In case you’re looking for something to read over the holidays, these were my favorite books this year:
Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman Argues that Huxley’s, not Orwell’s, dystopian vision would turn out to be the correct one. Many of the points Postman makes are applicable to our post-television age, only in a different medium.
Conversations for Action and Collected Essays, by Fernando Flores A concise summary of Flores’s ideas about language for disclosure, a critical tool for communicating effectively in any context.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford Many of the innovations we take for granted — paper money, religious tolerance, gunpowder — were introduced by the Mongols. A gripping story of a hyper-violent world.
Hope is an Imperative, by David W. Orr Some of the most lucid and well-argued writing I’ve read on the urgency to change our civilization’s path if we are to avoid catastrophe.
Machine, Platform, Crowd, by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson Excellent overview of the main technological trends currently changing the world.
Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse Classic work of English literature. Had me thinking for a while with an English accent.
The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke Classic sci-fi from the late 1950s. Prescient in many interesting ways.
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs Makes a compelling case against modern urban design as epitomized by Robert Moses in the 1950s. An urgent call to action towards more humane urban environments.
The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols An explanation of the reasons for the current slide towards ignorance and the willful exclusion of expert voices in public discourse.
The Design Way, by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman An argument for thinking of design as a way of understanding the world, alongside science and the arts.
The Distracted Mind, by Adam Gazzaley and Larry Rosen Compelling evidence that smartphones are driving us to distraction.
The Glass Cage, by Nicholas Carr Argues that automation is making us less skillful at various tasks.
The Nature of Things, by Lucretius Early humanism.
The Systems View of Life, by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi A call to shift our fundamental metaphor from “world as machine” to “world as network.”
Understanding Computers and Cognition, by Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores Maps Heidegger to the work of software design.
Whiplash, by Joi Ito and Jeff Howe Nine dualities that are shaping the present and the future told from the perspective of the MIT Media Lab. (The dualities: Emergence > Authority, Pull > Push, Compasses > Maps, Risk > Safety, Disobedience > Compliance, Practice > Theory, Diversity > Ability, Resilience > Strength, Systems > Objects)