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The Definitive Summer Reading List For Startups

The Definitive Summer Reading List For Startups

Home Blog Digital Marketing The Definitive Summer Reading List For Startups

Those who read a lot were recently scientifically proven to be the best people to fall in love with. It’s science. 

It's Science

We love reading at Mention, and we know the same is true for many teams at other startups. Whether it’s an interview in The Great Discontent, news from Dave Pell’s Next Draft, or the books we bring on the metro, we fill our downtime (or when the internet’s not working) with reading.

That got us thinking: where’s the definitive summer reading list for startups?

What are others reading this summer, and what would we suggest if asked?

So we got in touch with some friends, and asked our team to contribute as well. They sent us blogs, Medium posts, design guides, and favorite novels from when they were a kid.

No matter if you’re a community manager, graphic designer, developer, or CEO, you should find something in this list for you. So without further ado, let me start things off with two of my own suggestions.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

I’m listening to this astounding book on Audible right now. It not only tells the story of how Pixar rose to dominance, but in it, Ed Catmull, the legendary computer scientist and pioneer of digital animation distills in great detail his tips to create a culture of creativity and trust. A must read for any growing startup trying to keep their company culture intact while hiring and scaling up.

Henri Matisse: A Second Life

Written in conjunction with the current exhibit, Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs at the Tate Modern, this quick read details Matisse’s burst of productivity and inspiration at the end of his life — a 14 year period where he created some of his most well-known works in a brand new style. It’s the ultimate pivot in a way. Unable to continue on with his old way of working, Matisse used the materials around him to change the game.

ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever

And at least 3 essays from Paul Graham (one of the best resources according to me).

Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro 

Although I’m not even kind of a designer, I learned a ton about negotiation, pitching, and the importance of confidence and owning your work, as well as tips for working with a team from Design is a Job. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in starting their own business. It’s also a very quick read.

Make Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Make Ideas Happen is inspirational in getting your ideas out there, but it also taught me a lot about the importance of workflow and processes. I’ve definitely become a more productive person since reading it.

Offscreen Magazine

Pretty much any issue is chock-full of interesting and inspirational stories. There’s something about learning the personal stories of successful people in our digital world that makes me want to do more, better.

Groove HQ Blog

Can’t even begin to tell you how much tactical content and growth advice I have taken from this blog. Tremendously helpful.

Kevan Lee, @kevanlee — Content Crafter at Buffer

I love reading deep and wide — books, magazines, blogs, newsletters.

You name it, I’ll read it. My latest books include Stephen King’s On Writing and Jim Collins’s Good to Great.

I’ve got Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work and Anne Lamott’s Stitches on deck. My magazine subscriptions cover a lot of different spaces — e.g.,

I’ve got Wired magazine and Powder magazine open at any given time.

Copyblogger, KISSMetrics, and Quick Sprout are can’t-miss blogs for me, and I’ve really been digging the “Best Things I Found Online Today” collection in Medium.

The Best Thing I found Online Today

Nicolas Martin, @nmrtn — CPO, Mention

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions


My favorite part about this book:

Flatland’s people are 2D geometric figures. From their point of view, people’s outlines are only lines. The narrator (a square) has this dream about seeing a dot morphing into a line, reaching a maximum, then morphing into a dot again and disappearing. A 3D sphere just passes through their world.

Working in a startup is like living in flatland. Sometimes you won’t understand what’s going on. It will usually get clearer if you try to find which dimensions rule your business.

Mathilde Collin, @collinmathilde — Co-founder & CEO of Front


Here are a few ideas:

Startups, this is how design works — a great introduction to how startups and design work together and how having designer founders can make a big change. Awesome resources at the end!

The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking — a classic from Kissmetrics’ Neil Patel that covers everything you need to know to start getting serious with growth hacking.

My startup failed and this is what it feels like — Nikki Durkin goes back on her ups and downs at 99dresses and how she finally failed to keep it going. Inspiring and moving.

Elizabeth Gilbert “Your creative genius” — more to watch than to read, but a great talk by the writer of “Eat, Pray, Love” on how to stay creative on a day-to-day basis.

Andy Orsow, @andyorsow — Designerat InVision


Right now I’m reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

It’s been recommended to me over and over again by other designers actually, despite it’s focus on comics.

Aside from being a ton of fun to look at (as well as read), it provides great insights on storytelling, art history, and some really interesting methods on how to take advantage of people’s imaginations to fill in the blanks.

I want to take as much of that thinking as possible and apply it to the videos, stories, and even UI decisions we make at InVision.

Understanding Comics

I’m a sucker for most things from A Book Apart—Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro is definitely a must-read if you sell any type of service or expertise.

Dan Holowack, @dHolowack — Founder of CrowdRiff and creator of Riffle


Two suggestions from our team:

For marketing folks.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

From our VP of Business and Strategy, Paul Lockhard.

Paul has 20+ years of digital marketing experience for big brands and this book helps teach you the human psychology of why things catch on and how to create better content.

For startup technical folks

Aphyr Blog

From Abhinav Ajgaonkar, @abh1nv — our Co-Founder and CTO

For those interested in “big data systems” and storage of large amounts of data, reading this blog to help understand your database’s limitations and failure conditions is an absolute must!

Matthieu Vaxelaire, @mvaxelaire — CEO, Mention


It was published 3 or 4 months ago, but I strongly recommend:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

It’s a must read full of practical advice from Ben Horowitz’s blog.

Justin Barr Young, @theJayBeeWhy — UX Engineer, (mt) Media Temple


I’ve been recommending The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee to anyone interested in technology (or anyone anxious about the coming robot takeover). It’s an (ultimately) optimistic and exciting look at technology’s role in society, economy, and public policy in the near future.

The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that we’re at the start of the Second Machine Age, driven by cheap digitization of information and the optimization of contextual technologies like GPS and sensors. Here’s a tl;dr talk the authors did at Google.

Julie Chabin, @syswarren — Product Designer at Mention & Co-Founder of Kimd


Design books aren’t — always — full of pretty pictures:

A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible by Robert Mills

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design by Laura Klein

Bill Franklin, @billfranklinuk — Co-founder of Lavaboom


We’ve just started a company book budget (@ansimionescu‘s idea) so we’re all reading a lot more.

Glen Greenwald's No Place To Hide

I have to suggest ReWork, it’s one of those books that keeps motivating you long after you put it down. But I’m currently reading Glen Greenwald’s No Place To Hide which is about Ed Snowden.

Rob Long, @_RobLong — VP Business Development at Workable

Getting From Employee 5 to 50

A year ago, I didn’t know any of this

Getting From Employee 5 to 50

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (we give each new starter at Workable a copy of this book)

Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age


Being a woman in tech in Greece: ‘I feel like I have to know it all to gain respect’
Jason M. Lemkin on Quora

One more…

Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of

Bonus startup advice

24 Essential Tools and Resources for Startups and Entrepreneurs

Ok it’s not exactly a novel or biography, but this great guide from Visme contains a bunch of tools and resources for every growing startup. It’s free, and a great place to start if you need a boost!

Here’s the full list of links to the suggestions:

Based on their repeat mentions, perhaps the best place to start this summer is with ReWorkDesign Is a Job, and The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Otherwise, what do you think about our list? What would you add if you had to suggest one thing to read this summer? Tell us below in the comments, or by tweeting us @mention.

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Matthieu Vaxelaire

Guest Blogger @Mention