100 books like Working Backwards

By Colin Bryar, Bill Carr,

Here are 100 books that Working Backwards fans have personally recommended if you like Working Backwards. 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 Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

Simon Court Author Of Founder's Legacy: 50 Game-Changing Leadership Lessons for Building a Great Business

From my list on books for founders trying to be in the 10% of businesses that succeed.

Why am I passionate about this?

For the last 25 years, I have been a coach to business founders, leaders, and leadership teams. My work has taken me to every continent from my base in London. A lot of my work is done behind closed doors, but I have been instrumental in building two unicorns in the last decade. I’m a founder myself and have always been fascinated by what it takes to succeed as a founder. I have a powerful conviction that learning to lead is the heart of it. The books I love are either based on real-world research or deeply practical and based on hands-on experience. Practice trumps theory every time in my world!

Simon's book list on books for founders trying to be in the 10% of businesses that succeed

Simon Court Why did Simon love this book?

This book makes strategy practical for founders, and strategy is so often done badly and contributes to business failure.

The essence of it is to recognize and solve the “decisive challenge.” For example, Elon Musk identified and solved the decisive challenge facing SpaceX when he made Falcon 9 the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket.

Back down to earth, strategy has to face the business challenges honestly and provide a coherent approach to tackling them. This book genuinely helps us to do just that.

By Richard Rumelt,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Good Strategy Bad Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Richard Rumelt's Good Strategy/Bad Strategy was published in 2011, it immediately struck a chord, calling out as bad strategy the mish-mash of pop culture, motivational slogans and business buzz speak so often and misleadingly masquerading as the real thing.

Since then, his original and pragmatic ideas have won fans around the world and continue to help readers to recognise and avoid the elements of bad strategy and adopt good, action-oriented strategies that honestly acknowledge the challenges being faced and offer straightforward approaches to overcoming them. Strategy should not be equated with ambition, leadership, vision or planning; rather, it is…


Book cover of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

Tom Gilb Author Of Competitive Engineering: A Handbook For Systems Engineering, Requirements Engineering, and Software Engineering Using Planguage

From my list on learning successful invention and business methods.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a self-taught guy, having started in my first job at IBM Oslo, when I was 18 years old, as punched card machine operator, and plug-board ‘programmer'. I did night studies in sociology/philosophy for 10 years at University of Oslo. I read about 30 books a year, and I’m 82 in 2023. I have spent most of my career as an independent international consultant to corporations and governments, while building up my ideas of useful methods to solve problems. In retirement, I love to spread my ideas, and learn more. I also write about 5 new books a year, when at my Oslofjord Summer cabin. They're all digital and free or free samples. 

Tom's book list on learning successful invention and business methods

Tom Gilb Why did Tom love this book?

From my notes after I read it, “Great content and organization. Triggered me to write and plan a 2022 Book.”

There was specific practical content like removing vacation policy, removing travel and expenses policy. An opening the books, which showed the practices behind the no rules idea, and their consequent results in the business. As a consultant, these give me a tool for discussion with clients. What if you did the same?

Again a great leader, and successful businessperson, using persistence and imagination to deal with the forces against change.

By Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked No Rules Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hard work is irrelevant. Be radically honest. Adequate performance gets a generous severance. And never, ever try to please your boss.

These are some of the ground rules if you work at Netflix. They are part of a unique cultural experiment that explains how the company has transformed itself at lightning speed from a DVD mail order service into a streaming superpower - with 125 million fervent subscribers and a market capitalisation bigger than Disney.

Finally Reed Hastings, Netflix Chairman and CEO, is sharing the secrets that have revolutionised the entertainment and tech industries. With INSEAD business school professor Erin…


Book cover of How Google Works

Marty Cagan Author Of Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

From my list on building a strong technology organization.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marty Cagan has been working on and with technology-powered empowered product teams for his entire career. Before founding the Silicon Valley Product Group to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising, and coaching, Marty Cagan served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. As part of his work with SVPG, Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe. Marty is the author of INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products.

Marty's book list on building a strong technology organization

Marty Cagan Why did Marty love this book?

Google is a very large and sprawling company, where one team in one group can often work very different than another.  But there are common principles and my favorite book (so far) is How Google Works by former CEO Eric Schmidt, and former head of product Jonathan Rosenberg.

By Jonathan Rosenberg, Eric Schmidt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Both Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg came to Google as seasoned Silicon Valley business executives, but over the course of a decade they came to see the wisdom in Coach John Wooden's observation that 'it's what you learn after you know it all that counts'. As they helped grow Google from a young start-up to a global icon, they relearned everything they knew about management. How Google Works is the sum of those experiences distilled into a fun, easy-to-read primer on corporate culture, strategy, talent, decision-making, communication, innovation, and dealing with disruption.The authors explain how the confluence of three seismic…


Book cover of Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs

Marty Cagan Author Of Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

From my list on building a strong technology organization.

Why am I passionate about this?

Marty Cagan has been working on and with technology-powered empowered product teams for his entire career. Before founding the Silicon Valley Product Group to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising, and coaching, Marty Cagan served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. As part of his work with SVPG, Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe. Marty is the author of INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products.

Marty's book list on building a strong technology organization

Marty Cagan Why did Marty love this book?

Apple is the most secretive commercial company I know.  Most books that have been written about them are about their colorful co-founder Steve Jobs, and much less about the inner workings.  My favorite book on how the actual work of product is done at Apple is Creative Selection by former engineering lead Ken Kocienda. Ken worked on some of the company’s most important products and technologies, during what I’d consider the peak innovation period for the company (so far).  Because Ken is an engineer, this book provides the engineering perspective, but the book is loaded with useful observations, learnings and insights.

By Ken Kocienda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hundreds of millions of people use Apple products every day; a few thousand work on Apple's campus in California; but only a handful sit at the drawing board. Creative Selection recounts the life of one of the few behind the scenes, a highly-respected software engineer who worked in the final years the Steve Jobs era.

Ken Kocienda offers an inside look at Apple's creative process. For fifteen years, he was on the ground floor of the company as a specialist, responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing software for products including the iPhone, the iPad, and the…


Book cover of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

David Worrell Author Of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Financial Statements

From my list on building culture, teamwork, and leadership.

Why am I passionate about this?

Entrepreneurs have a tough lot in life. We dream of creating value for others, yet we are often cursed to pay a huge price in our own lives. My experience as an entrepreneur is no different – I struggled through three mediocre business startups, learning a little bit more with each one. Along the way, I have put my lessons learned into writing: textbooks, how-to guides and even cover stories for Entrepreneur magazine. Combining my own experience and the best advice from other entrepreneurs, I have systematically improved my current company… and have finally broken free of the curse! Now I love to share my experience with other business owners like you!

David's book list on building culture, teamwork, and leadership

David Worrell Why did David love this book?

Building a great company and a great team takes more than love and data. In Leaders Eat Last, I learned the science behind why we join teams, why we leave a team, and how to build a team where people want to stay.

It turns out that being a part of a team is in our DNA. Literally. We have survived as a species by working together, and our brains produce pleasure chemicals when we are standing shoulder to shoulder with a co-worker.

But that’s not what makes this book great. Simon Sinek references both large companies and the military to make his case. Among other thoughtful insights, Sinek argues that the dedication, drive, and sacrifice that make the Air Force such a formidable team can be similarly created within work teams and companies. 

This is a must-read if you want to really understand why and how we work together…

By Simon Sinek,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Leaders Eat Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leadership is not a rank, it is a responsibility. Leadership is not about being in charge, it is about taking care of those in your charge.

When we take care of our people, our people will take care of us. They will help see that our cause becomes a reality.

In Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek, internationally bestselling author of Start With Why, investigates these great leaders from Marine Corps Officers, who don't just sacrifice their place at the table but often their own comfort and even their lives for those in their care, to the heads of big business…


Book cover of Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again

Havard Mela Author Of Digital Discipline: Choosing Life in the Digital Age of Excess

From my list on how we get distracted and how to reclaim your attention.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone who has felt the consequences of spending too much time online on distractions, I am compelled to share how much better life can be when we are conscious of the time we spend online. In my early twenties, I experienced digital addiction. I managed to turn things around by cultivating discipline and finding purpose in life. In the process, I developed a deep interest in neuroscience and psychology. My book explains how you can take conscious control of your life in a practical way based on my experience backed up by research.

Havard's book list on how we get distracted and how to reclaim your attention

Havard Mela Why did Havard love this book?

This book is a page-turner and very well-written.

It brilliantly weaves together the author's experience with protecting his attention and research about the topic. He covers how our phones have lulled us into thinking about what to do online, such as taking selfies and posting on Instagram, rather than going out there in the world.

The book enlightens the reader about the damaging effects multitasking and interruptions have on our lives. Although this is not a self-help book, the personal experiences Hari shares are very helpful in managing your attention.

By Johann Hari,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Stolen Focus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A SPECTATOR AND FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF 2022 'If you read just one book about how the modern world is driving us crazy, read this one' TELEGRAPH 'This book is exactly what the world needs right now' OPRAH WINFREY 'A beautifully researched and argued exploration of the breakdown of humankind's ability to pay attention' STEPHEN FRY 'A really important book . . . Everyone should read it' PHILIPPA PERRY Why have we lost our ability to focus? What are the causes? And, most importantly, how do we get it back? For…


Book cover of Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

Martin Sternstein Author Of Barron's AP Statistics

From my list on statistical insights into social issues.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught for 45 years at Ithaca College broken by two years as Fulbright Professor in West Africa at the University of Liberia. During my years in academia, I developed several new courses including a popular “Math in Africa” class and the first U.S. course for college credit in chess theory. I’ve always had a passion for and continue to have strong interests in (1) national educational and social issues concerning equal access to math education for all and (2) teaching others about the power of mathematics and statistics to help one more deeply understand social issues.

Martin's book list on statistical insights into social issues

Martin Sternstein Why did Martin love this book?

Statistics is shown to be anything but dry in this book, as using wit, intuition, and clarity, the author shows how statistical concepts relate to everyday life.

He is able to separate important ideas from overly technical details, hence the title, Naked Statistics. I took many of his approaches to heart in my teaching. Wheelan gives many examples of how using readily available data yields deep inferences about the world we live in.

By Charles Wheelan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Naked Statistics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once considered tedious, the field of statistics is rapidly evolving into a discipline Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, has actually called "sexy." From batting averages and political polls to game shows and medical research, the real-world application of statistics continues to grow by leaps and bounds. How can we catch schools that cheat on standardized tests? How does Netflix know which movies you'll like? What is causing the rising incidence of autism? As best-selling author Charles Wheelan shows us in Naked Statistics, the right data and a few well-chosen statistical tools can help us answer these questions and more.…


Book cover of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Shawn Swyx Wang Author Of The Coding Career Handbook

From my list on developers who want no-bullshit career advice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have advised thousands of developers on their career journey and have always been shocked at how many people don’t have a good sherpa on their path if they didn’t luck out with a good boss or industry friends to help them find their way. I think everyone deserves a third path other than work and immediate friends to figure out their career journey and I think the right books and online mentors can accelerate your career if you feel stuck in a local minima.

Shawn's book list on developers who want no-bullshit career advice

Shawn Swyx Wang Why did Shawn love this book?

People judge your career success not just by your individual capabilities, but by the impact of the companies you have worked at.

Jeff Bezos is not strictly a developer, but arguably is the person who has most benefited from the rise of the Internet. Understanding the origin story of Amazon and AWS and how to maneuver your career within the bigger picture of tech megatrends is critical toward picking the right companies and projects to work on. 

By Brad Stone,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Everything Store as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medical information sciences are emerging as a vital field of study and practice. The subsequent explosion of data-- in administration, research, diagnosis, and treatment--along with the associated costs of maintenance, have become overwhelming. The volume brings together scholars and practitioners from disciplines concerned with the acquisition, analysis, accessibility, and application of information in medical practice and health care. The book is divided into five sections: the first part provides an overview of the field in general; the second deals with the problem of retrieval; the third part examines the control of health costs; the fourth focuses on medical decision support;…


Book cover of Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos

Tom Gilb Author Of Competitive Engineering: A Handbook For Systems Engineering, Requirements Engineering, and Software Engineering Using Planguage

From my list on learning successful invention and business methods.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a self-taught guy, having started in my first job at IBM Oslo, when I was 18 years old, as punched card machine operator, and plug-board ‘programmer'. I did night studies in sociology/philosophy for 10 years at University of Oslo. I read about 30 books a year, and I’m 82 in 2023. I have spent most of my career as an independent international consultant to corporations and governments, while building up my ideas of useful methods to solve problems. In retirement, I love to spread my ideas, and learn more. I also write about 5 new books a year, when at my Oslofjord Summer cabin. They're all digital and free or free samples. 

Tom's book list on learning successful invention and business methods

Tom Gilb Why did Tom love this book?

No surprises. Self-made businessperson, with persistence and imagination.

This book is unusual. It is literally written by Bezos over decades of developing Amazon. It is mainly his annual reports to the shareholders! So it gives a continuous picture of the growth of the empire.

My favourite practical tip, is his executive meeting process. Meeting begins with a 6-page (with a 1-page summary) briefing, to reread for the first 20 minutes of as meeting in silence, then discussed. No presentation with slides and pretty pictures, and soothing ambiguous words.

The briefing is the result of hard work, in advance, crafting it to be useful. Wow! 

By Jeff Bezos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Jeff Bezos's own words, the core principles and philosophy that have guided him in creating, building, and leading Amazon and Blue Origin.

In this collection of Jeff Bezos's writings&#8212his unique and strikingly original annual shareholder letters, plus numerous speeches and interviews that provide insight into his background, his work, and the evolution of his ideas&#8212you'll gain an insider's view of the why and how of his success. Spanning a range of topics across business and public policy, from innovation and customer obsession to climate change and outer space, this book provides a rare glimpse into how Bezos thinks about…


Book cover of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

William MacAskill Author Of What We Owe the Future

From my list on doing good.

Why am I passionate about this?

William MacAskill is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world. He cofounded the nonprofits Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and Y Combinator–backed 80,000 Hours, which together have moved over $300 million to effective charities. He is the author of Doing Good Better and What We Owe The Future.

William's book list on doing good

William MacAskill Why did William love this book?

The Scout Mindset is one of the best books I know on reasoning clearly and developing a truth-seeking attitude. Galef argues that instead of being like “soldiers,” who engage in wishful thinking by defending the ideas they most want to believe, we should be more like “scouts,” whose goal is to actually find out what is true. The book includes some of the latest research on the skills and habits one needs to be an excellent reasoner. 

By Julia Galef,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Scout Mindset as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of best smart thinking book 2022 (Business Book Awards)
Guardian best books of 2021

'Original, thought-provoking and a joy to read' Tim Harford

'Highly recommended. It's not easy to become (more of) a scout, but it's hard not to be inspired by this book' Rutger Bregman

When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a 'soldier' mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalising in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe…


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