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
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
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.
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
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
The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!