@gnapse), Software Development
- Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics – Richard H. Thaler
- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah
Book Summary: Westover’s story colourfully describes her life as a barely homeschooled girl growing up on a farm in Idaho, her gradual disillusionment with Mormonism, and her quest for knowledge that eventually led her to graduate studies at Cambridge University. This memoir artfully explores the process of unlearning and the costs that can come with freedom.
Recommended by Brenna Loury (@brennakL), Head of Marketing
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek
- Casa de los espíritus – Isabel Allende
Book Summary: Waitzkin draws on his experience as a chess champion and martial arts competitor to provide timeless advice on improving one’s performance. He explores how losing can be a crucial tool for learning, tactics for not giving up when faced with learning obstacles, and the importance of incremental improvement. This book is rich with performance psychology insights on how to use constant practice, routines, and mental and physical resilience to win over your opponents and reach your personal best.
Recommended by Amir Salihefendic (@amix3k), Founder and CEO
“In today’s world you must be a constant learner, regardless of what you do. This book is about how to achieve world-class mastery of skill.”
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams – Matthew Walker
- Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World – Timothy Ferriss
Book Summary: Dr. Guy Winch’s book explores the importance of maintaining our psychological health and practicing emotional hygiene. He walks us through how we can navigate psychological injuries like loneliness, failure, and rejection. In urging us to close the gap between our physical and emotional health, he presents self-coping strategies to help us treat our emotional wounds.
Recommended by Maxime Kruijer (@maximekruijer), Customer Support
“He’s a really great public speaker and was really intrigued by this TED Talk. The book deals with psychological injuries that we sustain in daily life and provides very interesting insights and tools as to how to deal with them. I feel that there’s still somewhat of a taboo to have a look in the self-help isle which is a shame given there are so many interesting and helpful resources available nowadays.”
- Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness – Ingrid Fetell Lee
- A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Book Summary: How do ideas spread? This book answers this question by exploring the tipping point, the stage at which a concept reaches “critical mass” and its spread and adoption become inevitable. It provides many examples throughout history including technological innovations that spread like wildfire or fashion trends that went from unknown to ubiquitous. Gladwell’s book teaches lessons on how we can harness the characteristics of idea epidemics to popularize our own products and innovations.
Recommended by Chase Warrington (@chasewarrington), Head of Business Development
Book Summary: This book encourages readers to get rid of distractions and embrace the power of concentration with “deep work”. In embracing high-focus work, Newport argues that we can stand out in today’s information economy and be competitive players in a world that increasingly gripped with notifications, social media, and mindless entertainment. He provides tactical strategies from daily scheduling to time-restricted work that can help us do our best work.
Recommended by Fadeke Adegbuyi (@fadeke_adegbuyi), Marketing
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott
- Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio
Book Summary: In his book, Green shatters the illusion of “genius” and “natural talent”. Instead, he makes a strong case for the power of dedication, focus, and intentional practice in creating many of the great authors, athletes, artists, and academics throughout history. In examining the greats, we see common patterns evolve like the power of apprenticeship and training your mind. Mastery is a fascinating exploration of what it takes to be truly great in your domain.
Recommended by Willian Molinari (@PotHix), Software Development
Book Summary: During his tenure as head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Walsh won multiple Super Bowl titles and earned a reputation for transforming a losing team into champions. His book dives into his approach to leadership including everything from using praise as a tool to building a strong culture. For managers and leaders alike, Walsh’s lessons on focusing on process over results are invaluable for building a team that wins.
Recommended by Allan Kjellstrøm Christensen (@Zjellstrom), COO
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Stephen R. Covey
- High Output Management – Andrew S. Grove
Book Summary: The first in a series of comedic science fiction novels, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a farcical space odyssey with cult classic status. It follows the journey of Earthling Arthur Dent after an escape from earth that leaves him hurtling through the solar system from one adventure to the next with his alien sidekick.
Recommended by Rasto Vaško (@rastislavvasko), Head of Android
“One of my favorite books is definitely The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from Douglas Adams. It’s sometimes incorrectly classified as a comedy sci-fi book, but it’s absolutely a personal development book (, ) that also addresses various deep philosophical and moral questions (, ) with ease. 😋
 “Don’t Panic.”
 “I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”
 “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
 “It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
Book Summary: Sociologist Matthew Desmond tells, in vivid and intimate detail, the story of eight families struggling with homelessness in the American city of Milwaukee. Each family’s circumstance is different, but all come together to tell a bigger story about homelessness in urban America – who pays, who profits, and how insecure housing makes it nearly impossible to accomplish anything else.
Recommended by Becky Kane (@bkaneMN), Marketing
“This is one of those books that really sticks with you. It changed the way I think about the big problems facing my country and my community: poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, segregation, and more.”
- The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging, & Postponing
- Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
Book Summary: How crucial a role does our Mindset play in our success? Dweck argues that it can be significant. She distinguishes between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”, and suggests that people with the latter have the ability to learn and embrace change in a way that sets them up for greater achievements in work and life. Chock-full of real-life examples of the growth mindset at work, readers gain useful lessons like viewing failures as opportunities and embracing difficulty instead of avoiding it.
Recommended by Neil Vidyarthi (@neilvidyarthi), Product Marketing
“I also feel that I read Mindset at the right time and it left a big impression for life and for being a father.”
Book Summary: García and Miralles explore living a purpose-driven life and how this can prolong your life. Armed with case-studies of the locations in the world where people live the longest, including Okinawa, Japan, the book provides a compelling case for finding your Ikagi, the sweet spot where “passion, mission, vocation, and profession” collide.
Recommended by Evert Velthuizen (@itsevertv), Help Center Editor
“The word ikigai translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” This book isn’t a step-by-step guide on how to find your ikigai, but it’s a fantastic introduction to spark your curiosity. It talks about famous people that have found their Ikigai, shares tips on reaching flow (stop multi-tasking!), shares some insights from centenarians, and much more. While reading, I often found myself either putting the book down to reflect or researching the concepts and people mentioned. I loved it.”
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity – Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman
- The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1) – Bernard Cornwell
If you were inspired by any of the recommendations on our Doist reading list, let us know! What books have informed your thinking as an individual or are sources of inspiration where you work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments or over on Twitter (@doist).