Design, Vocation, Che Guevara ‒ All the Books I Read in 2018

To keep my promise of writing more about (good) books, I’ll start off with the list of books I read in 2018—the first year in which I recorded my reading list on Goodreads—along with (very short) summaries and my personal ratings. I also give away 💎must-read awards to the books I can especially recommend.

William Deresiewicz: Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life 💎must-read

A book not just about the problems of the American educational system, but also about finding your vocation. Helped me through an extremely difficult time in which I had to make decisions with far-reaching consequences regarding my future career path.

My rating: ★★★★★

Donald A. Norman: The Design of Everyday Things 💎must-read

My all-time favorite non-fictional book so far. A must-read for every designer. Explains not only the difference between good and bad design, but also the psychological foundations, and how to design better everyday products.

My rating: ★★★★★

Meik Wiking: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

It’s all about candles, work-life balance, and spending cozy evenings with friends and family! A feel-good book. 🙂

My rating: ★★★☆☆

Derek Yu: Spelunky

The story behind the making of Spelunky, a roguelike platforming video game. Teaches valuable lessons about indie game design and resilience.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

How to accept that you—like 99.9% of your fellow human beings—are just pretty average and how to use that epiphany to your advantage.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Jon Lee Anderson: Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

The life and times of Che Guevara—physician, icon, revolutionary, hero to many, but also controversial figure. A (surprisingly) thrilling read. Made me go to Cuba last year.

My rating: ★★★★★

Robert Hoekman, Jr.: Experience Required: How to become a UX leader regardless of your role

A very practical book about the basics of design, the importance of research, and why UX job titles are often B.S. Contains hands-on examples of, sometimes quick and dirty, but very powerful methods you can readily use in your own work. Read this if you consider yourself a designer, definitely read it if you want to become one.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Richard Sheridan: Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love

A case study about Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and how they manage to ship high-quality software without the typical stress, tight deadlines, and firefighting. CEO and “Chief Storyteller” Rich Sheridan—who gave me a tour of their office and a signed copy of the book 🙂—stresses the importance of transparency, understanding the user, as well as focusing on employee happiness and joy instead of profit (e.g., Menlo Innovations spends zero dollars on marketing).

My rating: ★★★★☆

Geir Tangen: Requiem

A Norwegian crime novel with one of the most surprising (and exciting) twists I’ve come across so far. Geir Tangen’s debut novel—and a really good one.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Marc-Uwe Kling: QualityLand

A satirical novel about a (not too far?) dystopian future that deals with all sorts of stuff—including, but not limited to, robots, AIs, online dating, surveillance, delivery by drone, self-driving cars, etc. I read this while lying on an Egyptian beach.

My rating: ★★★★★

Stephan Schulmeister: The Road To Prosperity 💎must-read

A book about the rise of neoliberalism, its massive flaws, what might be a better model for the future, and why there is no such thing as an “invisible hand”. Schulmeister describes a cyclical alternation of different “game arrangements” (financial capitalist vs. real capitalist), but also dives deeper into the European mismanagement during the 2008 financial crisis (spoiler alter: It’s not all Greece’s fault!). The book is rather academic in parts, and might therefore not be the easiest to read, but it’s a must for everyone who wants to better understand what’s wrong with the current state of affairs.

My rating: ★★★★☆

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