Now that the year is almost over, there is no better time to recap the year in books. One of my 2019 goals was to read more. I think it was particularly great year for books, so I thought I’d round up my favorites.
Here are the books that got into my reading list:
- Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process during the Golden Age of Steve Jobs
- Conscious Capitalism
- Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future
- The Smart Swarm
- 21 Lessons for the 21st century
- The 15 commitments of conscious leader: a new paradigm for sustainable success
- Permanent Record
- Losing my Virginity
- Emotional Design
- Psychology for Designers
- Content Design
- 10% Happier
- The Bingo Theory
- Traveler’s’ Tales Thailand
- 1-minute mentoring
- Letting go
1. Linchpin by Seth Godin
“Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.”
Why it’s a great book? It’s one of those books you wished you’ve read earlier in life. Linchpin is all about becoming indispensable at work. I really connect with the 3 key lessons about what makes you a linchpin and how to become one: Linchpins pour their heart, soul and energy into their work. They care. You have to make a conscious choice to overcome your fears to become a linchpin. Give genuine gifts, without expecting anything in return.
2. Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process during the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda
“This was part of Steve’s mission for Apple, the most significant strand of Apple’s product development DNA: to meld technology and the liberal arts, to take the latest software and hardware advances, mix them with elements of design and culture, and produce features and products that people found useful and meaningful in their everyday lives.”
Why it’s a great book? This book gave me a closer look at Apple’s creative process and has been one of the best design-field books I have ever read. The author introduces the essential elements of innovation―inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy―and uses these as a lens through which to understand productive work culture.
It recounts the life of one of the few who worked behind the scenes, a highly-respected software engineer who worked in the final years of the Steve Jobs era―the Golden Age of Apple.
3. Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey
“Resources are limited; creativity is unlimited.”
Why it’s a great book? Conscious Capitalism is for anyone hoping to build a more cooperative, humane, and positive future. This book gives me hope and explains how four specific tenets—higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management—can help build strong businesses, move capitalism closer to its highest potential, and foster a more positive environment for all of us. What makes this book different from others is that authors demonstrate the practicality of how being intentionally conscious about one’s behavior, any business from the smallest to the largest can make money and be a positive contributor to all stakeholders.
Author Richard Leider (the CEO of Whole Foods), asks every audience he addresses the following question: What are the two most important days in your life? Most people, he reports, identify the day they were born and an event such as their wedding day. The answer Leider wants them to get to is, obviously the day you are born, but less obviously the day you realize why you were born.
4. Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future by Mari Robinson
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Yet, when it comes to the effects of climate change, there has been nothing but chronic injustice and the corrosion of human rights.”
Why it’s a great book? Climate Justice is a stirring manifesto on one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time, and a lucid, affirmative, and well-argued case for hope. Mary Robinson is a former president of Ireland, UN Commissioner on Human Rights, and advocate for climate. Her mission has led her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself.
Each chapter in Climate Justice shares a personal story, most of them women. Each story highlights a particular aspect of climate change, such as the effects on the Arctic, small island states, or the intersection with American race politics.
5. The Smart Swarm by Peter Miller
“Human intuition is many times misleading. We aren’t very good at making complex decisions. We have the brain of a caveman. Therefore many problems require us to harness the cognitive diversity and learn from nature ”
Why it’s a great book? The modern world may be obsessed with speed and productivity, but twenty-first-century humans actually have much to learn from the ancient instincts of swarmers.
When ants are scouting for food, for example, their steps to and from the food source each leave a pheromone trail that the other ants can follow by smell. As each ant makes the run, the scent will become strongest along the easiest—shortest and predator-free—path, and the majority will travel that way based on the accumulation of data. This book is filled with examples of how insects think, behave and what can we learn from them.
6. 21 Lessons for the 21st century by Yuval Noah Harari
“Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”
Why it’s a great book? This is an utterly fantastic book, the third book I have read by Yuval Harari. They have all been exquisitely excellent! The author has a good sense of the forces that are shaping the world and truly understands the current historical moments.
Why is liberal democracy in crisis? Is God back? Is a new world war coming? What does the rise of Donald Trump signify? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Which civilisation dominates the world – the West, China, Islam? Should Europe keep its doors open to immigrants? Can nationalism solve the problems of inequality and climate change? What should we do about terrorism? What should we teach our kids?
This book offers some clarity. Some truth about all uncertainties and big questions. Some objective insight, thereby helping to level the global playing field. If this book empowers even a handful of people to join the debate about the future of our species, it has done its job.
7. The 15 commitments of conscious leader: a new paradigm for sustainable success by Jim Dethmer
“There are 4 principles that underpin conscious leadership: having a higher purpose, stakeholder integration, building conscious culture and conscious management”
Why it’s a great book? A really wonderful book that defines leadership from an entirely different angle – an angle I would like to use a leader. When we first meet leaders, almost all have a strong control plan, where their ego is invested in the appearance of control.”
The practices outlined in this book seek to move a successful task manager into a holistically successful leader – one who adds value professionally, personally, and culturally. This book is jam-packed with science, philosophy, and spiritual research to back already compelling arguments and case studies. This is the closest I’ve gotten to a “one stop shop” leadership playbook.
8. Permanent Record By Edward Snowden
“When we’ve got these people who have practically limitless powers within a society, if they get a pass without so much as a slap on the wrist, what example does that set for the next group of officials that come into power? To push the lines a little bit further, a little bit further, a little bit further, and we’ll realize that we’re no longer citizens – we’re subjects.”
Why it’s a great book? Firstly, I’m an admirer of Snowden and think what he did was a great service to the whole world. His book and story is an eye opener of the reality we live in. We live in an age in which it seems unthinkable to exist without technology. It’s rare that we’ll meet someone without a phone, a laptop or other devices connected to the internet. We’ve reached a stage in our civilization where we can’t be quite sure anymore who owns whom.
9. Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson
“Capitalism – which in its purest form is entrepreneurism even among the poorest of the poor – does work; but those who make money from it should put back into society, not just sit on it as if they are hatching eggs.”
Why it’s a great book? I have always admired Richard for the way he runs business, his values and professional skills. Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. Richard Branson gives us a new model: a dynamic, hardworking, successful entrepreneur who lives life to the fullest. What was most inspiring for me was that the success of Virgin is guided by the single minded philosophy of building a better product for the customers, and Branson is a classic example of “success because he’s too naive to know it’s impossible”.
Family, friends, fun, and adventure are equally important as business in Branson’s life. Not only did it give great insight into the personal details, meticulously recounted, of each adventure, but was also an impressive insight into the inner workings of the way he sees things and how he sets about planning and taking action on them.
10. Emotional Design by Aaaron Walter
“Why do we settle for usable when we can make interfaces both usable and pleasurable?”
Why it’s a great book? Great design has to cover the basics – functionality, reliability, usability and design for humans, not machines. Going beyond basics and delighting users through emotional design goes much further. People aren’t only made of logic and action, they are also full of feelings, intuition, emotions, and memories.
That’s what designers have to keep in mind aiming at user-friendly products. It reminded me that sometimes designing engaging content gets lost in the midst of cumbersome requirements documents, challenging client relationships, or aggressive deadlines. The book made we want to bring more surprise, delight, or whimsy into my design work, purposefully trying to make a connection with another person.
11. Psychology for Designers by Joe Leech
“Cognitive psychology can help define how individuals will behave with a given set of conditions: what small choices they will make, what they love, desire, become addicted to, see, smell, hear, touch, perceive and remember”
Why it’s a great book? The book is a good opener for anyone trying to learn about HCI and psychology in design, but doesn’t delve too deep in the subject. I believe that every designer should know a little bit about the human brain and how it works. If we can match our users mental models of how to do things with the way we design our products, we’ll increase the usability and reduce cognitive load. We will simply build products that match how users think and behave.
12. Content Design by Sara Richards
“Content design isn’t just a technique, it’s a way of thinking”
Why it’s a great book? I’ve worked at the intersection of content and design for most of my career and what I have found is that the content often comes as an afterthought. When it comes to the substance of what our products communicate, we should apply the same design-thinking methodology.
Content is design. Every word matters. I like how Sara understands and explain the meaning of content design in this book. It is the art and science of creating content so can people use your service and buy your products. This book is short, lively and practical. Using real-world examples and imagined examples, it takes the reader through the content design process one step at a time, explaining everything along the way.
13. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a long and happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
“Be led by your curiosity, and keep busy by doing things that fill you with meaning and happiness.”
Why it’s a great book? In Japanese, Ikigai is written by combining the symbols that mean “life” and “to be worthwhile”. Ikigai is different for all of us: but one thing we all have in common is that we are all searching for meaning. When we spend our days feeling connected to what is meaningful to us, we live more fully. The authors of Ikigai have conducted interviews with one hundred people from Ogimi, Okinawa in Japan to try to understand the longevity secrets of centenarians and super-centenarians in the world.
Here are 10 principles developed in the book: Stay active; don’t retire.Take it slow. Don’t fill your stomach. Surround yourself with good friends. Get in shape for your next birthday. Smile. Reconnect with nature. Give thanks. Live in the moment. Follow your ikigai.
14. 10% Happier by Dan Harris
“What mindfulness does is create some space in your head so you can, as the Buddhists say, “respond” rather than simply “react.” In the Buddhist view, you can’t control what comes up in your head; it all arises out of a mysterious void. We spend a lot of time judging ourselves harshly for feelings that we had no role in summoning. The only thing you can control is how you handle it.”
Why it’s a great book? Not my favorite book of 2019, but it was interesting to read more about meditation in practise. Dan Harris takes a personal look at the benefits of meditation and how it helped him. The key point is that meditation and mindfulness will make you at least 10% happier. Being mindful doesn’t change the problems in your life, but mindfulness does help you respond to your problems rather than react to them. Mindfulness helps you realize that striving for success is fine as long as you accept that the outcome is outside your control.
One lesson I will keep in mind from this book is that according to the ancient Buddhist wisdom, we usually exhibit three habitual responses to all our experiences: we want it, we reject it or we zone out (ignore it). But once you start meditating, you’ll be able to choose a fourth alternative: observing, without judging. An essential reaction for my professional life too.
15. The Bingo Theory by Mimi Ikon
“What other people think of me has nothing to do with me. It has to do with their reality”
Why it’s a great book? The traditional view of masculine and feminine energy is very black and white. If you are a woman, you are considered to be feminine, and similarly, if you are a man, you are considered to be masculine. This outdated and inadequate mindset has lead to a tremendous imbalance both internally in our lives, as well as externally in our world. This book breaks through this traditional gender-polarized idea of a man and a woman, giving fresh view and understanding of masculine and feminine energies and the important role both of these energies play in our lives.
16. Travelers’ Tales Thailand: True Stories by James O’Reilly
“The mind is like a monkey, say the Buddhists. It hops from place to place, restless and wild. We have no control over it.”
Why it’s a great book? Once in a while it is nice to transport yourself to unknown lands and cultures. To learn about different mental models and societies. I love these kind of travel books because these are not tourist guides, but real short stories from travellers in Thailand and it explores lifestyle, Buddhism, food and people. It is a wonderful introduction to Thai culture, a must read for any traveler to the region.
17. 1 minute mentoring by Ken Blanchard, Claire Diaz-Ortiz
“Successful people do not reach their goal alone. Behind even the most independent achiever is a person or group of people who helped that person succeed.”
Why it’s a great book? A very hands-on book I got from Design Leadership Buddy programme in Stockholm. While mentoring is not new topics for me, this book gave a very interesting perspective on mentoring and how to build a strong and solid mentor relation. It followed THE MENTOR model:
M=Mission: Create a mission-a purpose for your mentoring partnership
E=Engagement: Agree on ways to engage that work with your personalities and schedules
N=Networking: Expand your network with that of your mentor or mentee
T=Trust: Build and maintain trust with your mentoring partner by telling the truth, staying connected, and being dependable
O=Opportunity: Create opportunities for your mentee or mentor to grow
R=Review and Renewal: Schedule a regular time to review progress and renew your mentoring partnership
Written as a holistic empowering approach to mentoring, the authors, Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz, provide the reader with a simple program of thought provoking and identifiable issues.
18. Letting go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way ”
Why it’s a great book? This book describes effective ways by which to let go of negativity and tendencies to hold grudges against people, places, experiences. I think it is very useful in today’s world that is full of competitiveness and negativity. Many people tend to get an emotional kick from a feeling of moral superiority, self-righteousness. The ego is not our friend. But instead of suppressing it, we should accept it.
Of course, it’s not the reading of it that will accomplish this, but the practice.
19. Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
“The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime.”
Why it’s a great book? One of the few novels I read this year, but it is an outstanding story. In this smart retelling of the authentic Dracula story – an author took me on several adventures from England to Turkey to Hungary and Bulgaria. The book is full of folklore from these countries regarding Dracula and how his servants might still walk among us.
What is your favorite book this year?