It’s funny how, even as an adult, the rhythms of life we learned as a child still stick with us. Summer comes, and we want to slack off. December comes, and we anticipate the holidays. And when Labor Day rolls around, we think about going back to school, even if it’s been decades since we saw the inside of a classroom.

Whether it’s because of the impulse to start classes again, or wanting to get something done in the tiny window of productivity between Labor Day and the Halloween start to the winter holidays, people often use this time of year to pick up a book to help them work smarter.

So here are three suggestions for classics in the genre:

  • We’ve talked before about Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, who helped write the book, so to speak, on behavioral science. This book is all about how people make decisions—and why they are terrible at it. It won’t necessarily help you make better decisions, because a lot of that stuff is pretty hard-wired, but at least you’ll know why. “From a startup perspective this book is immensely useful,” writes one software engineer book reviewer. “Whether it comes to pricing your products/services or marketing them, this book gives you insights you never had and results you never expected to get.”
  • People use the term “long tail” so much by now they sometimes forget there was a book by that name. But before The Long Tail by Chris Anderson came out, emphasis was often on getting the “big hit” rather than having a body of product that customers would return to over time. And the concept is what brought us successful businesses ranging from Amazon to Netflix.
  • Similarly, what really got people talking about innovation a number of years back was Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma. While there’s been some pushback on the concept recently—especially on the notion that bigger companies have problems recognizing innovative ideas—it’s a good idea to be aware of the syndrome to make sure you avoid it in your company.

Finally, in case you’ve already read the books we’ve suggested (they are classics, after all), here are some sources for other new-to-you, interesting books:

  • Goodreads is like Facebook meets a book club; you friend people and then see what books they’re reading and recommending, and share your opinions. Like most social networking sites, what you get out of it is predicated on what you’re willing to put into it, but if you have a bunch of bookish friends, it can be a great source.
  • Bookvibe is similar, but it’s connected with Twitter. The site goes through your Twitter feed and finds the books that people you follow are talking about and emails you a list periodically. It’s especially handy if you don’t have the chance to get caught up on Twitter very often.
  • Product Hunt is a website devoted to telling people about new geeky products. Earlier this summer, the organization set up a book section. “In an era in which technology advancements force us to answer some difficult questions (e.g around AI, VR, synthetic biology, etc.) and we have to determine how to make meaning from all the bits, books become only increasingly more important,” writes Erik Torenberg on the section’s introduction. And while Product Hunt is supposed to focus on the new, there’s plenty of recommendations for older books on the list as well.

Get reading. After all, if you get that dream where you’re suddenly find yourself in a final exam, you’ll want to be ready.

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