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From ‘The Martian’ to ‘Holacracy’: Buffer’s Most-Read Books of 2015

Dec 28, 2015 7 min readWorkplace of the future
Photo of Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter

Former Director of People @ Buffer

One of the coolest perks we have at Buffer team is that all team members (and their family members!) get a free Kindle and all the Kindle books they want to read—any book, anytime, no questions asked.

As a result, we end up reading a wide assortment of stuff—from popular and critically-acclaimed fiction to resources that help us build better products or improve ourselves in some way.

As a team, we read 1074  books in 2015—a 63.7% increase from last year’s total of 656 books. (Of course, the team grew quite a lot as well!)

I’d love to share more about some of the most requested ones from our reading list—and read on for a full, searchable list for all our literary choices. Maybe you’ll find a great new book or two!

(Love reading, too? Learn more about the Buffer perks—and our current job openings! :)

Buffer’s Top 10 books of 2015

1. The Martian

the martian

Author: Andy Weir

Requested by: 32 teammates

A whopping 32 teammates requested this bestseller, now also a blockbuster movie.

Last year, a fiction book didn’t even crack the Top 10! This year, we were so engrossed with the adventures of astronaut Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, that he showed up in our Instagram, in our Slack conversations and in our in-person chats.

Our new salary calculation formula even has a special entry for cost of living on the red planet, just in case.

2. Reinventing Organizations

Author: Frederic Laloux

Requested by: 19 teammates

Reinventing Organizations

2015 was the year of self-management experiments at Buffer, and Reinventing Organizations started it all. 24 of us (nearly the whole team!) picked up the book in 2014, and this year 19 more folks grabbed it.

Reinventing Organizations reports on a 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. Having experienced it at Buffer, it has been a unique journey.

We’re not hewing as closely to self-management now as we were last year, but we remain grateful for the book’s exploration of a more human and soulful way to work. we’ve learned so much from it.

3. Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World

Author: Brian J. Robertson

Requested by: 11 teammates


11 teammates requested the book Holacracy, by the founder of HolacracyOne.

In many ways similar to self-management, holacracy distributes authority and decision-making throughout an organization, and defines people not by hierarchy and titles, but by roles.

Holacracy is said to create organizations that are fast, agile, and that succeed by pursuing their purpose, not following a dated and artificial plan. We’re very lucky to have the freedom to learn about and experiment with alternative forms of structure and organization!

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Requested by: 10 teammates

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 pretty much the single most influential book for Buffer—it feels likely that it will always have a place on this list as we continue to grow the team. Our founder Joel has shared that he likes to re-read it at least once a year to keep its lessons top of mind.

Fun fact about Buffer’s Slack: If you type in the acronym “HTWF,” a Bufferbot will share a random quote from How to Win Friends.

5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products


Author: Nir Eyal

Requested by: 9 teammates

Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us?

Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) with his Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior.

A fascinating read, Hooked has influenced the way that we go about our product processes and our marketing.

6. Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy

Lean Customer Development

Author: Cindy Alvarez

Requested by: 8 teammates

Most of the members of our customer development research picked up this one by Cindy Alvarez, a product manager at Yammer.

Lean Customer Development shares a practical approach to validating product ideas that has proved useful for our team as we’ve delved deeper into customer insights.

The book is part of the Lean Series of startup books, many of which we’re big fans of at Buffer!

7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Author: Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Requested by: 7 teammates

Sometimes a book spreads through Buffer like wildfire.

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo’s book was just such an example. One teammate grabbed it and suddenly it was popping up everywhere.

The #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from  takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

And the book continues to help us get organized: Here’s a picture of Arielle’s home, mid-KonMari cleaning, from just a few days ago.

8. All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Requested by: 7 teammates

On many critics’ year-end best lists, this New York Times bestseller tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

This National Book Award finalist was ten years in the writing!

9. The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Requested by: 7 teammates

Gone Girl was a player on our list last year, and this crowd favorite mystery/thriller was a fun one to see on our list in 2015!

The plot: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning, daily catching a glimpse of the same couple breakfasting on their deck. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them.

Then she sees something shocking. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

10. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Author: Greg McKeown

Requested by: 7 teammates

For anyone who’s ever found themselves stretched too thin comes Greg McKeown’s empowering guide to achieving more by doing less.

Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done—perfectly in line with the Buffer value of living smarter, not harder.

By asking readers to apply a more selective criteria and discover what is essential, the book unlocks the power of the disciplined pursuit of less to reclaim control of our choices about where to spend precious time and energy.

The best of the rest: 23 other great books

Four or more teammates requested each of these great books.

11. Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra

12. People Over Profit: Break the System, Live with Purpose, Be More Successful by Dale Partridge

traction book

13. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

14. High Output Management by Andrew S. Groves (Big on Joel and Leo’s list of influences this year!)

15. Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

16. Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug

17. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

18. Data Analysis With Open Source Tools by by Philipp K. Janert

19. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

20. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald

blindspot: hidden biases of good people

21. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

22. Intercom on Project Management by Des Traynor

23. Inspired: How to Created Products People Love by Marty Cagan

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

25. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

26. The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works by Ricardo Semler

27. The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection by Michael A. Singer

28. Emotional Life of Your Brain

the circle

29. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

30. The Circle by Dave Eggers

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

32. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

33. Fates and Furies: A Novel by Lauren Groff

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