Booklist 2011

Alright, as I said before, I would post the booklist from 2011. Confession, I didn't proofread these little notes, so uhm, tell me if there's anything horrible?

And links to previous booklists:

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin 3/5

I love Martin's previous book, The Opposable Mind, and since the publishing of that book, he has developed quite a reputation. I was happy as I begun the book - Martin's description of the "knowledge funnel," and how to turn something from mystery to heuristic to algorithm, was something I resonated with and was interesting to think of from many perspectives - the individual, the organization, the interaction of companies - sadly, I was a bit frustrated with the fact that the book seemed to peter out from there... It was still interesting, but it seemed to be beleaguering the point over and over again, and just seemed to fall a little flat, though there was some interesting things.

Thoughts on Interaction Design by Jon Kolko 2/5

I'd never actually got through this book, and Jon Kolko is somewhat of a minor god in the design world, so I was expecting a lot. Unfortunately, it feels a little dull, and a little confused on who the audience is, precisely. That in itself is frustrating, because you find yourself constantly having to switch "hats" and perspectives, but not in a way that makes you explore an issue deeper, but rather, just struggling to understand what the point is. I think this is partly a result of the goal of the book - to define and articulate what interaction design is, which is noble in theory, but in practice, just isn't interesting to me. I don't want to know what interaction design is, I want to figure out how to become better at it.

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future edited by John Brockman 5/5

As someone who is constantly thinking about questions like these, I was absolutely addicted to this book. There is truly a range of opinions and perspectives in this book, some of them wildly unconventional. What's most fascinating is the fact that rather than being purely a book of informed opinion, it's a bit ethnographic in nature: the question seems to invoke a kind of description of the users' internet activity, and more importantly, their attitudes towards it. For anyone who works in this space, I'd consider it required reading, just to get a perspective on how different people think about, and interact with, this incredibly multi-faceted thing we call the Internet.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson 5/5

Johnson uses this book as an exploration of the patterns that contribute to great ideas. If you are the kind of person who likes to have great ideas (and who isn't?), this is a good book to read. It gives some good tips about how to construct your life for better ideas, but I also enjoy it from the perspective of thinking about how various institutions help to contribute to great ideas, as well. For those who spend a lot of time thinking about how people think, many of these tips might seem old hat, but the way that Johnson articulates his observations is useful - and unlike a lot of research, he's implicitly prioritized the most important things, and he's got lots of rich examples. Definitely gave me a lot to think about.

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly 4/5

It was suggested to me I read this book along with or directly after Steven Johnson's book, as they represented a kind of trajectory of thought. I think I would reiterate this advice to anybody who asked, as some of the dynamics of how Kevin Kelly's views of technology seem to coincide with Johnson's ideas about ideas quite well. The book is definitely a mind flex, forcing you to view the world in a different way, and for this reason alone it's probably worth a read. His points represent a compelling argument that are hard to argue with, but that are almost a little bit depressing, suggesting a sort of destined path for humans that isn't effected by individual efforts. If you can hold the crushing reality of the futility of your efforts at bay, the read is a good one (or maybe I'm the only one who feels like the book depicts this). The chapter that delighted me most, surprisingly, was a chapter detailing the Amish view towards technology. It's a brilliant analysis of how and why they pick what they do - and something I'd probably take a few nuggets of wisdom from. I also give this book high regards for the fact that little that was written about was "stuff I knew" - the storylines and ideas depicted were fairly unique.

Disrupt by Luke Williams 4/5

I skimmed through this book and have to say it's the only book that I've seen that actually captures a design process well for the layman reader. Too many design books are aimed at other designers, or at describing the design process for nondesigners (but not in enough detail that these people could actually perform a design process). That really helps with the mystique designers seem to have created for themselves, but isn't helpful in leu of the lack of design talent in certain industries. With that in mind, I'd recommend this as a companion to nondesigners who are forced to do their own design, though nothing is better than having an experienced, thoughtful designer.

Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer by Duncan J. Watts 4/5

I think this book is particularly powerful in the beginning sections - it really not only educates you on various causes and patterns in complexity, but actually really changes your world view in terms of our ability to see the future. Some of the later sections seem to push things a bit, but the book on the whole is a good read.

Just My Type by Simon Garfield 3/5

An entertaining, light read. This book goes into some of the histories of various type faces and various type trends, turning type designers into characters and teaching you some of the basics of type design. It’s entertaining, it’s probably not as interesting to anyone who seriously knows type or wants to learn about type, and my biggest problem was the unfocused writing style: parts of it read like a high schooler’s essay, with random facts peppered in seemingly just to take up space, not necessarily to build an argument.

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser 3/5

I got about halfway through the book before I got a little bored with it - the entire book was just a little bit repetitive for my taste, it seemed like it made the same argument just reflected in a variety of different “use-cases,” which is fine if you’re super into it, but I was just sort of like, “Alright. Filter bubble. Got it. Next?”

The Mind: Leading Scientists Explore the Brain, Memory, Personality, and Happiness edited by John Brockman 5/5

I think I'm a sucker for this kind of book. And the editing here is particularly good - it's composed of a bunch of chapters, some written essays but a large majority are actually interviews. They are conducted in such a way that you don't need prior knowledge of the subject matter, but give a real flavor for how various experts are thinking about the brain. It's not just an array of the different sciences and perspectives of the brain, but also how various researchers came to their perspective, not just from a scientific viewpoint, but also personally. It also does a good job laying out the debates that are happening among those studying the brain, with each of a variety of perspectives represented. Highly recommended.

Little Bets by Peter Sims 4/5

I’ll be honest, I thought I wouldn’t like this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a pretty quick, easy read, but it dove into a bunch of fascinating topics, research and anecdotes that I’ve personally been interested in. I liked the approach of the book and the breadth of topics it covered, and I also appreciated the way it subtly captured a lot of things that people miss. Rather than making the whole book espousing how important it is to make “little bets,” there was actually a thoughtful discussion around constructing those bets, how to inform them, the different shapes they could take, etc. etc. It was a light read that made me think.

Follow For Now edited by Roy Christopher 2/5

This book is mostly a collection of interviews with various people the author finds inspiring. I thought it was mostly a mixed bag. Particularly compared with other similar books, these interviews weren't as adept at allowing one to understand the interviewees' work without prior knowledge, nor were they as pointed towards finding out why the interviewees were so fascinated by what they worked on. While I skipped over large portions of the book, there was a diverse range of topics and some of the interviews were truly fascinating.

Do More Faster by Brad Feld and David Cohen 2/5

A collection of essays from Tech Stars mentors and founders. I mostly read this when I was completely exhausted and dead and needed something to wind down with. Many of the essays were a bit trite, but a few had some new ideas, good advice, and most of them prompted a fair amount of self reflection.

Sketching User Experience by Bill Buxton 3/5

First, skip the first hundred pages. The argument about design and its importance in companies and management is overdone and trite and needs to stop dominating every conversation we have about design. The rest of the book is a good exploration of sketching interactive experiences and makes you consider why and how you do this. At times things can feel overly academic, but I'll let it slide. You probably won't enjoy this book if you aren't a design geek in the first place. The problem becomes noticeable only in that you wonder about the real world applicability of some of the ideas, given that they were developed in a primarily academic environment - and most of the examples are similarly academic projects.