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Reading is Fundamental

Wow /
Manual Labor
October 29, 2021


There’s one simple way to get smarter: read more books. Reading has been proven to not only increase our vocabulary and brainpower but also help expand our worldview, teaching us to be more empathetic and compassionate. And, by reading just six minutes a day, we can reduce stress by 68%, which is a welcomed positive outcome! 

While reading does wonders for one’s self, it can also teach you a lot about others. Asking those around you what their favorite book is provides you an opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level and to see what they turn to for an escape, a challenge, or just some plain-old fun. 

Curious about the #GoodPeople of Manual Labor? Read on to learn what their favorite books are and why:

Sam Choi, Founder, CEO & Chief Creative Officer

Becoming by Michelle Obama

“At first glance you expect the book to be the story of the first lady, Mrs. Obama - but it’s so much more. As women, we put a lot of pressure on becoming the perfect finished versions of ourselves. This book tells the beautiful story of all the lessons learned along the way as daughters, students, girlfriends, wives, mothers, and professionals. 'Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.' ”


Todd Cadley, President & CMO 

Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad 

“The book chronicles a number of musicians and artists—like Mission of Burma, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Fugazi—in the late 1970s and 1980s following their passion to make art that wasn't mainstream, all the while paving a new genre of music for future artists. It serves as a beacon for trying new things both in work and life.”


Dani Kennedy, VP of Creative

The Bigger Picture Book of Amazing Dyslexics and the Jobs They Do by Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth  

“As a dyslexic and the mother of a dyslexic child, it’s great to see a book about successful dyslexics. We are 1 in 5 people and it’s about time the rest of the population see how impressive we are.”


Nadia Basil, VP of Marketing 

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg  

“As a quick disclaimer - I love most self-help books. This is a favorite because of how approachable it is, using engaging stories, underscored by researched evidence to explain how habits are formed -- all while providing a step-by-step process to help your routine/health and whatever change is important to you. A concept introduced in this book, Keystone Habits (the base level of what you do without any need for willpower or persuasion) is something I've gone back to referencing for years.”

Sameehan Patel, Lead UX Engineer

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman 

“It's one of the quintessential UX foundations books and for good reason. Norman explains design through the lens of psychology and ultimately concludes that users are never wrong. The real onus falls on the ability for any design to communicate effectively.”


Kelly Wrather, Director of Marketing

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis 

“I am a voracious reader and will devour almost anything: nonfiction, memoirs, sci-fi, romance, poetry, etc! I have read many books that I love, but The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe holds a special place for me because it is the first book I remember reading that completely captivated me. It was the kind of book I wanted to stay up reading (even though it was a school assignment). It most likely informed my love of weird, fantasy plotlines and surrealist worlds. A close second on the formative reads list would have to be Matilda, a book I read with my sisters. I could keep listing books (I swear I have recommendations from the 21st century), but I'll spare you. ”

Kenny Doss, Art Director 

Authentic by Paul Van Doren

“Being a fan of the shoes, I really enjoyed reading Authentic. It’s a memoir that tells the history of Vans shoes and Van Doren’s life. It was an intriguing read with a lot of great life, career, and business takeaways. If you love Vans, it’s a must-read.”

Anddy Ferreira, Front End Engineer

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

“The overall message in The Alchemist is life. I enjoyed the idea of going through struggles and triumphs only to end up right where we started, but with more maturity.”

Giovany Vasquez, Marketing Associate

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 

“It’s really hard to pick one book that’s my favorite. I mean, I grew up with Harry Potter, absolutely love The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, and have become a bit obsessed with Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston but today, I would have to say my favorite is The Song of Achilles. It tells the love story between famed Greek warrior Achilles and his close confidant, Patroclus, against the backdrop of the Trojan War. I personally love Greek mythology and to be able to read a nuanced, queer love story that takes place during that time and is suspenseful yet romantic and so beautifully written kinda changed my life. *gay tears*”

Deanna Wong, Front End Engineer

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman 

The Golden Compass is my favorite book because it changed my outlook on who the protagonist of a hero's quest could be. I started this series (His Dark Materials) at a time when every adolescent was obsessed with Harry Potter. Fantasy and adventure books were helmed by heroes who were wand/sword-wielding boys. And this remarkable book was about a young, unruly, and rebellious girl on an adventure with her talking animal familiar! This book and series is one that I perpetually recommend to people who love stories about feminist characters, anti-clerical themes, and/or parallel universes.”

Michael Oshima, Copywriter

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker 

“I think The Mezzanine is one of the most accurate in-writing of how the human mind wanders and how thoughts actually arise, break off into tangents, and return again (or not). That is why I love it. The entire novella only covers a 20-minute lunch break — but contains so much more in a way I’ve never seen replicated. It’s definitely a weird and polarizing book, but I encourage everyone to at least try it. Warning: copious (but narratively interesting and germane) footnotes.”

Kayla Park, Junior Associate of User Experience 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson 

“Throughout college, I definitely did not prioritize reading books outside of my textbooks. However, my aunt and uncle, Sam and Todd, gifted me The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck for my birthday one year. The title obviously caught my eye, so I gave it a chance. Not only is the book hilarious, but it also changed my perspective on life. Unlike typical self-help books that preach positivity and meditation, Manson's book offers a more realistic take on how to navigate our way to a happier lifestyle.”

Kjersti Jorgenson, Designer

The Road by Cormac McCarthy 

“My favorite book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Really anything by him. His prose borders poetic, but remains grounded - it’s deeply visual and experiential. I feel like he’s one of the masters of “showing, not telling,” and his novels are naturally cinematic. The Road tells the story of a father and son navigating a post-apocalyptic landscape, and McCarthy keeps the story tightly linked to his characters’ perspectives. As a result, you explore the world with them, and it captures the terror of living moment-to-moment in a universe where the stakes are as high as they can get, and the rules reveal themselves as you go.” 

If you’re a reader, chances are you have a ton of favorite books. The one you read when you’re sad or the one you pick up when you want to laugh. Then there’s the one you probably know word for word or the one you pretend you love because society tells you that you should (looking at you, The Catcher in the Rye!)  Regardless of which it is, bask in that feeling and always seek it out.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” ― Alan Bennett, The History Boys