Work in HR? Here’s Your 2018 Fall Reading List

Gusto Editors

Pumpkin spice lattes, new TV shows, and a book that beckons — some might say the three markers of a winning fall season. But if the book in your bag whisks you right back to the office, your autumn fantasy can disappear fairly quickly. That is, unless you get transported to someplace new. We’ve scoured the lists and aisles to find the best HR, company culture, and leadership books that will do just that. Each pick is packed with insights that will help you get a fresh, leaf-changing perspective on that crazy little thing we call work.

The List


Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

By Yvon Chouinard

Part memoir, part culture code, this groundbreaking book by the founder of Patagonia is a must-read for anyone interested in using values to create a great company. Chouinard built Patagonia around the tenets of environmental responsibility, a passion for adventure, and a dogged belief that “work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis.” In this book, you’ll snag all his secrets, and in the process, walk away just a little bit changed.


Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar: Stories of Work

By Richard Ford

Even though we spend a big chunk of time at work, there aren’t a lot of stories that dig into what the experience is like — until this collection of short stories came along. From Jhumpa Lahiri to John Cheever, discover how our country’s greatest contemporary fiction writers visualize one of the most meaningful (and peculiar) parts of the human experience.

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The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace

By Ron Friedman

“When colleagues are close, a poor effort means more than a dissatisfied customer or an unhappy manager. It means letting down your friends.” Piercing yet spot-on insights from psychologist Ron Friedman are what make this book shimmer. Friedman examines the characteristics that define great workplaces, providing a blend of stories and research that will help you map out your own extraordinary course.


Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth

Duckworth, a psychologist and MacArthur Fellow, has spent her life teaching people about a dirty-sounding word: grit. Her thesis: The “most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.” She argues that focusing on qualities beyond talent, like tenacity, kindness, and humility, will give people the tools they need to dash across the finish line.


Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace

By Nikil Saval

Saval pools together insights from pop culture, sociology, and design to examine how the modern office took shape — and how we can turn it around. From the invention of the fluorescent light bulb to the rise of cubicles, you’ll get a deep-dive into the important nuggets that have shaped our everyday work environments.


Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do

By Studs Terkel

Not only does this book have the best title ever, but it’s one of the rawest and most comprehensive accounts of what working in America is like. In 1974, Terkel interviewed over a hundred workers to hear about their hopes and challenges, in an attempt to trace “history from the bottom up.” You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the working experience, and how in the end, we all have a lot more in common than we once thought.


Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

By Simon Sinek

Ethnographer and psychologist Simon Sinek takes a look at how our original tribal instinct, the “willingness to place the needs of others above [our] own,” can help us build incredible teams. Sinek grounds his argument in brain research to show that becoming a kind leader doesn’t just sound nice — it actually makes companies more cohesive.

Ready to start plotting out your fall reading schedule? Who knows, you may find that the one place you were looking to take a break from might actually be what helps you truly escape.

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Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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