The Doist Reading List

Our all-time favorite books for curiosity, creativity, & self-development

Illustration by Yin Weihung

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:

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

Doist Reading List 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

Bonus Picks:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

Doist Reading List Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - Greg McKeown

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

Bonus Picks:

Educated: A Memoir – Tara Westover

Doist Reading List Educated: A Memoir - Tara Westover

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

Bonus Picks:

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance – Josh Waitzkin

Doist Reading List The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance - Josh Waitzkin

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.”

Bonus Picks:

Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts – Guy Winch

Doist Reading List Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts - Guy Winch

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.”

Bonus Picks:

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Malcolm Gladwell

Doist Reading List The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell

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

Bonus Picks:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport

Doist Reading List Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World - Cal Newport

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

Bonus Picks:

Mastery – Robert Greene

Doist Reading List Mastery - Robert Greene

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

Bonus Pick:

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership – Bill Walsh

Doist Reading List The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership - Bill Walsh

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

Bonus Picks:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Doist Reading List The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

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 ([1], [2]) that also addresses various deep philosophical and moral questions ([3], [4]) with ease. 😋

[1] “Don’t Panic.”

[2] “I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”

[3] “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

[4] “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.”

Bonus Pick:

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Doist Reading List Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

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.”

Bonus Picks:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck

Doist Reading List Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - Carol Dweck

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.”

Bonus Picks:

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Héctor García & Francesc Miralles

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.”

Bonus Picks:


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).