Douglas R. Hofstadter
I often name this as my favorite book, but I’ve never actually finished it! An exploration of consciousness, told in a very engaging way. However, it’s 1000 pages and there is also a lot of math, growing progressively more advanced, which combined to prevent me from being able to find the back cover.
A much easier read on the same topic, but also much less rewarding/enjoyable along the way. Notably, this is written 20 years after GEB, so has more current information about the field.
On Intelligence (Jeff Hawkins)
A great introduction to modern AI from the founder of Redwood Neuroscience Institute and inventor of the Palm Pilot.
On Being Human
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (Dalai Lama)
Wonderful introduction to secular ethics and to the Dalai Lama, who spends a great deal of his time studying all western fields of knowledge (esp. neuroscience recently) and reconciling them with his own beliefs.
Jack Kornfield is one of the preeminent Western Buddhist teachers. If you’ve not already been exposed to Buddhist philosophy, he is particularly approachable.
A New Earth (Eckhart Tolle)
Exploration of the ego and how to lead an awakened life. Oprah and I share this one. I highly recommend the audio version, but please do not listen to it while operating a motor vehicle.
Siddartha (Hermann Hesse)
A fictional story of enlightenment in the age of Gautama Buddha.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Persig)
I read this in high school and was enthralled. I read it again more recently and with a lot more of a background in standard philosophy and still found it quite compelling. Answers the question “What is Quality?”
Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert)
What really matters for living a fulfilling life, as proven by science!
Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
A fascinating exploration of statistics and biases from an expert. It has become effectively required reading for Asana PMs. As an aside, the List of cognitive biases on Wikipedia is probably my favorite article.
On Startups, Communication, Management, and Leadership
Getting Things Done (David Allen)
The essential manual on productivity and one of the inspirations for Asana. We sometimes refer to our product as “GTD for Groups”.
The Tao of Leadership (John Heider)
The Tao Te Ching applied to leadership. There is much wisdom here.
Nonviolent Communication (Marshall B. Rosenberg)
We keep copies of this on the Asana bookshelf and recommend it to all new hires. Rosenberg details a very effective communication style and points out some of the common traps that lead most people to impasses and defensiveness in disagreements.
The Humane Interface (Jef Raskin)
This is about interface design, by the creator of the Macintosh.
On Poverty and Philanthropy
Poor Economics (Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo)
Great resource on global development and the psychology of poor people.
The Foundation: A Great American Secret (Joel L. Fleishman)
A history of major foundations in the 20th century.
Narrative nonfiction about life in the slums of Mumbai.
Not everything here is brilliant prose, but they will all expand the way you think about our potential reality.
Sequel to The Peace War
Prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, written afterwards. My favorite Sci-fi book, bar none.
One of the most well-known and well-read classics, for good reason.
You’ll like this one especially if you are into cryptography or WWII.
I come back to the concepts introduced in this novel on a weekly basis.
Axiomatic (Greg Egan)
A collection of short stories, each of which will probably blow your mind.
The Culture Series (Ian Banks)
I’ve only read the first one so far, but it was good and the whole series comes highly recommended.
I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
A classic. It blows my mind that Will Smith is on the cover, since this collection of short stories that take place over centuries bears no relation whatsoever to the Hollywood movie.
Childhood’s End (Arthur C. Clarke)
The story of a benevolent alien invasion.
Healing Back Pain: The Mindbody Connection (John E. Sarno)
I have struggled a lot with lower back pain. After reading this book, I struggled less. His theories are far reaching and quite-possibly quackery, but I found them compelling on many fronts. Aaron Iba also endorses him in detail here.
Omnivore’s Delimma (Michael Pollen)
This could have been titled “How Money Corrupts Food.” If you don’t know about the industrial food system and you’re not a vegan, you are probably living inconsistently with your own values. Though still a meat eater, I dramatically changed my eating habits after reading this and Asana only sources from farms that have humane practices, like Marin Sun Farms.
Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It (Lawrence Lessig)
This is a good, non-partisan explanation of campaign finance and the issues related to the Citizens United ruling (though notably Lessig believes the problems were fatal well before that happened).
P.S. Asana is hiring!