Good books deserve to be shared. So if you're looking for some good ones, or if you've got a long flight coming up, here are a few I think are worth reading.

[ product design ]

The Design of Everyday Things
by Donald A. Norman

This book has become a staple for anyone in consumer products or software. It goes through simple examples of good and bad design in things we use everyday and translates this into principles for good design. It's pretty amazing that the same things that make some door handles better than others can also make certain webpages and high tech products easier to use than others.

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
by Alan Cooper

The title is a reference to the fact that things like software tend to be designed for for people who write software, and not for all the non-programmers who actually need to use it. The book helps explain why so much technology is designed so poorly despite being created by intelligent, talented people, and argues for technology that works the way normal people think.

[ communication ]

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most
by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Roger Fisher

Reading this helps increase happiness and reduce stress. It walks through some simple frameworks you can use in a bunch of common daily interactions. This book isn't about conversational tricks; it's about how to better understand what causes conversations to breakdown into arguments. It helps you recognize how your own assumptions create a gap between what is said and what is heard, and what we can do to fix that.

Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box
by The Arbinger Institute

Basically, this book is also about understanding why we might have biased views of ourselves and others. Most people have certain arguments that continuously resurface with those they care about, and this book addresses how to combat that cycle of blame and resentment. It summarizes and combines a lot of well-known concepts in social psychology (like the Fundamental Attribution Error) and puts them into real, useful contexts.

[ america ]

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things
by Barry Glassner

This book is amazing. It shows some of the ways fear is used to manipulate what we think, what we buy, even what we eat. Along the way, it debunks some classic fear-mongering, like the Halloween candy scare that happened when I was a kid. What's great about this book is that it empowers you to go through life not only less afraid, but more aware of situations where fear is being used as a tool of influence.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser

This book has been around awhile at this point, but it's still worth reading. If you saw Super Size Me, that movie made a lot of references to Schlosser's work. The book runs the whole gamut, from how fast food franchises are operated and what happens behind the counter, to cattle ranchers and slaughterhouses, to how fast food has influenced the way the U.S. is perceived internationally. Eye-opening stuff.

[ fiction ]

Sirens of Titan
by Kurt Vonnegut

I've read pretty much everything Vonnegut has published, and I think this is one of his best. This was his second novel (published in 1959, his first was Player Piano in 1952), and is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the purpose of life. Vonnegut's characteristic playful sarcasm makes it so you barely notice the more serious themes he weaves into the story line. At the end, I wasn't sure whether to find life more amusing or more tragic. Maybe a bit of both.

The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

When I first read this book 10+ years ago, it was a bit of an exercise in self-exploration, and it forced me to rethink what it means to be "selfish" and how that relates to being true to yourself. I found parts of myself in each of the main characters, and I imagine most readers do. (There's a bit of controversy around Ayn Rand's philosophical beliefs, but to be honest I don't know enough about all that to care one way or the other.)

[ religion ]

Joshua, The Man They Called Jesus
by Ian Jones

Recommending this book is not a religious statement in any way. What I liked about this book was that it was a non-dogmatic look at what's clearly a controversial topic: the life of Jesus. The book's conclusions contradict every organized Christian religion, but I don't think this book was written simply to be controversial. I get the sense that the author was genuinely searching for the truth. And in many cases, he leaves us with more questions than answers.

[ in the queue ]
  •   Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend
  •   36 Arguments for the Existence of God
  •   Griftopia
  •   Einstein: His Life and Universe
  •   Wikinomics
  •   The Cult of the Amateur
[ last read ]
  •   Lean In
  •   A Night Without Sunshine
  •   Steve Jobs
  •   The Facebook Effect
  •   Happiness Is an Inside Job
  •   The Upside of Irrationality
  •   The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
  •   SuperFreakonomics
  •   Look a the Birdie
  •   The Inscrutable Americans
  •   Overclocked
  •   Why We Buy
  •   La Place de la Concorde Suisse
  •   Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
  •   Dreams from My Father
  •   Faith of My Fathers
  •   Coach
  •   The No Asshole Rule
  •   Armageddon in Retrospect
  •   Predictably Irrational
  •   Metaphors We Live By
  •   Made to Stick
  •   The Paradox of Choice
  •   Show Stopper
  •   A Man Without a Country
  •   Company
  •   The Time Traveler's Wife
  •   The World is Flat
  •   The Long Tail
  •   Don't Make Me Think
  •   Up Country
  •   The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty
  •   The Wisdom of Crowds
  •   Blink
  •   Freakonomics
  •   Brand New
  •   The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR
  •   Throwing Heat
  •   My Turn at Bat
  •   The Art of War
  •   Into Thin Air
  •   All Marketers are Liars