Book Recommendations

I know many of you are also avid readers. So, in the spirit of #LearnBuildShare, I wanted to create a space for us to share book recommendations and reviews with each other!

Hey, folks –

Below is a list of some of my favorite and most frequently recommended books. I’ll update this list from time-to-time. The list below is from February 2019.


  • Managing the non-profit organization by Peter Drucker - This is a great book for people who run community focused or mission driven organizations. It’s technically about non-profits, but they just didn’t have the mission driven for-profit language we have now when it was written.

  • Art of Gathering by Priya Parker - This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about event and experience design. This should be 101 level reading for any hackathon organizer or anyone who works with organizers regularly at MLH. Lots of good tips about hosting parties too if you’re in to that.


  • Good to Great by Jim Collins - This is a classic. Very focused on how people are the foundation of a great organization. Also has some general good business concepts like identifying trends and your core business strengths,

  • First break all the rules by Gallup - These are the people who make the Strengths Finder test, which I’m a big fan of. This is a branch book about management that covers a lot of fundamentals.

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott - This book is also about management but mostly focused around how to give feedback. Kim Scott was a badass and her stories are really interesting to read.

  • Who by Geoff Smart & Randy Street - This is basically a how-to guide on hiring. I didn’t really like how it was written, but I use some of the concepts at MLH very successfully.

  • Radical Focus by Christina R Wodtke - This is the best OKRs book ever written. It’s structured as a parable, like Built to Sell, which I really enjoyed. We give it to all our managers at MLH.

  • Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick M. Lencioni - This is a parable about how to manage people the right way. Employees need to feel like someone is invested in them, they impact people’s lives, and that they can measure progress daily. I use a lot of concepts from this book as well. Note: This book was renamed to “The Truth About Employee Engagement”, which is an equally misleading title.

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - A collection of stories from Ben Horowitz (of A16Z fame). This is the most startup-y book I’ll recommend. Lots of solid advice on being an entrepreneur here.


+1 for Radical Candor. I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s very in line my personal opinions on how to interact with everyone, and especially how to manage. Setting up a relationship with someone where you are both able to provide feedback from a point of view of wanting to help each other improve is crucial.

+1 for The hard thing about hard things. Having a16z as an investor at the company I work for, this is one that I knew I had to read and it definitely holds up. All around great book. I have trouble finding books that I like on audiobook, but this is one I listened to and it was great.

New recommends:

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life - Again, really inline with my personal views on how to live a great life. One of the biggest takeaways from this book is the idea of responsibility. You are responsible for the situation you’re in, whether you like it or not. You might not be at fault for what has happened, but you are responsible for dealing with it because no one else is going to do it for you. It put into words a lot of what I already believed and how I choose to live life.

  • When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing - I am a complete night owl and this book gave me insight into what that meant and why it was probably a good thing to embrace it instead of trying to fight to become an early bird. It also explains the productivity cycles that you go through every day, which was really interesting to learn about.

  • The Power of Habit - This is a really interesting book that explores what a habit is, how to create them, and how to change them. It’s been really helpful in keeping up with my goals for the year and making those goals into a habits.

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I’m pulling some of my favorite books from my list of recommendations:


  • Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet - I didn’t think I’d like it, but I’m really glad I read it. It’s engaging and useful. I read this book before I became a manger, it made me a better employee. As a manager, I use its tactics every day.
  • +1 The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - A hodgepodge of stories, startup tips, and general advice. A great read that I oft find myself referencing.
  • +1 Radical Candor by Kim Scott - I just read this book, but I am a better manager and person for it. These tips on giving feedback are amazing.
  • +1 First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman - This book has changed how I manage, how I hire, and how I think about growth. Not only does it have great takeaways, they’re based on data from 80,000 managers and 3 million employees.


  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - After reading this book, I bought it for two friends and forced another to have a bookclub on it. I found it described many of the principles by which I try to live my life, but filled them in with wonderful details. After you read it, I hope you too will join the strangely far-reaching club of Brené Brown devotees.

For anyone interested in history and hacker culture, I highly recommend the book Hackers by Steven Levy.

It’s an amazing deep-dive into the early days of hacker culture, the major personalities in the scene going back 60 years, and how it evolved into what we see today. There’s a lot of fascinating parallels to both the positive and negative aspects of startup + hacker culture today and I found it really helpful in understanding why things are the way they are and into how much impact individuals like us have on the development of hacker culture going into the future.



  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - The hipster inside of me wants to preface this by saying I got this book almost a year ago, BEFORE the Netflix series came out. The folding strategies this book teaches more than make up for the measly $10 cost. In all seriousness, this book is more than just about cleaning. It’s about being grateful for what you have, while also acknowledging when items have outgrown their use. As a dum dum who likes stuff too much, I sometimes have to forcibly ask myself, “does this spark joy?”


  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Murakami - While not as popular as Kafka on the Shore, this book provided me a unique experience. My issue with a lot of narratives is how neatly defined the act structures are. Problem arises, hero goes on journey, yadda yadda. Our protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki, isn’t a hero. There’s entire pages dedicated to his dreams, which have little bearing on the plot, yet it never bothered me. At times uncomfortable, this book is a journey which makes the most of prose as a medium.
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My favorite books are,
Team building: its explain step by step on how to build a team.
Machine learning for hackers: it all about python programming and machine learning.
The code book: it all about cryptography and code breaking.


Reviving this thread because it’s summer so I’m back to my goal of one book a week. I just started reading Radical Candor! Really enjoy it so far.
Some recommendations:

My Life In Code by Ellen Ullman - a brutally honest memoir of what it was like being a female software engineer in the 90s. I laughed and cried.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries - talks about the importance of building the minimum viable product when creating a start up as well as his personal successes and failures as an entrepreneur. Really changed how I think about design.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman - I feel like everyone has read this, but it’s one of my all time favorites. Basically the UX bible.

Does anyone have any other recommendations for books about community building, agile, or start ups? I’m trying to learn as much as I can this summer.

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@Ryan and I just finished The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath and while its not explicitly about community building its tips have me thinking deeply about how influential moments create strong communities. It’s a fun easy read.