Top books from 2013

When Media Contour asked me to contribute to a year-end wrap up of favorite books, I was happy to participate. I’ve re-posted my selection below. You can check out the full post here which also includes lists from fellow Cooperista Chris Noessel and LA friends Kai Gradert and Jod Kaftan.

Q: What are you currently reading?

I read a lot and hardly ever finish one book before I start another. Here are several favorites from the top of the stack.

Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us Into Temptation by Chris Nodder
The practice of User Experience design requires an understanding people and their motivations. In this well-written book, abundantly illustrated with examples, Chris examines how the seven deadly sins (Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Anger, Envy, Lust and Greed) form a framework for understanding human behavior and provides 57 design patterns to make the insight actionable. I’m savoring this book a chapter at a time, because I’m taking so many notes about ideas I want to test in my current projects. I do most of my reading on my iPad or Kindle, but I made an exception for this book because It’s beautifully produced and a pleasure to read on paper.

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty by David Kadavy
David is the author of famous and funny blog posts including “Why you hate comic sans.” I work with a lot of people who don’t have a design background. When they ask me “what’s an accessible book about design?” I love recommending David’s book because he’s such a clear thinker and good writer. He also has done a great job building a community of learning around this book. You can connect with David and other readers of the book on his Facebook page.

Earlier this year, I also enjoyed jQuery for Designers: A Beginner’s Guide by Natalie MacLees. Natalie is a pillar of our local WordPress community. It’s great to see some of her wisdom captured in print. If you enjoy working through cookbook-style tutorials, and have a basic understanding of css and html, following the chapters of this book will give you a great basic understanding of the mechanics of jQuery for use in your next Web design project. I am grateful to Natalie for making this subjct approchable enough I could tackle it in a couple weekend.

Q: What’s up next on your reading list? Why?

I have a huge stack of technical books I plan to skim or reference in the next year. Here are a couple that I’m reading for fun.

The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
I started getting more interested in WordPress this past year. I’ve been self-hosting my WordPress blog “The Apprentice Path” since 2010. After attending WordCamp LA In September I started to realize the greater potential of the platform and was impressed with the culture and community that surrounds WordPress. I picked up Scott’s book to learn more about how things work behind the scenes at Automattic. I also had the pleasure of seeing Scott speak at the Warm Gun conference in San Francisco a couple weeks ago. You can see a summary of his talk on his blog

I’m really excited to see that Mary and Tom Poppendieck have a new book “The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions” Everyone who is interested in “Lean Startup” or “Lean UX” or “Lean” anything will do themselves a HUGE favor by going back to the source and reading Mary and Tom’s writings about Agile and Lean Software Development.

Q: What is your favorite book and why? What are the key takeaways?

Am I allowed to say “my sketchbook?” What, you mean a PUBLISHED book? OK then.

I had to think carefully about which books I’ve read more than once. And then I noticed “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School” by Matthew Frederick on the shelf near my desk. This small, lovely and useful book is a collection if thoughts and practices drawn from architecture and relevant to many other disciplines. Sometimes when I am stuck for an idea (or procrastinating!) I flip it open at random and find just the answer I need.

Best wishes for the new year, and Keep Reading!