'Tis the season to give books—and read a few yourself!
Here are fourteen books that I recommend purchasing for your designer friends and/or yourself to enjoy in this upcoming year. You can also check out last year's holiday bookshelf.
In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, by Matthew May
I'm a bit obsessed with the notion of elegance in design, so I was thrilled to read this book. Written with passionate intelligence, this set of interlocking stories about the scientific and artistic foundations of elegance—addressing a diversity of subjects, including Toyota, Jackson Pollock, Favi, and Mandelbrot—provides a set of well-reasoned rules regarding elegance that you can apply in work and life. This is one of my favorite books that I read this year.
Emigre No. 70 the Look Back Issue: Selections from Emigre Magazine 1-69. Celebrating 25 Years of Graphic Design, edited by Rudy VanderLans
Emigre, I have always loved thee. I was one of your subscribers all through high school and college, and lugged my collection of back issues and catalogues from design firm to design firm all through the late nineties and early naughts. A few years back when I quit an agency and packed up all of my issues to take home on my last day, the cleaning service thought the boxes were trash and threw them out. I was in so much shock that I couldn't speak. Ever since, I've mourned that loss and been unable to reclaim those back issues (without expending a vast quantity of my personal capital. So I was thrilled to see Rudy VanderLans and his crew put forward this beautiful tome, which was well worth the investment. Now I can go back and re-read many of the essays that helped form my understanding of the graphic design world—both critically and professionally.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton
This book was my first introduction to the oeuvre of Alain de Botton, a professor of philosophy and author of many fiction and nonfiction books, including The Architecture of Happiness and How Proust Can Change Your Life. In this delightful ethnographic odyssey, the author (with a photographer in tow) follows a host of people from around Britain to understand fully the meaning of work in their lives and the world at large. From biscuit-making to tuna-clubbing to landscape painting, even the most mundane details of people's lives are exploded under Alain de Botton's microscope, with wit and emotional intelligence. It's also rare to read a book where you read lavish descriptive prose, then turn a page to see artful photographs of the subject matter at hand. It definitely grounds our understanding of the people's he has observed so mindfully.
The Red Book, by Carl Jung
"…for the better part of the past century, despite the fact that it is thought to be the pivotal work of one of the era’s great thinkers, the book has existed mostly just as a rumor, cosseted behind the skeins of its own legend — revered and puzzled over only from a great distance." My wife and I read this article in the New York Times Magazine about Carl Jung's long-hidden illuminated manuscript, and became fascinated in what it might hold. We just ordered our copy and are excited to delve into its mysteries.
Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life and Maybe Even the World, by Warren Berger
I recently wrote a glowing review of this book, not only because it's a killer introduction to what's happening in the discipline of design (with a capital "D"), but also because it's the best gift for those people who don't quite understand the importance of what we do on a daily basis. I've been passing it around the office for my colleagues to read, and so far it's been all thumbs up.
Everywhere Being Is Dancing: Twenty Pieces of Thinking, by Robert Bringhurst
Robert Bringhurst is best known in our industry as the author of the indispensable The Elements of Typographic Style, but in the first industry I explored deeply in college (poetry), Bringhurst is better known as a poet, translator, and essayist of the highest order. In this stunning collection of erudite essays on poetry, philosophy, and typography, he packs enough thinking into a few hundred pages to cause endless days of rumination. When I'm done with this text, I'll be diving into the companion volume to this book, The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology.
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, by Matthew Frederick
It's rare that you find a writer that manages to pack the accumulated learnings of a career as an architect and teacher into one slender volume. I love the simplicity of the illustrations and the balance of philosophical and personal content that makes this book both a quick read and a book to return to and ponder. This book also inspired me and my co-worker Matt to start a list of 101 things we've learned as user experience designers... so far, we're only on #7. (Give us a few months, we'll make some headway.)
Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, by Bill Buxton
This book falls under the category of Must Own for Any Interactive Designer. Just saying.
Design Is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable, by Nathan Shedroff
I'm currently reviewing this book for The Designer's Review of Books, and I can tell you that (so far) it's the best book I've seen on the issue of sustainability for designers.
Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, by Indi Young
I'm also in the middle of reviewing this book. Rosenfeld Media has has been putting out great books, and this one is no exception. If you've wondered how to move beyond personas and build stronger models of your client's user segments, read this.
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
"To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of the mind. It means your mind pervades your whole body…" Shunryu Suzuki was a celebrated Zen monk and founder of the San Francisco Zen Center. I keep pulling this classic down from the shelf and re-reading key passages.
Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results, by Morten T. Hansen
This book has been on my to-read list for much too long. The author spent many, many years researching the effects of different types of collaboration within large-scale organizations, and what he learned has implications for both the boardroom and how we work in teams—both designer to designer and designer to client.
Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson
Lordy, it's about time someone put out a book this good about managing the most critical part of any web design project: the actual creation of the content to go on the site! Kristina's writing is concise, considered, and effective. Snag yourself a copy of this.
Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh MacLeod
The cartoonist and writer behind Gaping Void shares his point of view on how he became successful, one business-card doodle at a time. I started leafing through this book in the store and ended up reading the whole damn thing on the spot.
Have any favorites that you'd like to share? Add them in the comments!