The Books That Inspire Us to Work Differently

Our favorite reads on everything from productivity and writing to leadership and business

Doist Reading List

At Doist, we value growth and learning – both as individuals and as a team. And one of the best ways to explore new ideas and expand our knowledge is through reading.

When we read, everything about us changes. Reading sparks our imagination, expands our perspectives, increases empathy, strengthens our vocabulary, reduces stress, improves memory – the list of benefits goes on.

Sharing the bits of inspiration and knowledge gleaned from reading – whether from books, articles, stories (or anything else) that we’ve come across – is one of the ways we reinforce a culture of curiosity and learning as a remote team. In fact, we have a team communication channel called “Doist Inspiration” where we regularly share anything that may have struck an inspirational chord.

We decided to put together a list of our favorite books (and one particularly impactful article) that have inspired and influenced our work here at Doist – and maybe provide you all with some inspiration as well.

Happy reading!

Our Reading List:

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman


What it’s about: Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, details his life and his start in the business world in Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. The book is one part autobiography, one part manifesto of a climber, environmentalist, and business founder.  It dives into the guiding principles he used to build his company into a cause-driven, global business.

Recommendation from Amir (@amix3k), Founder and CEO


This book is full of golden nuggets on how to build a sustainable business, how to put great trust in your employees, and how to optimize to build a better world. I love it because it doesn’t follow the current tech company thinking: hyper (and unsustainable) growth that does not care about employees, customers, or the environments they are operating in.

The Score Takes Care of Itself


What it’s about: San Francisco 49er’s head coach Bill Walsh took a struggling, underperforming team and transformed them into one of the best of all time. The book offers a look into his leadership philosophy, revealing that the requirements of successful leadership are the same whether you run an NFL team, a large corporation, or a small business.

Recommendation from Allan (@Zjellstrom), COO


Below is from, but I can’t say it better myself. I strive to follow these both in and outside of work.

Process vs. Result

  1. Aim for a Standard of Performance (which is absolute) vs winning (which is relative to others).
  2. “Process” of improvement leads to “result” of victory and not vice-versa.
  3. Focus on process which produces results and not on results.
  4. Promotions/wins/sales quotas are results, they do not provide information about performance. And it’s important to dig into performance to find truth hidden behind these results.


Failure is integral part of success. Knowing when it happens and what to do when it happens is the first step towards success.


  • Do expect defeat
  • Do stop looking at past failures
  • Do give yourself a little recovery time
  • Do tell yourself to stand up and fight again
  • Do begin planning for next battle


  • Don’t blame on others
  • Don’t expect sympathy
  • Don’t ask, “Why me?”
  • Don’t bellyache
  • Don’t keep accepting condolences



Recommendation by Galina (@Galina_Skov), Support Team


I really liked the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; I read it in one breath. ?

It gives a very interesting insight why some people become outliers (extremely successful and outstanding in a particular field) while others stay far behind. We are used to an opinion that success greatly depends on ambitions, efforts and intelligence – however, other factors are often underestimated.

Gladwell provides fantastic research data about the most successful basketball/soccer players, entrepreneurs (Gates, Ford), musicians (Beatles), etc. For example, I have never thought that the most famous sports players are all born in January or very close to the beginning of the year.

Another interesting fact: by age 20, the elite performers manage to have 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less successful performers have only 4,000 hours of practice.

There are many, many other interesting examples and facts worth looking into. ?

Though the book left me feeling a bit sad because I couldn’t become a famous soccer player (my birthday’s in April), it gave me hope that I could succeed in some different field – like helping Todoist customers! ?

How to Win Friends and Influence People

how to win friends and influence people

What it’s about: How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published in 1936 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Written by Dale Carnegie, it is one of the first best-selling self-help books to ever be published.

Recommendation from Goncalo (@goncalossilva), Head of Android, and Hugo (@hfauq), Marketing Team



Probably the worst title in the history of books, or perhaps the inception of what nowadays would be called clickbait, this is also a fantastic book that pretty much everyone should read.

It’s really about being sincerely interested in others, realizing that every single person on earth can teach you something interesting, and making a conscious effort to improve your ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes.

It also has one of my favorite quotes of all time: ‘Give others a fine reputation to live up to.’



The title is a bit misleading. It seems like some weird social engineering as opposed to the genuine and empathetic advice he gives in the book.

It’s full of common sense, and yet I find it difficult to put into practice sometimes! The book highlights the power of listening, smiling, being empathetic, and other principles like “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain,” or “Become genuinely interested in people.” It’s influencing a lot how I interact with the team and how I make decisions for product marketing.

Like Joel Gascoigne from Buffer, I’m convinced it’s the way of life I want to live; and I might try to read it every few months as well.

Start With Why

start with why

What it’s about: Tens of millions have already seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about knowing why some brands and leaders inspire strong loyalty while others fall flat. His book takes this idea and digs deeper. Sinek uses real-life stories and examples to provide great tips useful for any company or working professional.

Recommendation from Brenna (@brennakl), Head of Marketing


My whole vision of marketing changed the second I watched Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” TED Talk. After seeing this and reading the book, we began applying the “golden circle” principles to how we present Todoist and Doist to the world – first starting with the why, then the how, then the what.

At the end of the day, people don’t buy products or follow leaders for what they do; they make decisions based on inspiration and leadership. And while this book is awesome for developing a product marketing mentality, it’s also has great tips for creating a strong company culture which is also based on inspiration and leadership (something our founder, Amir, has always been amazing at).

The Frustrated Songwriter’s Handbook

Frustrated Songwriters Handbook

Recommendation from Jano (@janogarcia), Developer


Although it is geared towards aspiring musicians, I found the ideas in this book very applicable to any other creative pursuit, such as design, photography or development.

It is filled with simple, actionable tips on overcoming blocks, generating ideas, finding inspiration, trusting your gut, being mindful, and overcoming negative self-talk, as well as avoiding self-sabotage, being open to criticism, being focused and flowing, being present, constraints, time-boxing, starting-up, cutting-out distractions…

It basically touches everything you’ll need for moving from ideas to action, while not being ashamed and even being confident and enjoying of what you are doing. It is definitely one of my favorite books.

A Philosopher’s Notes

A philosophers notes

Recommendation from Chase (@OP_Wanderer), Marketing Team


This was the thesis project for Brian Johnson’s masters program and has turned into a popular easy read on his theory of Optimal Living.

Optimal Living is based on the Greek philosophy of Arete, which is essentially living your life to the absolute fullest of your capabilities and maximizing your time here on earth. The author takes it a step further by presenting his research on how different philosophers from various times in history have touched on this, and he takes their advice and guidance and applies it to the 21st century in a style that makes it fun to read.

The list of “contributors” includes people like Gandhi, Socrates, Plato, Confucius, and many others from a wide variety of time periods. So A Philosopher’s Notes is basically a Cliff’s Notes version of 20 or so of history’s greatest philosophers, discussing subjects like productivity, goal-setting, healthy living, making a positive impact, self development, etc. The key is that he writes it in a very colloquial way, so it’s not boring (it’s actually pretty funny), and definitely not “preachy,” as many self improvement books can tend to be. If you ever wanted to get inside the mind of some of the most intelligent people in history but don’t feel like reading through thousands of pages of old texts, this might be a good one for you. ?

This book actually played a role in motivating me to step outside my comfort zone and make a career change. I assumed I would return to the company (or at least industry) I worked with before I left on my trip. As I was starting the process of returning to the “real world,” I was also reading this book and I realized I didn’t have to go back to something I wasn’t passionate about. I started researching new career paths that were somewhat foreign to me and I ended up here at Doist! So needless to say this book definitely impacted my time here in a big way. ?

35 Things You Should Know Before Becoming “Successful”

35 Things
Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy

Recommendation from Pedro (@pmpinto), Developer


I never really spent much time reading articles that weren’t directly related to the work I do, until this one. I’m more into listening than reading. But this article made me change that a little bit.

It’s a subject that is applicable to anyone, regardless of whether you want to create your own business or not.

Personally, this was like a kick in the butt for me and made me see a lot of things a bit clearer—more related to self-development than anything else.

On Writing Well

On Writing Well

Recommendation from Becky (@bkaneMN), Marketing


This is a book I found much too late in my writing career. I find myself coming back to it again and again to remind myself of the fundamentals of good writing and the creative process. It reminds me how much joy and personal satisfaction can be found in the craft of writing. And that good writing is and always will be hard work. A few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Re-examine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy? Is anything pompous or pretentious or faddish? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it’s beautiful? Simplify, simplify.”

“Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”

“A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

Import Our Reading List Here

As readers of the blog know, we’re huge believers in crowdsourcing wisdom and inspiration to help us evolve and grow. What’s the most inspiring or influential book you’ve read? Share it in the comments below…