Career books that won't bore you to death

Career books are written with the best of intentions, but wow: can they ever be boring. Not to mention that every airport bookstore stocks the same books you’ve seen everywhere else. (Because really, the only appropriate time to read career books is when traveling for business. Maybe their whole game is to put you to sleep on that long flight?)

My teammates and I were convinced that, surely, there are engaging and unusual books out there offering the skills and advice that could help us grow our careers. So we set out on a mission to find them.

It started off as a simple question for all Atlassians: “What books have helped you grow into your career?” We were delighted (and a little surprised) when more than 40 Atlassians across the globe chimed in with their favorites.

From teamwork and programming to writing and just getting stuff done…

Check out 14 of our top picks:

  1. The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, by Dan RoamCareer books that don't suck – jcollins
  2. “I’ve tended to be the guy quick to a whiteboard in meetings, so I really latched onto the idea of visual thinking. Anyone, regardless of artistic skills, can communicate ideas with this approach. More whiteboards, fewer slide decks!” – John Collins

  3. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by K. Patterson, J. Grenny, R. McMillan, and A. SwitzlerCareer books that don't suck – penny-wyatt
  4. “This book teaches how to have difficult conversations without them turning into disastrous conversations. I wish I’d read this 15 years ago – it’s great advice for real life, and not just for work.” – Penny Wyatt

  5. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, by Ryan HolidayCareer books that don't suck – nelson
  6. “Modern stoicism helps our business embrace today’s challenge so we’re ready for tomorrow’s opportunity.” – Jeff Nelson

  7. How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale CarnegieCareer books that don't suck – jjang
  8. “This book taught me a bunch of social nuances about myself that I never realized, which helped me personally but also professionally in the way that I interact with people.” – John Jiang

  9. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, by Michael WatkinsCareer books that don't suck –andre-serna
  10. “When you start a new job, or even a new role, this book gives a good framework for getting your skills up to speed quickly and becoming effective. It’s primarily aimed at leaders in new roles, but the advice is applicable to anyone.” – Andre Serna

  11. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, by Douglas Stone and Sheila HeenCareer books that don't suck –marie-claire-dean
  12. “This book helped me understand that feedback was a conversation and that it was entirely in my own interest to listen to it. It can feel justified to dismiss feedback that is given in a clumsy way, but actually, you need to work with the person to get to the bottom of it. Then you can really grow.” – Marie-Claire Dean

  13. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David AllanCareer books that don't suck –dee-pabst
  14. “I’ve used GTD to achieve heart and balance for the past decade! Build trust in your system, capture everything, and sleep well at night.” – Dee Pabst

  15. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. PinkCareer books that don't suck –judd-garratt
  16. “Great non-bullshit ideas for giving creative people, like designers, a business environment where they will naturally thrive.” – Judd Garratt

  17. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, by Robert M. PirsigCareer books that don't suck –sgoffdupont
  18. “I read it every few years because it’s good for reacquainting with what’s really important. It’s the sort of book that can’t be read in a hurry, so simply pulling it off the shelf is a commitment to slow down and go deep for a while.” – Sarah Goff-Dupont

  19. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené BrownCareer books that don't suck – czhang
  20. “This book teaches me how to face my shame, be open and vulnerable. It makes me able to pursue what I think is right in my daily work/life, instead of being afraid of making mistakes and being self-protective. I feel my potential is fully released.” – Chandler Zhang

  21. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey Career books that don't suck –msegar
  22. “It’s one of those foundational books that I recommend to everyone. Steven Covey advises that personal character development and discipline is fundamental to being more effective in individual and team-based work.” – Michael Seager

  23. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
    Career books that don't suck –ablanche
  24. “As someone who is very extroverted, it was very illuminating to see the business world from an introvert’s perspective, and I was inspired by all the ways I could best collaborate with all personalities. It’s so important for us to recognize and appreciate personality diversity in our teams and workplaces.” – Aubrey Blanche

  25. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne LamottCareer books that don't suck –jaustin
  26. “Good writing books must create a bridge between practice and state of mind. This book always stands out in my mind, I loved its honesty and simplicity.” – Jamey Austin

  27. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship, by Robert C. MartinCareer books that don't suck –kilhberg
  28. “Back in the day when my skills were nascent and I was just learning the craft, this book helped me understand how to write code that doesn’t just get the job done, but is also there for others to read and maintain.” – Klaus Ihlberg

No matter what business you’re in or what skills you’re trying to develop, good advice is out there. Mission accomplished!

14 inspiring books to grow your career