Books I Read – Summer 2019

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I laid out a pretty simple reading plan in January: Prioritize the books I own by genre and read them in order. It’s a system that’s working quite well… here’s what I read in Summer 2019.

Books I read in July, August, and September 2019:

  1. Curious by Ian Leslie
  2. Kid Me Not edited by Aralyn Hughes
  3. The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
  4. Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro
  5. Designing Connected Content by Mike Atherton & Carrie Hane
  6. How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert
  7. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Curious by Ian Leslie

It took me longer than I wanted to read this book. I was distracted through most of it, even though I can say I genuinely enjoyed it. But because it took me so long, I ended up rushing through the last third just to wrap it up.

Human memory is inefficient and unreliable in comparison to machine memory, but it’s this very unpredictability that’s the source of our creativity.

Curious by Ian Leslie; page 148

Kid Me Not edited by Aralyn Hughes

My mom & I picked up this book years ago during the Austin Weird Homes tour, where Aralyn opened up her apartment and used it as opportunity to sell her book in her kitchen. My mom took it, read it, passed it to all of her girlfriends, and then it eventually made its way back to me.

And for a collection of essays written mostly by women that aren’t writers, critically it isn’t good. But that’s not the point. The point is to give us a look inside the minds of “child-free women of the ’60s now in their 60s” in an honest, straight-forward way. It’s a quick, moving, delightful read.

Our finite lives force these choices on us, and for every step we choose, there is a step we didn’t choose. Wherever our choices take us, we’re left wondering about the road not taken.

Kid Me Not – Aralyn Hughes; page 11

The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett

A classic book that I finally took the time to read! And by “read” I mean “thumb through” because turns out, I’ve basically read the whole book in excerpts on the internet over the past decade. I’m so glad I took the time to go through this foundational text. I literally owe my livelihood to its contents.

[The] concept of user-centric design is very simple: Every step of the way, take the user into account as you develop your products.

The Elements of User Experience Design page 19

Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro

Mike Monteiro was introduced to me years ago as a direct, no-nonsense designer calling out industry bullshit in his writing and conference talks. I immediately became a fan and have used his approach for much of my career. It keeps me honest, and makes me enjoy the work I do so much better.

So after a bit of a break after the 2016 election, I was delighted that Mike came out with a book, which he eventually decided to self-publish because no publishing company would put their name behind it. Ruined by Design is “Mike 2.0.” Still pissed off, but matured and focused and determined, in a way I don’t think he had quite been before.

Our world is so much better for this book. Even if you’re not a “designer” you should read it. A+

We need to fear the consequences of our work more than we love the cleverness of our ideas.

Ruined by Design – page 20

Designing Connected Content by Mike Atherton & Carrie Hane

I bought this book the second it came out, and then let it sit of my shelf for almost a year. Meanwhile, my boss read this book the second it came out, and has been telling people to read it for almost a year. So, finally, this yellow book made its way to the top of my UX & Design stack, and I devoured it.

If you want to know what I do for a living. If you want to know what makes or breaks a digital experience. If you want to understand the strategy needed to succeed in a modern, connected world. THIS IS THE BOOK TO READ.

The solution to all this is to start thinking about content in a broader context, outside an interface. We need to design content that is stored, structured, and connected outside any user interface, in a way that’s readable and understandable by both people and computers.

Designing Connected Content – page 19

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

I read this book years ago and picked it back up for a re-read. When I last read it, I was a novice, just starting my career. Now I’m experienced, almost a decade into my career. On second read, it spoke to me in a whole new way. It opened my eyes and gave me insight I didn’t have the knowledge to see on first read.

At the end of each chapter is an exercise, which I am currently leading my team through at work. It’s helping us practically sort through our “mess” and gives us a fun weekly activity to bond over.

Again, like the previous two books I just wrote about, even if you’re not in “digital design” I believe you’d benefit from this book. Its brilliance is in its simplicity.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

While in Miami this summer, I popped into an indie bookstore. August just so happened to be “translated women month” and this cute little fiction book jumped off the counter and into my hands. I broke my own rules and read it immediately, and fell in love with its eccentric, odd narrative.

It’s a national bestseller in Japan, about a convenience store clerk. And it’s just lovely. It covers work, and love, and mental illness, and family, and obligation. If you’re looking for a quick fiction read, this should be on your list.

She’s far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For her, normality — however messy — is far more comprehensible.

Convenience Store Woman – page 133

See what books I read in Winter 2019 and Spring 2019. See you again next season!