December 24, 2021

My Favourite Books of 2021

In 2021, I read more than ever. I got into read­ing audio­books on long walks, and cap­tur­ing notes for books with lessons I want­ed to remem­ber. These are my favourite books for the year:

My favourite design books

The Visual History of Type
by Paul McNeil

This book is just incredible—particularly for type nerds. It is com­plete and immer­sive. It cov­ers the his­to­ry of type from Guten­berg to today. Fea­tur­ing excel­lent pho­tographs, dig­i­tal ren­der­ings of old type, analy­sis (beau­ti­ful­ly calls out the details and unique aspects of each type­face) and some very inter­est­ing sto­ries. It’s a marathon of a book, I read it a wee bit at a time, and let it soak in. I don’t think I’ll see let­ters the same ever again. It’s a fan­tas­tic way to learn about how var­i­ous styles of type devel­oped over the years. I high­ly rec­om­mend it.

Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management
by Scott Berkun

This book is real­ly spe­cial. It’s not short by any means, but it’s jam packed with prac­ti­cal insights for design­ers, devel­op­ers, and project man­agers. It cov­ers things like how to work with peo­ple, how to work through the ear­ly, mid­dle, and end stages of a project, and ulti­mate­ly make great things hap­pen. It took me quite a while to read through it, but I’m so glad I chipped away at it, and fin­ished it.

HBRs 10 must reads on Design Thinking
by Har­vard Busi­ness Review

I real­ly enjoyed this book, because it had so many dif­fer­ent design lessons to learn. It cov­ered every­thing from jobs to be done, to how to intro­duce design think­ing into your orga­ni­za­tion. Although very much a busi­ness book, it still pro­vid­ed a wealth of valu­able infor­ma­tion to me as a design­er. It’s well worth read­ing for Clay Chris­tensen’s essays alone. View book notes.

The 99% Invisible City: A field guide to the hidden world of everyday design
by Kurt Kohlst­edt and Roman Mars

A col­lec­tion of fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries about the hid­den parts of our urban world, and the often quirky sto­ries behind how they came into being. Some sto­ries were bet­ter than oth­ers, but over­all they were great. The per­fect book to read in short inter­vals and learn some­thing new each time. The per­fect book to feed curiosity.

My Favourite Stories

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road
by Nick Bil­ton

Amer­i­can King­pin is the sto­ry of the cre­ator of the Silk Road, an online mar­ket­place for drugs, weapons, and pret­ty much any­thing ille­gal. It was a thrilling read, and was also incred­i­bly fas­ci­nat­ing how some­one with so much promise could get caught up in the under­world of crime.

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie

This book was my intro­duc­tion to Agatha Christie, and it’s an absolute mas­ter­piece. I lis­tened to the audio­book, and the voice act­ing was fan­tas­tic. It’s a great mur­der mys­tery and I did­n’t have a clue until the very end. A won­der­ful­ly fun and devi­ous book.

Shutter Island
by Den­nis Lehane

I final­ly got around to read­ing Shut­ter Island this year. I lis­tened to the audio­book which was nar­rat­ed by Tom Stech­schulte, who is one of my favourite nar­ra­tors — he’s got this amaz­ing raspy raw voice that’s per­fect­ly suit­ed to this kind of sto­ry. My intro­duc­tion to him was with The Road by Cor­mac McCarthy. Shut­ter Island is a great mys­tery nov­el about an FBI detec­tive sent to the island to inves­ti­gate after a psych ward patient dis­ap­pears. It’s sus­pense­ful and tense in the best way.

Gone Girl
by Gillian Fly­nn

This book was com­plete­ly insane. The char­ac­ters and sto­ry were real­ly immer­sive and super screwed up. I real­ly enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. Would love to find more books like this, it was super intense and very read­able. Worked real­ly well as an audio­book too.

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir

Rylan Grace finds him­self in space, with no mem­o­ry of how we got there, and has a hard time remem­ber­ing who he is. Andy Weir knocked this one out of the park, like he did with the Mar­t­ian. It’s very much Mac­Gyver in space, but has a lot of heart too. Did not expect it to turn out the way it did, but was a love­ly, beau­ti­ful twist.

Books with the best lessons

Man’s Search for Meaning
by Vik­tor Frankl

This book had been on my list for years and I final­ly got around to read­ing it. It’s a pow­er­ful true sto­ry about a psy­chol­o­gist who spent many years in a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp. While there he devel­oped his own phi­los­o­phy on life and how to find mean­ing in your own life. I read this book because I’d been off of work for health rea­sons, and want­ed to see if it changed how I saw my situation—and it did, in a very pos­i­tive way. I high­ly rec­om­mend it, it’s a pow­er­ful book that left me with some great lessons on how to look at life.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
by Bill Gates

I read David Atten­bor­ough’s A Life on Our Plan­et in 2020, which put me on a cli­mate change kick. A Life On Our Plan­et, and How to Avoid A Cli­mate Dis­as­ter both pro­vide an opti­mistic, yet real­is­tic per­spec­tive on how we might over­come some of our cli­mate chal­lenges. Gates book puts things in per­spec­tive, and shows the impor­tance of look­ing at cli­mate change through dif­fer­ent indus­tries which con­tribute most of the green­house gasses. This book is a great rem­e­dy to the hope­less­ness that often goes with any dis­cus­sion of cli­mate change.

50 Philosophy Classics: Thinking, Being, Acting, Seeing: Profound Insights and Powerful Thinking from Fifty Key Books
by Tom But­ler-Bow­den

I’ve always strug­gled with under­stand­ing and com­pre­hend­ing phi­los­o­phy. It’s often too dense, or com­pli­cat­ed, and I can’t wrap my head around what it is they are try­ing to say. This book is dif­fer­ent. Bow­den takes fifty philoso­phers and shares their great­est works, put sim­ply in lay­man’s terms. The beau­ty of this book is that you can get wade into var­i­ous philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts, and then fol­low up with the ones that res­onate. If you are like me and strug­gled with get­ting into phi­los­o­phy, I think this is a great first step.

The Power of Pressure
by Dane Jensen

Dane Jensen’s The Pow­er of Pres­sure is con­struc­tive frame­work for how to deal with short term pres­sure, such as prepar­ing for a big pre­sen­ta­tion, or long term pres­sure, such as prepar­ing for the olympics many years away. Those exam­ples might sound grand, but it’s very applic­a­ble to the aver­age per­son too. This book is great if you are look­ing for ways to bet­ter man­age pres­sure, and stress in all facets of life.

Thanks for mak­ing it this far, and hap­py read­ing in 2022!