Asana’s ultimate summer reading list

Whether you’re heading off to a beach vacation or planning to spend some time reflecting during quieter work weeks, summer is a great time to catch up on your reading.

We’re a bunch of a serious book nerds: our interests range from fiction to business and self-help — and everything in between. So we decided to pull together a few of our favorite books, complete with ‘Staff Recommendation’ write-ups.

Check out our list below, or go straight to Goodreads to see our curated list.

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

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Recommended by Britney, HR

The Panopticon is one part Orange is the New Black, one part 1984, and one part Trainspotting. It tells the story of Anais Hendricks (yes, she’s named after Anais Nin) an orphan with no biological ties and plenty of bad luck in life who is locked up in a juvenile detention facility on suspicion of putting a cop into a coma. Despite all that, Anais believes she is destined to do great things. It’s a sad, hysterical, yet inspiring testament to the human spirit.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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Recommended by Chanel, Recruiting

Based in San Francisco, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore tells a whimsical story of a man named Clay and his adventures of uncovering the secrets of a bookstore and its owner. This novel has sprinkles of technology (CS/design/fonts), history, mystery, charm, and even references Silicon Valley culture & perks via a romantic interest who works at Google.

The Martian by Andy Weir

the martian

Recommended by Cliff, Engineering

Robinson Crusoe in space, basically. Things go wrong unexpectedly, and then a clever scientist uses science to fix problems. Eventually he needs help, and counts on the smart people he works with (at NASA, in space) to solve them; the hardest problem is making sure they can communicate with each other, since that multiplies each of their resources.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

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Recommended by Ashley, Marketing

No other book puts life so completely in perspective as this book from Stephen Hawking. Starting with an exploration of the Big Bang theory, Hawking simultaneously tells an entertaining story about the beginning of time while sharing theories on religion, society, and relationships. As a non-scientific reader (I mean really, how often do marketing and cosmology intersect?!), I was amazed at Hawking’s ability to break down the most complex theories about the universe into understandable and even entertaining language.

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

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Recommended by Jack, Engineering

A beautiful work of storytelling that explores life as a spiritual journey and articulates the delicate balance between having a goal and just experiencing what is (a core Asana value of willful intention without concern for results?), it balances out my hyper-modern and urban work life with an adventure in a foreign land full of animalistic experiences.

What I Talk About When I talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

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Recommended by Kelsey, Marketing

Murakami’s memoir is a dramatic shift from his well known surrealist novels.  Here, he shares how being a marathon runner has shaped his perspective on life and discusses the synergies between running, writing, and being fully alive.  Whether or not you’re a runner, this book is a great read on identifying and surpassing our own individual limits.

Sensemaking in Organizations by Karl E. Weick


Recommended by Jerry, UXR

“The [sensemaking] process is seen as the creation of reality as an ongoing accomplishment that takes form when people make retrospective sense of the situations in which they find themselves.”

I like this book because it is very consistent with our approach to research here at Asana: a very collaborative style of making sense of what our customers experience and how they articulate that experience to us through reflections, activities, and conversations.

Management of Organizational Behavior by Paul Hersey, Keneth Blanchard, and Dewey Johnson

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Recommended by Jack, Engineering

A little dry, but I’m reading this because Asana is a product about helping organizations function more effectively, so it seems like as someone who helps build that product (and helps design the organization that manifests said product), I ought to learn the foundations of organizational behavior theory.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

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Recommended by Trish, Marketing

Lencioni uses powerful storytelling to show how teams can be successful and unsuccessful. He outlines the pitfalls of communication teams trap themselves into, and how to avoid these common mistakes. Using the profile of a startup, this book is entertaining and thoughtful. It’s a nice, easy summer read with easily digestible and actionable advice.

Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

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Recommended by Marcos, Design

The Design of Everyday Things is a book by cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman about how design serves as the communication between object and user, and how to optimize that conduit of communication in order to make the experience of using the object enjoyable. One of the main premises of the book is that although people are often keen to blame themselves when objects appear to malfunction, it is not the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

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Recommended by Kris, Data Science

This is Gretchen Rubin’s followup to The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. The first book in her series focuses on her year-long quest, focusing a month at a time on particular goals and areas of her life she seeks to improve. The second is similar but focuses specifically on home/family life.

Better Than Before goes into details on her approaches to habits and habit formation – what works for different people, and why, sharing personal experiences of her own, as well as from working with friends and family. It offers some great explanations for why there aren’t generally one-size-fits-all approaches to good habits, but if you know yourself (and she helps you with that), then you can find a strategy that works for you. I think it’s great for Asanas because we’re focused on productivity and personal/professional growth, and using habits as a means to both grow and improve our lives and happiness is an excellent strategy.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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Recommended by Kasey, Marketing

This book has gotten rave reviews from virtually everyone I know and it seems to be written up everywhere. As someone who hates cleaning and organizing (and frankly, loves to purge!) I loved the the concept of parting ways with anything that doesn’t bring me joy. Marie Kondo writes that tidying can have a dramatic impact on our overall well-being and since I’ve begun the process, I already feel lighter, more balanced, and focused.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Recommended by Ted, Marketing

An entertaining look at why we think irrationally. It’s helped me to better understand how I think about problems and recognize the biases I hold.

All images via Goodreads

Now let’s get reading!

We hope you’re inspired to share some of your favorite reads (summer or otherwise) in the comments.

Special thanks to Jessica Strelioff, Josh Torres

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