100 books like The Challenger Launch Decision

By Diane Vaughan,

Here are 100 books that The Challenger Launch Decision fans have personally recommended if you like The Challenger Launch Decision. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

Did you know there is a research center in Utah made for scientists to pretend they are living on Mars? Or that deep-sea submarines and arctic explorers are supposed to be giving us a taste for finding life on Jupiter’s moon Europa?

My friend and co-author, Anthropologist Lisa Messeri, followed planetary scientists to the unlikeliest of places to witness them transform the planets they study from distant pinpricks in the sky or traces on a graph, into places we can explore or even inhabit.

I loved feeling like I was traveling alongside her as she visits remote telescopes in Chile, Mars camp in the desert, and even sits next to computer scientists building Google Mars to show how our dreams of the extraterrestrial are made right here on Earth.

By Lisa Messeri,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Placing Outer Space as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Placing Outer Space Lisa Messeri traces how the place-making practices of planetary scientists transform the void of space into a cosmos filled with worlds that can be known and explored. Making planets into places is central to the daily practices and professional identities of the astronomers, geologists, and computer scientists Messeri studies. She takes readers to the Mars Desert Research Station and a NASA research center to discuss ways scientists experience and map Mars. At a Chilean observatory and in MIT's labs she describes how they discover exoplanets and envision what it would be like to inhabit them. Today's…


Book cover of Making Time on Mars

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

If you think you have a crazy schedule, imagine what it would be like to go to work every day on Mars, while living and working on Earth.

Mars’ day is thirty-six minutes longer than ours, so your standing daily meeting at 9am will begin tomorrow at 9:36am, the day after at 10:12am…and eventually, at two in the morning. I loved learning about how the Mars Exploration Rover scientists at NASA ate endless ice cream and checked their Mars-time watches in an attempt to turn their own bodily clocks off and stay awake despite constant jetlag.

Reading about how they turned themselves into robots, especially during our own “Zoom-era” of constant meetings and emails, I wonder how much the demands of our contemporary, hustling, always-on workplaces do the same to us.

By Zara Mirmalek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Time on Mars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An examination of how the daily work of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers was organized across three sites on two planets using local Mars time.

In 2004, mission scientists and engineers working with NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) remotely operated two robots at different sites on Mars for ninety consecutive days. An unusual feature of this successful mission was that it operated on Mars time—the daily work was organized across three sites on two planets according to two Martian time zones. In Making Time on Mars, Zara Mirmalek shows that this involved more than a resetting of wristwatches; the team's struggle…


Book cover of Apollo in the Age of Aquarius

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

“A rat done bit my sister Nell, but Whitey’s on the moon,” quipped Gil Scott Heron in 1970.

As the Apollo missions blasted into space one by one, they took off from an America rocked by the Vietnam War, a growing environmentalist lobby, and the transformative civil rights movement. We often forget about this overlap, but historian Maher recovers what was a rich exchange between members of these social movements and NASA.

After reading this book, I can’t think about JFK’s famous moonshot without thinking about the 1960’s culture wars and how this vibrant backdrop also brought America to the moon.

By Neil M. Maher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Apollo in the Age of Aquarius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award
A Bloomberg View Must-Read Book of the Year
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year

"A substance-rich, original on every page exploration of how the space program interacted with the environmental movement, and also with the peace and 'Whole Earth' movements of the 1960s."
-Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

The summer of 1969 saw astronauts land on the moon for the first time and hippie hordes descend on Woodstock. This lively and original account of the space race makes the case that the conjunction of these two era-defining events was not…


Book cover of Exploration and Engineering: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Quest for Mars

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

If this book were episodes of Friends, it would include The One Where They Landed On Mars Before the Internet Was Invented, The One Where They Mixed Up English and Metric Units, The One Where A Lander Became A Crasher, and The One Where Everyone Fell In Love with Cute Robots.

Conway is the official JPL historian, so he has unprecedented access to the archives and the people behind NASA’s ongoing quest for Mars, and he lays each mission out with its political stakes and highs and lows in painstaking and rich detail. Reading this book reminds me that exploration is just as much about the people as it is about the machines.

By Erik M. Conway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exploration and Engineering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has become synonymous with the United States' planetary exploration during the past half century, its most recent focus has been on Mars. Beginning in the 1990s and continuing through the Mars Phoenix mission of 2007, JPL led the way in engineering an impressive, rapidly evolving succession of Mars orbiters and landers, including roving robotic vehicles whose successful deployment onto the Martian surface posed some of the most complicated technical problems in space flight history. In Exploration and Engineering, Erik M. Conway reveals how JPL engineers' creative technological feats led to major breakthroughs…


Book cover of Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen

Mary Stewart Author Of Creative Inquiry: From Ideation to Implementation

From my list on for cultivating creativity.

Why am I passionate about this?

Trained as an artist, through my work as a college professor I became committed to helping others cultivate and expand their creativity. It has always been heartbreaking to hear friends and acquaintances bemoan their lack of creativity simply because they hadn't developed drawing skills. Creativity is a human characteristic that can be developed in any discipline and with practice and encouragement, is available to anyone. In my reading and my writing, I seek a combination of accessibility and substance. If a book is engaging enough to read at the beach yet substantial enough to provide fuel for thought long afterward, it is a winner!

Mary's book list on for cultivating creativity

Mary Stewart Why did Mary love this book?

This eye-opening and informative book provides vivid examples of small problems that became real tragedies due to inaction, miscommunication, and poor decision-making. By looking upstream to seek and address root causes of problems, we can save money, improve lives, and increase productivity. I loved the gripping examples Dan Heath used in this book. It was as engaging as reading a novel, yet provided substantial information based on careful research.

By Dan Heath,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Upstream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Dan Heath asks what happens when we take our thinking upstream and try to prevent problems before they happen.

When we shift our energies upstream, we stop dealing with the symptoms of problems and we start fixing problems.

If we can stop crimes from being committed, we do not need to work to 'solve' crimes.
If we can prevent chronic diseases from developing, we do not need to treat these diseases.
If we can provide affordable housing, we do not need to provide shelter for the homeless.
Looking to business, politics, and society, Dan Heath…


Book cover of The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work

Adrian Wilkinson Author Of Human Resource Management: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on managing people and working lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

My grandfather was a labour activist in Hull in the UK and my father had many classic labour texts such as the book by Tressell, listed below. That got me interested in the world of work and later more specifically in managing people. I moved from studying economics to employment relations /human resource management. Given that most of us (workers) spend 80,000 hours of our lives at work - more time than we are likely to spend on any other activity during our lifetimes - how we spend these lives has remained a source of fascination

Adrian's book list on managing people and working lives

Adrian Wilkinson Why did Adrian love this book?

Much work on management talks of talent and people being the most important asset, whose ideas and skills should be fully utilized.

This book points to another side of organizations, where stupidity and idiocy reign despite the presence of smart workers (think of people who have important information to convey but are quiet at meetings as they are worried about not being seen as team players). This can help organisations in the short run (less conflict and everyone getting on with the job) but in the long run is problematic.

The authors point to how top-down management marginalizes critical voices and reinforces conformity to existing practices, and in so doing can embed stupidity.

By Mats Alvesson, Andre Spicer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stupidity Paradox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Functional stupidity can be catastrophic. It can cause organisational collapse, financial meltdown and technical disaster. And there are countless, more everyday examples of organisations accepting the dubious, the absurd and the downright idiotic, from unsustainable management fads to the cult of leadership or an over-reliance on brand and image. And yet a dose of stupidity can be useful and produce good, short-term results: it can nurture harmony, encourage people to get on with the job and drive success. This is the stupidity paradox.

The Stupidity Paradox tackles head-on the pros and cons of functional stupidity. You'll discover what makes a…


Book cover of The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems

Gregg Bernstein Author Of Research Practice: Perspectives from UX researchers in a changing field

From my list on understanding user research.

Why am I passionate about this?

After a career that took me from designer to design professor, I’ve spent the past decade leading user research practices for growing product organizations. I’m excited about user research because it positions us closer to the people we design for, and challenges us to capture and explain complex scenarios in service to them. Though there are many books that teach user research, my list of recommendations is meant to demonstrate why we research, how we make sense of what we learn, and where research might take us.

Gregg's book list on understanding user research

Gregg Bernstein Why did Gregg love this book?

Authors Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen run consulting company ReD, where they put ​​anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists, and designers together to deeply understand humans in service of their clients. In The Moment of Clarity, the authors share their methods and approach via rich case studies, including their impactful work supporting LEGO in better aligning its products to its customers.

By Christian Madsbjerg, Mikkel B. Rasmussen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Moment of Clarity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Businesses need a new type of problem solving. Why? Because they are getting people wrong. Traditional problem-solving methods taught in business schools serve us well for some of the everyday challenges of business, but they tend to be ineffective with problems involving a high degree of uncertainty. Why? Because, more often than not, these tools are based on a flawed model of human behavior. And that flawed model is the invisible scaffolding that supports our surveys, our focus groups, our R&D, and much of our long-term strategic planning. In The Moment of Clarity, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen examine the…


Book cover of The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Larry Osborne Author Of Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page

From my list on for leaders seeking to build effective teams.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Larry Osborne is a leadership mentor and practitioner with a rare mix of both theological and leadership expertise. He's been a mentor and major influencer for many of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the US while providing leadership to North Coast Church as it grew from 125 to over 13,000 in weekend attendance.

Larry's book list on for leaders seeking to build effective teams

Larry Osborne Why did Larry love this book?

This book is an OG classic that contains the seed thoughts for many of today's most popular books on management, leadership, and team building. I have often found it incredibly helpful to go back to the original source of today’s widely accepted truisms to gain both perspective and a better understanding of our modern-day leadership assumptions and paradigms. This book is a case in point.

By Peter F. Drucker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Effective Executive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What makes an effective executive?

The measure of the executive, Peter F. Drucker reminds us, is the ability to "get the right things done." This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned: Managing time Choosing what to contribute to the organization Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect Setting the right priorities…


Book cover of Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm

Wayne Moloney Author Of The Wentworth Prospect: A novel guide to success in B2B sales

From my list on B2B salespeople to stay relevant and successful.

Why am I passionate about this?

Everyone survives by selling something whether we wear the title or not. Selling has been my career, even before I was a salesperson. I started my career in engineering but quickly realised my passion was in developing business, not designing industrial ventilation systems. Helped by a boss who also saw I was better suited to roles other than engineering (he wasn’t so polite) I went on to enjoy a successful career spanning 4 decades working in Australian, Asian, and European markets that embraced all facets of sales and business development. Helped by great mentors and learning from the experience of others, I have endeavoured to give back by mentoring business owners, salespeople, and writing.

Wayne's book list on B2B salespeople to stay relevant and successful

Wayne Moloney Why did Wayne love this book?

The internet delivers us a tsunami of information. Approximately 328.77 million terabytes of data are created each day – 60 times more than in 2010 and estimated to grow at 20% per year.

How can we make sense of this? What is valuable and what is not? What is real, what is fake?

Mardsbjerg argues that our fixation with data makes us lose touch with reality and that we need to be making sense of the world through deep, nuanced engagement with culture, language, and history.

By Christian Madsbjerg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sensemaking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A FINANCIAL TIMES BUSINESS BOOK OF THE MONTH (APRIL 2017) Humans have become subservient to algorithms. Every day brings a new Moneyball fix - a maths whiz who will crack open an industry with clean fact-based analysis rather than human intuition and experience. As a result, we have stopped thinking. Machines do it for us. Christian Madsbjerg argues that our fixation with data often masks stunning deficiencies, and the risks for humankind are enormous. Blind devotion to number crunching imperils our businesses, our educations, our governments, and our life savings. Too many companies have lost touch with the humanity of…


Book cover of Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

Nektarios Oraiopoulos Author Of From Breakthrough to Blockbuster: The Business of Biotechnology

From my list on bringing new ideas to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of technology management at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. I have interacted and learned from hundreds (or possibly thousands) of students and senior executives on how they develop new products and more broadly how they make better decisions in business and life. I am hoping that the books I shared with you will move you in that direction too. 

Nektarios' book list on bringing new ideas to life

Nektarios Oraiopoulos Why did Nektarios love this book?

I love this book because it gives an insider’s view of Amazon’s decision-making processes and culture that enabled all these amazing products to be created.

It shows that Amazon’s exponential growth for over two decades was not the outcome of luck, but of excellent management and leadership skills at every step of the way. Even if you are not interested in business, you will learn a lot about thinking in productive ways and making better decisions. 

By Colin Bryar, Bill Carr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Working Backwards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Essential for any leader in any industry' - Kim Scott, bestselling author of Radical Candor

Working Backwards gives an insider's account of Amazon's approach to culture, leadership and best practices from two long-time, top-level Amazon executives.

Colin Bryar and Bill Carr joined Amazon in the late 90s. Their time at the company covered a period of unmatched innovation that brought products and services - including Kindle, Amazon Prime, Amazon Echo and Alexa, and Amazon Web Services - to life. Through the story of these innovations they reveal the principles and practices that drive Amazon's success.

Through their wealth of experience…


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