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Buffer’s 19 Favorite Books of 2014

We find that self-improvement and reading go hand-in-hand.

Many of the books we seem to grab at Buffer tend to be related to our current tasks, our new ideas, our passions and pursuits, or even just a nice sampling of good writing and entertaining topics to keep us tuned in and engaged.

We end up reading a deep and wide assortment of inspiring stuff.

As a team, we read 656 books in 2014.

I’m happy to share the 19 most popular ones from our reading list.

Note: One of the neat perks we have on the Buffer team is that any team member (and their family members!) can request a Kindle book for free at anytime. Learn more about the Buffer perks—and our current job openings! :)

reinventing organizations book cover

1. Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux

A fascinating read about the shift toward a new way of doing business—a way that focuses on autonomy, wholeness, and purpose in the decisions we make and the way we structure our organizations. It’s been called a “soulful revolution,” and having experienced it for the past few months here at Buffer, it’s been hugely edifying, encouraging, and rewarding.

Hat tip to Joel for turning the Buffer team onto this book. Twenty-four of us (nearly the whole team!) picked up the book in 2014.

A favorite quote:

Extraordinary things begin to happen when we dare to bring all of who we are to work.

The Decision Maker book cover

2. The Decision Maker by Dennis Bakke

A leadership fable based loosely on the experience of Dennis Bakke in turning AES into a company with no managers. The book outlines a fascinating advice process and highlights the amazing outcomes of giving decisions to the people closest to the action.

We came across this book as a team over the summer. Twenty-two of us picked up this one.

A favorite quote:

People think that sports are fun and work isn’t. But that’s not because sports are easy. Players make a lot more decisions in a single basketball game than a lot of people get to make at work during a whole day. That’s what makes sports fun. The coach puts you in the game. And then they actually let you play.

Joy at Work book cover

3. Joy at Work by Dennis Bakke

The prequel to The Decision Maker and a great case for removing bureaucracy, management, job descriptions, and more in order to help employees flourish.

Along with The Decision Maker, Joy at Work was an influential read for a majority of the Buffer team this summer. Seventeen of us checked this one out.

How to Win Friends book cover

4. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The inspiration for our Buffer values, How to Win Friends is chock full of actionable advice on the many ways to bring a selfless, empathic approach to communicating. This is the single most influential book for Buffer—and would have been the clear No. 1 on this list if we were tracking books read from all-time.

A favorite quote:

the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition. Owen Young: “People who can put themselves in the place of other people, who can understand the workings of their minds, need never worry about what the future has in store for them.”

Lean Customer Development book cover

5. Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez

Written by Cindy Alvarez, a product manager at Yammer, Lean Customer Development shares a practical approach to validating product ideas through customer development research.

The book is part of the Lean Series of startup books (one more from the series made our 2014 list, as well as the original Lean Startup by Eric Ries), and it proved very useful for our team as we’ve delved deeper into customer insights over the past six months.

A favorite quote:

It’s a simple formula. Learn what your customers need, and use that knowledge to build exactly what they’re willing to pay for.

customer support handbook

6. The Customer Support Handbook by Sarah Hatter

A complete collection of real-life customer support questions and scenarios, rife with examples and best practices for how to succeed in support. How do you hire the best support team? What’s the best use of social media for support and service? Should we apologize for the inconvenience?

The book’s author, Sarah Hatter, founded CoSupport and has gained real-world experience in communicating with customers and advising companies via writing and speaking. Her advice in The Customer Support Handbook has proven super useful as we deliver happiness to those who use Buffer. 9 of us read this book in 2014.

A favorite quote:

At our company, CoSupport, we only have two rules we work and live by: We are unwaveringly kind to our teammates and we don’t “thank people for their feedback.”

die empty

7. Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry

An inspiring call to bring your full creativity with you every day and to never put off important work for tomorrow.

Read by: Carolyn, Mary, Michael, Nicole, Octavio, Sunil

Quiet book cover

8. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

A brilliant explanation of the qualities that make introverts unique. The ideas expressed so beautifully in this book resonated with many of us on the team.

Read by: Jose, Kevan, Mary, Rodolphe, Steven, Sunil

A favorite quote:

Introverts often stick with their enthusiasms. This gives them a major advantage as they grow, because true self-esteem comes from competence, not the other way around. Researchers have found that intense engagement in and commitment to an activity is a proven route to happiness and well-being.

The Introvert Advantage

9. The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney

Another great read about introversion, helping us notice the strengths of our inward focus and how best to use these skills in an extroverted world.

Read by: Adam, Åsa, Carolyn, Mike, Nicole, Sunil

lean startup eric ries

10. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

One of the foundational books for the way we go about our product process. Lean startup ideas have even spread beyond product and into other areas of our team like content, happiness, side projects, and improvements.

Read by: Brian, Carolyn, Leo, Octavio, Sunil

traction book

11. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

A brilliant collection of 19 traction channels and how to discover the channels that are best for your business today. Weinberg and Mares share examples from several leading startup companies on how these traction ideas might work.

Read by: Åsa, Courtney, Joel, Kevan, Leo, Patrik, Rodolphe

A favorite quote:

The path to reaching your traction goal with the fewest number of steps is your Critical Path. It helps to literally draw this path out, enumerating the intermediate steps (milestones) to get to your traction goal. These milestones need not be traction related, but should be absolutely necessary to reach your goal.

hooked nir eyal

12. Hooked by Nir Eyal

All about the ins and outs of habit-forming products. A fascinating read, Hooked has influenced the way that we go about our product processes and our marketing. It was a privilege to have Nir Eyal join us on a Bufferchat this year, too!

Read by: Daniel, Joel, Nicole, Sunil

lean analytics

13. Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

Another in the series of Lean Startup books, Lean Analytics has been a great read for the data experts here at Buffer, helping us find a groove of measuring and analyzing as we grow.

Read by: Joel, Steven

make your mark

14. Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business With Impact by Jocelyn K. Glei

Written by the editor-in-chief of 99U (and featuring a contribution from Buffer’s Joel Gascoigne!), this book is chock full of advice on building a purpose-driven business and how to get started.

Read by:  Carolyn, Colin, Nicole, Sunil

peace is every breath

15. Peace Is Every Breath by Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the clearest, simplest views of meditation and mindfulness. As many on the Buffer team have sought to improve with daily meditation and presence, this book has been a popular choice to read and learn about how to build a lasting routine.

Read by: Carolyn, Courtney, Nicole, Tom

A favorite quote:

Practice living every moment of your daily life deeply and in freedom. If that’s what you really want, then what you need to do is let go of pursuing the past, the future, and all your worries, and come back to the present moment.

4 hour workweek cover

16. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

As a remote team, we connect with many of the principles in this book, and we’re inspired by the simple, wholeness goals that a four-hour workweek seeks to solve.

Read by: Åsa, Brian, Carolyn, Octavio

A favorite quote:

The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”

hard thing about hard things

17. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

A transparent look at the difficulties and challenges of starting a business, written by one of the leading entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Read by: Brian, Carolyn, Joel, Rodolphe

why zebras don't get ulcers

18. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky

A thoughtful discussion of stress-related disease and the path to better health.

Read by:  Carolyn, Dave, Kevan, Nicole

zero to one

19. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Thoughts on progress, innovation, and creating new things, written by PayPal founder and entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

Read by: Colin, Joel, Steven

The Best of the rest :)

Two or more Buffer teammates read each of these books in the past year.

20. Brave New World

21. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

22. Dear Daughter

23. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

24. How to Deliver a Great TED Talk

25. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

27. Lean In

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

29. Tao Te Ching

30. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

31. The Everything Store

32. The War of Art

33. Work: How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day

Bonus: All the books we read in 2014

Here’s the complete breakdown of the popularity of each of the top 19 books that Buffer read in 2014, based on how many individual team members requested each book.

Reinventing Organizations 24
The Decision Maker 22
Joy at Work 17
How to Win Friends & Influence People 12
Lean Customer Development 10
The Customer Support Handbook 9
Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day 6
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 6
The Introvert Advantage 6
The Lean Startup 6
Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers 6
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products 4
Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster 4
Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact 4
Peace is Every Breath 4
The 4 Hour Work Week 4
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers 4
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers 4
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future 4

And for a complete look at who requested what this year—for instance, see the 60 books that our cofounder Joel requested!—you can dig into this spreadsheet.

We’d love to chat with you about any of these books that pique your interest. You can connect with everyone on the Buffer team via Twitter, and you can keep up with our upcoming book choices via our ongoing Pinterest board!

Over to you

Which books were significant to you in 2014?

Have you read some of these ones that caught our attention in 2014?

It’d be awesome to hear your thoughts and to share any book recommendations in the comments! I’m excited to hear from you!

Image sources: Death to the Stock Photo, IconFinder, Unsplash

  • One of your team got me hooked on “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” This is a book that reverberates through your life. At first, your world is jolted by the fact that you don’t have to do everything, and then the changes continue as you decided what is essential to you. I plan on reading it multiple times a year to keep me honest and focused on what’s essential to my life, my job, and my success.

    • That’s such a great one, Caitlin! So glad you enjoyed it! I’ve been inspired to hear those on the team share their thoughts and actions from the book. :)

    • I agree with Caitlin. Essentialism is a great reading indeed. :)

  • Robert Williger

    Great list. I have read several of these and will be reading several others but have not gotten to them yet. Actually just picked up The Decision Maker yesterday after hearing it mentioned several times from Buffer people. A couple that look really interesting to me that I had not heard of before and just added to Amazon wishlist are The Customer Support Handbook and The Introvert Advantage.

    • Awesome to hear, Robert! I’d love to hear what you think about those new books!

  • Gregory D. Navarro

    Wow, not a single, solitary piece of fiction in the whole bunch. No novels, classics, fun lit, graphic novels, historical autobiographies, sport’s bios, nothing. This is really telling actually. A Rorschach syllabus on the psyche of Buffer. Have a look at Steve Jobs reading list by comparison. Or even Bill Gates: I get that you guys are fanatics for self-improvement, but what happens when that periscope becomes too narrow? The whole self-evolution thing can become a Ouroboros if you’re not careful. Drink the Kool-Aid — don’t gulp the Kool-Aid.

    • Hi Gregory! Thanks so much for the comment! Jobs’s and Gates’s lists look really intriguing! You’re spot on in mentioning our lack of fiction in this list. My intuition on why that might be the case is that we all choose to read a wide variety of different fiction and seem to share several of the same non-fiction books. So while fiction is being read by the team, it might not quite be reflected here in the Best Of list! I know I personally can improve with a better balance of fiction & non-fiction. Do you have any recommendations?

      • Gregory D. Navarro

        Well, yes, I can certainly pass along some recommendations. The larger impetus in my initial comment is that on a macro-level, Buffer’s recommended shelf is lonely place to be if you’re in search of humor, quirk, unorthodoxy, escape, or the quotidian. Not that these aren’t good titles but they certainly orbit around a few totem ideas with scant deviation.

        Below is my list. 19 titles & a bonus in keeping with your post:

        Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
        The Runaway General by Michael Hastings
        The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
        Black Hole by Charles Burns
        Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
        All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
        Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss
        The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
        Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein
        The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
        The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
        Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
        The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
        Tough Jews by Rich Cohen
        Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
        The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera
        The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
        The Glass Cage: Automation and Us by Nicholas Carr
        Gangsta Rap Coloring Book by Anthony “Aye Jay” Morano

        Bonus: The Mind’s I Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul
        by Douglas R. Hofstadter, Daniel C. Dennett

        • Great ideas on this list, Gregory! I enjoyed thinking on The Shallows from Nicholas Carr but haven’t picked up The Glass Cage yet. And I’ve always wanted to read Kundera! I’m trying to read a book a week this year–adding The Unbearable Lightness of Being to the list!

  • piotry

    Hey @kevanlee:disqus I actually started this: where the point is to get us together book readers to chat about what we read.

    Sharing and bouncing learning of can have a much bigger impact than simply reading.

    What do you think? Signup and i’ll add you to the it asap :)

    PS its using slack. Pretty much what #nomads did but for books ^^

    • Really awesome! Thanks so much for sharing this. Excited to take a look. :)

      • piotry

        Check your inbox ^^
        I started sending invites yesterday. I’m also figuring out how to organize conversation in channels. So I’d be extremely happy to hear you feedback :)

        P.S. Its slack, so you can have private groups for the buffer team ^^

  • Thanks for sharing your reading list. I enjoyed Edgar Schein’s Humble Enquiry ( and Jim Benson’s Personal Kanban: Mapping Work, Navigating Life (, amongst others.

    • Awesome! Thanks for sharing those!

  • Very nice collection of books. I have read only a few of them and would like to add Decision maker on top of my reading list. Also the books about introversion awakes interest in an introvert. Beside work I would like to turn introversion also to an advantage at home!

    • Thanks for the comment! Excited for you to check out the introversion books as well!

  • The big books for me in 2014 were The Alchemist, a re-read of Crush It, Live It by Jairek Robbins (a big driver in my application to Buffer), and a few others. It’s cool to see that I’ve read a lot of the books on this list, but it also gives me a solid ‘To Read’ list for 2015. Thanks Kevan!

  • Nadav Cohen

    I was really surprised not to see referral codes on those Amazon links. Goes a long way in showing what your focus is about. Kudos!

  • Steven Feeney

    Hi guys – fantastic list. I have started a pet project to track my book reading habits whilst also tossing in some WordPress design.

    I kind of agree with Gregory Navarro’s comment that the list is not that well-rounded but then time is limited and we have to focus on what we enjoy and will give us the best return on the investment of time.

    However, Buffer, as always, continues to serve as an aspiration in workplace harmony. Keep it up guys.

    • Hi Steven! Thank you so much for sharing this comment! That’s an awesome site you’re building there! And I love the book recommendations. I’ve heard great things about Mr. Penumbra, and The Crack Up sounds super interesting!

  • Delivering Happiness. I cried.

  • Great list, thanks for sharing!
    One of the authors that I enjoyed most lately was Dan Ariely, on psychology and behavioral economics. Predictably Irrational is a really interesting book on how consistently we can be manipulated or take irrational decisions. His TED talks are also worth watching.

    • Great one, Carlos! I have read a bit about Dan Ariely and would love to pick up that book. Thanks so much for a great reminder!

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